TV Review: Lovecraft Country

Last Updated on August 2, 2021

TV Review, HBO, review, horror, Jurnee Smollett, Jonathan Majors, Cthulhu, Lovecraft Country, JJ Abrams, Jordan Peele, Misha Green

Plot: Follows Atticus Freeman as he journeys with his childhood friend Letitia and his uncle George on a road trip from Chicago across 1950s Jim Crow America in search of his missing father Montrose. Their search-and-rescue turns into a struggle to survive and overcome both the racist terrors of white America and monstrous creatures that could be ripped from an H.P. Lovecraft paperback.

TV Review, HBO, review, horror, Jurnee Smollett, Jonathan Majors, Cthulhu, Lovecraft Country, JJ Abrams, Jordan Peele, Misha Green

Review: When Watchmen premiered on HBO, many were not expecting it to be such a pointed look at racism. In the guise of a comic book tale, Damon Lindelof's brilliant series premiered just as racial tensions around the world were hitting a breaking point. Now, Jordan Peele and J.J. Abrams have partnered with Misha Green for a new series that uses the platform of genre storytelling to tell another timely tale of racism. Lovecraft Country is a horrifying look at America's not-too-distant past as well as the best adaptation of H.P. Lovecraft's writing to date. Lovecraft himself was open about his views of white superiority which makes this series both an appropriate indictment of his world views and a brilliant ode to his creative genius. But, like Lovecraft's tales, this series is not necessarily what you think it is.

Having seen the first five episodes of Lovecraft Country, I am confident in saying that this is another achievement for HBO. While I did not read the novel, the concept and trailers for this series had me very excited to see a Lovecraftian tale realized on screen. While the first episodes do evoke a GREEN BOOK meets RE-ANIMATOR vibe, the series takes a very creative turn in subsequent episodes. Almost all of the footage in the full trailer for the show come from the first two episodes which keep the twists this narrative takes a welcome surprise for viewers. By the end of the second episode, I was wondering how they would sustain the story for a full ten-episode season, but they do and I loved every minute of it.

Lovecraft Country does contain a narrative focus through the season: veteran Atticus "Tic" Freeman teams with childhood friend Letitia "Leti" Lewis (Jurnee Smollett) and his uncle George (Courtney B. Vance) to find Tic's father Montrose Freeman (Michael Kenneth Williams) who has disappeared in Massachusetts. Heading to the titular Lovecraft Country, the trio encounter racism amongst more literal types of monsters. Their journey brings them face to face with the cultish Sons of Adam and they discover Tic's connection to the mysterious group. As the series progresses, Tic and Leti come into contact will all sorts of supernatural goings-on. It also brings them face to face with Christina Braithwhite (Abbey Lee) and William (Jordan Patrick Smith) who have motivations all their own.

While the Lovecraftian vibe pervades the season, there are also echoes of everything from the treasure hunting and puzzle-solving of the INDIANA JONES series to scares reminiscent of The Haunting of Hill House. There are also echoes of Steven Spielberg's Amblin era wrapped in a show that does not hold back on the gore or the sex. The creature designs hinted at in the trailer look great while the monsters and ghosts live up to the promise of what shows such as American Horror Story only hint at. This series earns a spot alongside HBO shows like Boardwalk Empire, Carnivale, and the recent Perry Mason as perfect examples of how to do set production right. This is a period series that realizes a look at Chicago in the 1950s that is tangible and inhabited by layered characters from all walks of life.

TV Review, HBO, review, horror, Jurnee Smollett, Jonathan Majors, Cthulhu, Lovecraft Country, JJ Abrams, Jordan Peele, Misha Green

The soundtrack to Lovecraft Country is also a highlight with selections including music from the era, new performances by cast-members including Jurnee Smollett and Wunmi Mosaku who plays her half-sister Ruby. There are also anachronistic songs including everything from hip-hop to several songs by Marilyn Manson. It all works wonderfully together and the direction by Yann Demange ('71), Daniel Sackheim (The Americans, Ozark), Victoria Mahoney (STAR WARS: THE RISE OF SKYWALKER), and Cheryl Dunye (Stranger inside) all deliver on showrunner and lead writer Misha Green's layered scripts. It is no wonder that this project has the support of producers JJ Abrams and Jordan Peele as it evokes their work in so many ways.

Lovecraft Country is one of my favorite shows of the year so far. It is scary, thrilling, and sexy as hell while still saying something relevant about race in the United States both historically and currently. It would be easy to dismiss this series as preachy and it is virtually impossible to watch this without thinking about race but you shouldn't be separating the two. This is a story about the Black experience in America but it is also a damn good show about the monsters that exist around and in all of us. It is horror but in so many senses of the word. HBO continues to deliver powerful dramas wrapped in genre packaging that pull the viewer in and never let go. Like Westworld and Watchmen, Lovecraft Country is a story that defies formula and gives us something unlike anything else on TV.

Lovecraft Country premieres on August 7th on HBO.

9

Source: JoBlo.com

About the Author

5929 Articles Published

Alex Maidy has been a JoBlo.com editor, columnist, and critic since 2012. A Rotten Tomatoes-approved critic and a member of Chicago Indie Critics, Alex has been JoBlo.com's primary TV critic and ran columns including Top Ten and The UnPopular Opinion. When not riling up fans with his hot takes, Alex is an avid reader and aspiring novelist.