For those that enjoy cosmic horror, HBO has a new show called “Lovecraft Country” based on a novel by Matt Ruff. It’s produced by Jordan Peele and JJ Abrahms among others. The setting is the Jim Crow laws America of the fifties. Episode one was directed by Yann Demange.
It’s heavy on the social commentary aspect, I just watched the first episode and I can assure you that. We all know that H.P. Lovecraft was a racist, and this is a show about blacks. How would Howard have taken it?
Korean war veteran Atticus Freman (Jonathan Majors) returns home and is thrown in an adventure of traveling to another state in search of his father. Atticus’ uncle, George Freeman (Courtney B. Vance), and his friend Leti Lewis (Jurnee Smollett) accompany him on his journey.
For me, a talent highlight of the first episode was the part when they visit Letitia’s half-brother, Marvin Baptiste (Demetrius Grosse). Demetrius Grosse acts a dramatic situation with a passion that is enjoyable to watch. Even if that scene we don’t see him, but just listen to the lines of dialog.
Another part that the characters get the opportunity to show their acting skills is when they are running out from a sundown town after stopping in a diner for refreshment. They are reported to the police by the soda jerk and have to leave in a hurry.
When they escape the diner, a car chase ensues. The scenes of the chase are great but at the resolution of the chase sequence something happened that made me lose my suspension of disbelief for a moment; you’ll see what I mean when you watch it.
I’m a Lovecraft head since like forever and I was shocked when I got the news about this show. How would Lovecraft react to a TV show inspired by him and carrying his name that’s acted by blacks? Maybe he would be rolling in his tomb, wouldn’t he?
I like from episode one of “Lovecraft Country” the period setting. The shots and how the exterior scenes were achieved do look believable as the 1950s. Other than that, I also loved the traveling scenes, all of them.
I can’t say I didn’t like something from the first episode. But be warned, the first forty minutes of episode one are a slow-burn build-up of backstory and character exposition. That ain’t bad per se, but for moments I forgot that what I was watching was supposed to be horror.
“Lovecraft Country” is a symbol of the times we are living in. Male is female, bad is good, low is high, and Lovecraft is blacks. I’m not a racist and I would like this show to continue, but at the same time, it lets me lucubrating about HPL.
I mean, I’m not S.T. Joshi, but I consider myself a hardcore fan of Lovecraft. I have conflicting feelings about this “Lovecraft Country” because I liked the first episode but at the same time, I thought that watching it I’m in some way being a traitor to the memory of Howard since he didn’t care about non-whites.
If you like Lovecraft put all prejudices aside and watch it. There’s a lot to like about the lead. Starting with the fact that he’s a bookworm. If you are a bookworm, like I am, you’re going to connect with Atticus right away.
If you don’t like either JJ Abrahams or Jordan Peele, then don’t watch it. I personally don’t like the works of JJ Abrahams and honestly think that if I was in his position, I could write screenplays ten or fifty times better than the ones he writes. Jordan Peele, I’d say I want to like, but something is lacking in his horror movie “Get Out” (the only one of his movies that I watched) that I still can’t pinpoint exactly.
HBO is HBO, but what About Lovecraft
I want to close this review with a reflection about what I wrote three paragraphs above.
I think racism is kind of a very ignorant prejudice to have. If you’re a racist, you shouldn’t be racist only of the body, you should be the whole way and be a racist of the mind and the soul, too. Sadly enough, racists only take the race on account when judging people and that is a very poor measure by which to judge others.
Now, I can connect and understand Lovecraft’s racism, due to the time he spent in New York. I’m not saying that he wasn’t brought up a racist, which he probably was. Still, I can connect with the depressing experiences he lived in New York because I lived something similar. To be a lonely white among throngs of non-whites.
Even if these experiences are traumatizing and life-changing, they are something positive that changes you for life.
From a backward racist white upbringing, to end up among the dregs of society in a backward time and place in NYC there isn’t a world of difference but the cultural shock must have scarred him mentally, physically, and spiritually. Still, not everybody has the good luck of living those kinds of experiences. In the case of HPL, the effect was negative because he couldn’t control his xenophobia.
We should cut HPL some slack about his racism because we know he always lived in a backward environment. First in a prejudiced New England and then in the opposite extreme of the spectrum, multicultural NYC.