Lovecraft Country, developed by Misha Green and based on the novel of the same name by Matt Ruff, is a supernatural drama series on HBO. The pilot episode, “Sundown”, is written by Green and directed by Yann Demange. In the series, Atticus Freeman (Jonathan Majors) returns home from the Korean War to learn that his father Montrose (Michael K. Williams) has gone missing in the middle of what is described as “Lovecraft Country”. Atticus joins his uncle George (Courtney B. Vance) and his childhood friend Lettie Lewis (Jurnee Smollett) on a road trip to find Montrose. Along the way, they must deal with the horrors of racism and the literal monsters lurking in the dark.
Because of my love for the novel, I was eager to see how Green would adapt Love craft Country. Here, Green shares that same love, often adapting events wholesale. Additionally, her characters are full, flawed humans. All their anger and frustration are laid bare-and that’s just from dealing with their own family problems. Green also knows how to build tension, best shown in a scene where Atticus, Lettie, and George are approached by a policeman. This is just as nerve-wracking as when they are chased by a pack of monsters. This is helped by Demange, who favors long, scenic shots of the country, as well as following his subjects through a crowd. He also adds to the tension of the police scene by pushing into the actors’ faces, showcasing the fear etched in their eyes. The cast has been frank about how incidents in real life informed their performances and it’s a sobering reminder that the worst horrors are often laid bare in daylight.
That being said, the horror/supernatural elements are perfectly seeded throughout the show, leading to the confrontation with the monsters. The monsters are amazing; they look realistic and will haunt viewers’ nightmares. With plenty of blood spilled as our protagonists struggle to outrun the beasts, horror fans will be more than satisfied.
The influence of executive producers Jordan Peele and J.J. Abrams can also be found in the pilot. Peele is no stranger to using horror to highlight the specter of racism, as evidenced by Get Out. Likewise, Abrams produced another genre mashup Overlord which mixed horror with real life-events. However, the standouts of the pilot are the cast, especially Majors and Smollett. Majors’ Atticus is a character I deeply identify with. He loves fiction and is fairly intelligent while also moral. He also has a rather tense relationship with his father, as detailed by flashbacks and dialogue; yet he still goes out of his way to save him. This story places family at its center and no matter their past hangups, Atticus wants to help his father.
Smollett is a tour de force as Lettie. Her tongue is as sharp as her mind and she ends up saving the Freemans’ lives in a particularly tense chase scene. The chemistry between Majors and Smollett is also a highlight – to be honest, viewers are going to root for Atticus and Lettie to get together. Vance is also a wonderful addition to the cast as Uncle George, a father figure to Atticus who serves as the emotional anchor. There’s a scene where Atticus and George have a heart to heart about Atticus’ father, and Majors and Vance sell every minute of it. I was tearing up by the end because the cast truly makes you feel like they’re a family.
Lovecraft Country is a brilliant yet bone-chilling series, that is Black Excellence at its finest. It expertly blends supernatural horror with the horrors of Jim Crow-era life and often a sobering reminder that some horrors don’t come from the dark. Green and Demange have delivered a jaw-dropping pilot episode and I cannot wait to see the rest of the series. Horror fans and those who have enjoyed the works of Green, Peele, and Abrams will definitely want to stay tuned.
Lovecraft Country premieres August 16th at 9pm ET on HBO.
Lovecraft Country, Episode 1 - "Sundown"
- Rating - 10/1010/10
Lovecraft Country is a brilliant yet bone-chilling series and Black Excellence at its finest. It expertly blends supernatural horror with the horrors of Jim Crow-era life and often a sobering reminder that some horrors don’t come from the dark.. Green and Demange have delivered a jaw-dropping pilot episode and I cannot wait to see the rest of the series.
Collier “CJ” Jennings is a freelance reporter and film critic living in Seattle. He uses his love of comics and film/TV to craft reviews and essays on genre projects. He is also a host on Into the Spider-Cast.