I’m a scaredy-cat, I know that about myself and I’m O.K. with it. It’s the reason why I was so reluctant to see Lovecraft Country even though I wanted to watch and review the pilot when it aired. I didn’t. This series nagged at me and I caved. I watched the pilot in broad daylight then watched another then another until I had to wait to see the finale.
Misha Green (Underground) developed this series based on Matt Ruff‘s “Lovecraft Country” which includes elements of H.P. Lovecraft. Green used Ruff’s novel to craft the series and extend upon it, tackling race issues. The show stars Jonathan Majors (Da 5 Bloods, The Last Black Man in San Francisco) and Jurnee Smollett-Bell (BoP, True Blood) as the leads, they are joined by Aunjanue Ellis (When They See Us, The Help), Courtney B. Vance (Project Power, Uncorked), Wunmi Mosaku (TEOFW, Philomena), Abbey Lee (The Dark Tower, The Neon Demon), Jamie Chung (The Gifted, Gotham), relative new comer Jada Harris (The Resident, Glee), and Michael K. Williams (Arkansas, 12 Years a Slave, The Wire).
Premise: Lovecraft Country is set in the 1950s and follows a Korean war vet, Atticus Freeman, as he joins up with his friend Letitia and his Uncle George to embark on a road trip across Jim Crow America in search of his missing father. This begins a struggle to survive and overcome both the racist terrors of white America and terrifying monsters.
Review: One of the first thing I noticed is that books and music feature heavily throughout the show. Art in general is as much part of the storytelling than the actions and words of the characters.
First things first, the pilot is excellent. It’s spooky but I leaned a lot. Sundown towns – also the title of the episode – are not something I knew about. I believed it was a real thing because…America, but as someone who grew up outside of the United States. I never learned about it. Whether it is the title of the episodes, the episodes themselves, or the pieces of art (poetry, billboard, music, etc.) featured in them, they are Easter eggs referencing historical events and/or making a commentary on our society. Showcasing a deeper truth about how we lived and how we’re living.
This might sound grim – which is apt for a horror type of show – or a bit of a mess but it works in this show. The mixed between historical facts and fantasy, and many other genres, gives Lovecraft Country a uniqueness and an esthetic of its own. There will be a lot of little things, besides the main story, that will capture your attention. Some of them are made obvious but others are more subtle and that plays into the re-watchability factor of the show. There’s a lot to see and analyse on the show, it’s crazy, some of it is funny, I loved that in a horror piece with black folks, the horror doesn’t stop when the police shows up. It’s a horrible truth but it made me smile as I was cringing because it rang true. Other things are not as funny but necessary, the show does not shy away or merely reference some of the more gruesome American historical events, we got to see some them and it packed one of hell of a punch.
The cast is part of the recipe that makes the whole thing work. They nailed it, I liked and believed Jonathan Majors from the first episode, he’s amazing. Jurnee Smollett-Bell is among the best screaming queen there is – yeah I said it – with a side of real acting chops – I said that too. Wunmi Osaku, Abbey Lee, Jordan Patrick Smith, Mac Brandt, and Jamie Neumann really brought it, they were great, and made their storylines work. Particularly the women, the three of them gives a complex storyline and acted the hell out of it. Courtney B. Vance, Aunjanue Ellis are kind of the heart of the show, and Michael K. Williams I’ve never done a 360 on a character as fast I did his, I feel for him. Jada Harris and Jamie Chung are impactful and hard to forget with their performances.
The show has great visuals, the visuals effects both compliment and elevate the era its set in. Lovecraft Country takes the audience on magical mystery ride with a great use of history and fiction without negating one for the other. They make it easy to differentiate between facts and fiction while not taking the audience out of the show.
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