Here’s the thing about movie monsters: No matter how scary these fantastical beasties may seem, they often don’t hold a candle to the real-life racial monsters faced socially by so many every day. But what happens when you combine the two? That’s something that filmmaker Jordan Peele has played with brilliantly in his feature film career, and an approach he’s leaning into hard in Lovecraft Country. And damn it looks good!
Based on Matt Rufus’ 2016 dark fantasy novel of the same, the upcoming 8-episode HBO miniseries is stuffed to the brim with horrors both allegorical and very real. According to the official synopsis, “the series follows Atticus Freeman (Jonathan Majors) as he joins up with his friend Letitia (Jurnee Smollett-Bell) and his Uncle George (Courtney B. Vance) to embark on a road trip across 1950s Jim Crow America in search of his missing father (Michael Kenneth Williams). This begins a struggle to survive and overcome both the racist terrors of white America and the terrifying monsters that could be ripped from a Lovecraft paperback.” Let’s see what that looks like:
Lovecraft Country is a co-production between Peele’s Monkeypaw Productions and JJ Abrams’ Bad Robot Productions. The pair are producing the show alongside Misha Green (Underground) who will act as showrunner and lead writer. And the respective creative flavours of all three shine through so strongly here as they juxtapose the snarling monsters with social issues of segregation and racial oppression.
And that starts with the title. “Lovecraft Country” is the name given by the characters for a section of the American South, and it couldn’t be more appropriate as H.P. Lovecraft is the godfather of weird monstrous fiction. While he was unknown during his life and died destitute at the age of just 46 in 1937, the many many horror stories he penned in that time, embraced only after his death, would eventually make him one of the most influential writers of the 20th century. He was also an acknowledged racist whose works included many controversial bits of writing towards non-white characters.
Then there’s “Atticus”, the name of lead Jonathan Majors’ character here. Atticus is, of course, also the name of the famous character from Harper Lee’s classic American novel To Kill a Mockingbird. As celebrated as that novel is, it’s also been decried for how Lee penned Atticus as one of the most infamous examples of the “white saviour” trope.
And there’s clearly a whole lot more of that form of subtle subtext. But also slavering, toothy monsters who want to bite people’s face off. Oh and creepy little girls. And a heck of a cast that also includes Jurnee Smollet-Bell, Courtney B. Vance, and Michael K. Williams. So basically what I’m saying is that this show is probably going to become my new obsession when it debuts in August.
Last Updated: May 4, 2020