Lovecraft Country is a weird and wonderful creation from the minds of some of the most talented people in TV and film. Misha Green, who created Netflix hit Underground (which also starred Jurnee Smollett-Bell) wrote this supernatural horror-drama hybrid, produced by the one and only Jordan Peele whose hallmarks cannot go unnoticed throughout the series.
Lovecraft Country is a mish-mash of genres and it’s accurate cultural and cinematic references make for a historian and movie-buff’s delight.
Based on a novel of the same name, Lovecraft Country merges the terrors of Jim Crow in 1950s America with supernatural monsters based on the writings of Howard Philips Lovecraft, an American writer of horror fiction.
Atticus Freeman played by the brilliant Jonathan Majors, is a former soldier returning to the segregated south side of Chicago with a secret and a burning desire to discover the truth about his family.
Atticus’ character perfectly symbolises the contrasts and dualities that make up the show. As well as a war veteran, he is a science-fiction nerd. Two characters that are usually polarised in film and television are combined in one person through Atticus. Nowhere are these juxtapositions more clearly illustrated than in the opening dream sequence which referenced book and movie themes from a wide variety of eras, even eras that occur after the 1950s, the decade in which the series is set. Similarly, the show creators use modern hip hop, such as Cardi B, as a soundtrack against a backdrop that predates this sound of music.
The blended styles and genres make this series refreshingly unpredictable, and nothing like anything seen on TV before.
The production team do a fantastic job of recreating 1950s Chicago, the street scenes, in particular, are so beautifully shot with a masterful use of retro colours and lighting.
The series creativelyhandles the overarching race issues with thoughtful references to civil rights activists and their sentiments. James Baldwin’s voiceover accompanies a journey montage, and further scene transitions are supplemented by the words and works of Gill Heron-Scott and Ntozake Shange. This added layer of depth to an otherwise pulpy horror sets it aside from its comparable contemporaries such as American Horror Story.
In the first episode we followed the characters misadventure in a sundown town, where white sheriffs and civilians were actively encouraged to lynch black people for sport.
Aside from racism being its own monster to escape, the racists and protagonists find themselves being united against a common enemy in the supernatural. Parallels can be drawn between the treatment of black American GI soldiers who fought alongside white British and American soldiers in the second world war, but still received unrelenting racial abuse from their white comrades. Even the presence of mystical beasts in Lovecraft Country isn’t enough to necessarily subvert the power of racism, and how it permeates through everyday interactions.
A fantastic episode later in the series makes great social commentary on the currency of white womanhood in comparison to black womanhood. It reminded me of a Maya Angelou quote that goes ‘If growing up is painful, for the Southern Black girl, being aware of her displacement is the rust on the razor that threatens the throat. It is an unnecessary insult.’ In a strange and fascinating way, this episode explores the ways in which white women navigate the world with relative ease in comparison to black women and does a great job of subtly referencing intersectionality.
The best dressed award goes to “Letitia f****ng Lewis” (Jurnee Smollett-Bell), a free-spirited and formidable firecracker, whose character effortlessly balances out Atticus’ quiet strength. Though she is superbly played by Smollett, I wondered whether the choice of casting a mixed-race woman as the lead lent itself to the telling of the story. In an era where television networks are being called out for colourism and failure to accurately represent black women, maybe the lead actress could have been darker than a brown paper bag?
With a stellar cast and cameos including the likes of Courtney B. Vance and Michael K. Williams, there is so much to look forward to. If you like Black Mirror, Stranger Things, adventure and magic, this show is definitely for you. Prepare to expect the unexpected.
Catch Episode 2 tomorrow and catch up on episode 1 with Sky/NowTV.