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Lovecraft Country -- The Road Less Traveled

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For many of us, of a certain age, the horror shows of the 1950s and 1960s are a primary element in our television understanding. Indeed, with programs like Creature Feature and Chiller Theater, no Saturday went by without seeing some form of spectacular (for a kid) horror. The range of movies broadcast on these programs went from campy features such as Creature from the Black Lagoon, to thought-provoking gems, such as the 1956 version of the Invasion of the Body Snatchers. Many were influenced by the horror-meister himself, H.P. Lovecraft. 

One common element amongst this diverse range of films was that they were always told from one perspective, namely that of a white man. Naturally, there is nothing wrong with this perspective. However, we are a nation composed of a racially and gender diverse population, surely white men are not the only ones being terrorized by devils, witches, and aliens. 

This brings me to HBO's new series Lovecraft Country. It flips the script on those horror shows of yesteryear by retelling the stories from the perspective of a Black man and woman. As a result, there is a lot more than horror that the writers can draw on to entertain the viewer. Indeed, not only do our hero and heroine need to escape the clutches of heart-eating ghouls, as they have always done, but must also deal with the fact that they are doing it at a time in America's history were discrimination against Blacks was open, notorious, and legal. That's a new twist... I mean if you were Black in 1950s America and being chased by a zombie, would you run for help from the local white sheriff or figure your chances of survival are better just fighting the zombie yourself.

Story-wise, there is no need to explain the details... its a horror show. However, there is a back story. The show centers around Atticus Freeman (Jonathan Majors) who has recently returned from fighting in the Korean War. After learning that his father, Montrose (Michael K. Williams), has disappeared, Atticus decides to go find him with the help of his uncle, George Freeman (Courtney B. Vance), and a childhood friend, Letitia (Jurnee Smollett-Bell). This leads to a series of adventures of both the normal human and fantastical monster type.

Stylistically, the show so far has been a potpourri of nods to the horror shows of the past, sprinkled liberally with Lovecraftian influences. This is enhanced by the fact that Atticus and his uncle are both science fiction and horror fans, and actively mention different characters and creatures. Indeed, the first several episodes (and the show's name) focus on Lovecraft's tendency to base his stories on his home state of Massachusetts. Moreover, not sure whether the writers intended this or not, but the racial element of the stories also gives a nod to Lovecraft's rather dim view of Blacks as a people.

So far, the show has been great fun and, interestingly, quite eye-opening.

What do you think?

Written by lao.san on Sep 12, 2020

Comments

JuanArango posted 7 days ago

I also love complex shows this is just not my cup of tea :) 

lao.san posted 8 days ago

@JuanArango wrote:
I tried to get into the show, but after episode three I had to stop watching. It was too little horror and too little suspense for me and way too much dancing and singing. 

I agree that there is less "horror" than expected but, as I mention in the review, that is the twist. It's a tale about Blacks living in "Jim Crow" America, with an overlay of horror and science fiction. As such its target audience, I believe, is not just horror fans, but also -- perhaps mainly -- fans of historical dramas, as well as fans of Black television. It is an interesting attempt by the creators that they'll need to work hard at if they want satisfy all groups. Otherwise it will just turn into either a horror show or a historical drama about Black America. We'll see. But I do celebrate the choice to try something more complex than your average TV pablum.

JuanArango posted 8 days ago

I tried to get into the show, but after episode three I had to stop watching. It was too little horror and too little suspense for me and way too much dancing and singing. 

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