‘Lovecraft Country’ Is a Chaotic Rebuke of American Racism


    HBOThe only thing more dangerous than monsters in Lovecraft Country are racists—although there are plenty of both in HBO’s new series, and sometimes they’re one and the same. Blending comedy and drama, horror and sci-fi, social commentary and genre thrills, showrunner/writer Misha Green’s adaptation of Matt Ruff’s 2016 novel tackles American intolerance through the prism of author H.P. Lovecraft, whose famed work about ancient, incomprehensible evils lurking just behind the veil was colored by his own noted intolerance for those with darker skin complexions. It’s a bold, heady venture with ambitions as grand as its creatures. Yet at least in its initial installments, it’s an effort routinely undercut by irritatingly sloppy storytelling.That Lovecraft Country is often an overstuffed narrative mess is made all the more frustrating by the fact that its debut episode (Sunday, Aug. 16) is an expertly crafted table-settler for a rich saga to come. Home from war in Korea, sci-fi aficionado Atticus Freeman (Jonathan Majors), known to most as Tic, returns to his native Chicago. There, he partners with his voracious-reader uncle George (Courtney B. Vance) and headstrong (and financially irresponsible) high school friend Leti (Jurnee Smollett) to embark on a search for his boozehound father Montrose (Michael K. Williams), who’s vanished after sending Tic a letter indicating he’s somewhere in Ardham, Massachusetts—a place related to Lovecraft’s fiction—and has new information about the ancestry of Tic’s deceased mother. Since George is an author of green books and thus presumably knows his way around the country, the three head out on a road trip made perilous by the beasts that lurk in rural parts unknown, and the everyday threats—such as hateful white citizens and cops—common to this Jim Crow landscape.Tic’s introductory dream sequence of a Korean battlefield becoming infested with Lovecraftian behemoths, laser beam-blasting aliens and a bat-swinging Jackie Robinson is a delirious marriage of the real and the unreal, commingling the very sorts of disparate elements that would be on the mind of a 1950s Black man. Awakening from that reverie to find himself on the back of a bus, and then forced to walk to the nearest station alongside another Black woman after their vehicle breaks down and their new ride is driven by a racist, Tic is an individual grappling with terrors born of this and other worlds. Such menaces become even more intertwined once Tic, George, and Leti are beset by a villainous sheriff and a horde of hundred-eyed fiends, and subsequently take refuge at the mansion of blonde-haired cultist Samuel Braithwhite (Tony Goldwyn) and his daughter Christina (Abbey Lee).Read more at The Daily Beast.


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