Disclaimer: This is a spoiler-free review based on the first 5 episodes of the series.
It’s difficult to put into words the rich and diverse world the brilliant Misha Green has put together with LOVECRAFT COUNTRY. When the show opens, it takes all of a few seconds before you’re dropped off into this vivid place where anything is possible. Heart-racing action, followed by spine-tingling scares, leaves you unable to decide whether you should hold your breath or lose it. In the middle of this breathtaking planet is multiple layers of commentary on society and what it means to try to exist while being black. Set against the backdrop of 1950s America during Jim Crow, LOVECRAFT COUNTRY holds your hand and takes you on a journey unlike anything anyone has seen.
The story begins with Atticus (played by Jonathan Majors), a veteran who is on his way home to find his father. A home he has been gone from for far too long. Jonathan Majors makes you feel exactly how he wants you to. The moments get strung together and, before you realize it, you’re completely invested in everything he does. There are moments of pain, anguish, and short-lived triumph, that each hit harder as we see more of what he’s fighting to find and protect. He shines brightly while there is plenty of darkness around, including his own. The way he attacked this role will lead to him being a major leading man in the future. There’s no denying him any role he wants going forward.
On this crazy journey, he’s not alone. He’s joined by someone who starts as a tag-along but quickly becomes the most fearless, caring, and intelligent character in the series. Jurnee Smollett plays Leti, a traveling misfit of sorts, who returns to Chicago to stay with her sister, Ruby (played by Wunmi Mosaku). Leti is a complicated woman. She lives by her code, wherever that may take her. She gets wind of the trip and joins Atticus and his uncle George (played by Courtney B. Vance) getting herself in the middle of their adventure immediately. That is who she is in a nutshell. If Leti does something, she goes 100% or not at all. How long she stays interested in her current desire isn’t up to her. It’s up to you. Keep her attention and there’s no better ally. She’ll ride or die for you but, become boring or show her something that she doesn’t like, and the cold front coming your way will make the polar vortex that hits the windy city jealous. Her fearlessness and passion is the glue that holds the entire series together.
The world they inhabit is filled with overt racism, much like our own. They are harassed by cops and common people who feel they have authority over them strictly based on the color of their skin. It’s dangerous in some parts and agitating in others. The dedication to keeping the LOVECRAFT crew in their place is an overlapping theme throughout the series. At every turn, they are reminded of who they are and where society says they belong. Daily things like driving through a town or getting lunch turn in the blink of an eye. Some monsters don’t hide who they are. If someone reveals themselves, believe them.
Much like Jordan Peele’s Get Out, the reimagining of the black experience as a horror series hits its mark in every way. In Get Out, the protagonist was taken to a place where his darkest nightmares came true. In LOVECRAFT COUNTRY, those nightmares aren’t confined to space. They are a way of life that follows you, even when you sleep. The constant state of feeling unsafe makes the moments where they can sneak a moment of peace all more meaningful. The relief you allow yourself to feel is real, even though there’s always another obstacle to overcome on deck and ready to give you the fight of your life.
This series has managed to bridge the gap between the fear you experience while being black, with the traditional fear a great horror show gives you. There are plenty of moments where the edge of your seat feels too slippery and you need to readjust before you fall on the floor. The brilliant part of it all is that nothing is out of place. The scenarios in which are made to be terrifying, though embellished slightly to fit the magical world, would scare you regardless.
This series was shot with extreme care. The sets are elaborate and the scenery, no matter what’s happening during, is gorgeous. The great American landscape of the ’50s on full display. Chicago’s Southside is hopping in every scene. The culture is broadcasted for us to get a taste of. The togetherness of the community where everyone knows each other reminds you of how things used to be and what we should be aiming for in the very near future. The camera puts you right where you need to be, even if you don’t realize it yet. We capture the little things that make them human. We linger sometimes when the mood is heavy and only get a glimpse when we need to feel anxious about what awaits. The music marries the series perfectly. The quiet parts are loud and the loud ones aren’t distracting. It’s a living organism that opens you up and pours its soul into you. Piece by piece, the layers are gently placed into your subconscious, neatly tucked away, giving you something to come back to and nibble on long after you’ve viewed an episode.
LOVECRAFT COUNTRY is going to shock you in some ways. In others, it’s going to be eye-opening as you see things that you can’t believe. With each episode, your investment deepens and the rewards triple. Following the story is the easy part. Dealing with the ramifications of the mirror being held up on how ugly society can be is another thing. Understanding how troubling family dynamics can be while realizing that, in the end, the one thing you truly need is love, might cause you to holler. I know it made me. It’s interestingly complex, while not going over anyone’s head. It’s there tangibly and it’s not, much like a lot of fear that we are forced to deal with, especially now. Resonating with the times while taking place more than half a century ago is no small feat. LOVECRAFT COUNTRY does this so well. The need for more is imminent after every new reveal.
Get ready for the unlimited possibilities coming to HBO on Sunday, August 16, 2020.