No./16 Get ready for a road trip from hell

With its he­roes bat­tling both oth­er­worldly threats and racism, HBO’S LOVE­CRAFT COUN­TRY is sci-fi with a dif­fer­ence

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IT’S HARD TO say when the revo­lu­tion be­gan, but it’s true to say that Misha Green will play a ma­jor part in it. Back in 2016, she cre­ated slav­ery-era se­ries Un­der­ground, which she de­scribes as an es­cape-heist thriller “where it just hap­pens to be your own life which you’re steal­ing”. The 35-year-old’s new show, Love­craft Coun­try, is also a pe­riod piece with solid genre un­der­pin­nings, and a mostly Black cast. This time, though, there’s a recla­ma­tion un­der­way.

“Black peo­ple are usu­ally the ones that die first in the hor­ror movie,” she says, “and we’re non-ex­is­tent in ba­si­cally all sci-fi realms, so this idea of tak­ing all of that genre, and re­pur­pos­ing, and see­ing Black peo­ple in it was ex­cit­ing.”

Based on a 2016 novel by Matt Ruff, Love­craft Coun­try fea­tures Jonathan Ma­jors as At­ti­cus ‘Tic’ Black, a Korean War vet who finds his es­cape from both com­bat trauma and the daily racism of seg­re­gated Amer­ica in the pages of pulp fiction. He shares that pas­sion with his un­cle (Court­ney B. Vance), a writer spe­cial­is­ing in ‘Green Book’-style guides for African Amer­i­cans trav­el­ling through racist back­wa­ters, and friend Leti­tia (Jurnee Smol­lett). When Tic’s hard-drink­ing fa­ther (Michael K. Wil­liams) goes miss­ing in an area of New Eng­land known as ‘Love­craft Coun­try’, the three set off on his trail. As they soon dis­cover, racism isn’t the only mon­ster that ex­ists there.

The ti­tle refers to author H.P. Love­craft (1890-1937), known among the sci-fi-hor­ror fan­dom both for his hugely in­flu­en­tial vi­sions of ten­ta­cled cos­mic en­ti­ties and his ra­bidly racist views. The lat­ter has of­ten been side-stepped, but Love­craft Coun­try aims to con­front both the man and his mon­sters. “The best hor­ror is about look­ing into the dark, and then mov­ing through the dark into the light,” says Green. “We can’t move on from it if we don’t ac­knowl­edge it. I think the whole, ‘Yeah, he was racist, but those sto­ries are cool, right?!’ is part of the prob­lem.”

When it came to en­sur­ing the lit­eral mon­sters were as ter­ri­fy­ing as the metaphors, Green had two big-name exec pro­duc­ers to call on. J.J Abrams steered her to his own VFX col­lab­o­ra­tors, whose ex­per­tise helped re­alise the am­bi­tious project, in­volv­ing some 162 sep­a­rate sets and at least one

new mon­ster per episode. Jor­dan Peele was also there at the ge­n­e­sis. “We con­nected through the fact that we both love hor­ror,” ex­plains Green. “At the time, Get Out hadn’t come out yet, so I was watch­ing early cuts, giv­ing some thoughts, then that’s when we got the book and were like, ‘This would be cool!’”

If Love­craft Coun­try’s way of com­bin­ing genre scares with emo­tional drama puts you in mind of an­other cult TV show, that’s fine by Green: “Buffy is my favourite show of all time, so that’s the high­est com­pli­ment I could have!” Still, es­pe­cially given the tim­ing, this is much more than just es­capism. “I’m so happy it’s com­ing out [now] — it’s very much a part of the protest,” Green says. “It’s protest art and it was that be­fore the protest be­came ac­knowl­edged across the world.” In the era of Black Lives Mat­ter, Love­craft Coun­try has be­come an even more es­sen­tial des­ti­na­tion. ELLEN E JONES

LOVE­CRAFT COUN­TRY IS ON SKY AT­LANTIC AND NOW TV FROM 17 AU­GUST

Korean War vet At­ti­cus (Jonathan Ma­jors) — with aunt Hip­polyta (Aun­janue El­lis) — sets off in search of his miss­ing fa­ther in 1950s Amer­ica. Clock­wise from top right: The cast on set; Matt Ruff’s 2016 novel; Un­cle George (Court­ney B. Vance), Leti­tia (Jurnee Smol­lett) and At­ti­cus face prej­u­dice and strange­ness.

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