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
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.