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‘Lovecraft Country’ is a Gripping Genre-Bending Exposition on Racism and the Real Monsters We Face – Review

“I’m not scared because fear’s not gon’ save us right now.”

Military veteran, Atticus Freeman (Jonathan Majors) finds himself back in Chicago to search for his missing father, Montrose (Michael K. Williams). With the help of his uncle, George (Courtney B. Vance) and old friend, Letitia (Jurnee Smollett), the trio embark on a road trip across Jim Crow America where the constant stream of racists aren’t the only monsters they encounter throughout their journey.  

Based on the novel of the same name by Matt Ruff, Lovecraft Country is HBO’s latest book-to-screen adaptation and it is perfection. While I have yet to see all episodes of the series, the first five are will certainly have the audience experiencing a wide range of emotions, aside from the fear one might expect when watching a sci-fi/horror series. Yes, of there are monsters and creatures of lore, but Lovecraft Country subverts the narrative that is commonly found within the fantasy, horror, and sci-fi, genres where it is typically the Black characters who are portrayed as the monsters or have their pain and/or death constantly on display.

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Jonathan Majors as Atticus and Jurnee Smollett as Letitia in Lovecraft Country (Courtesy of HBO)

Think about it – how many times have you watched a series or read a book in any of the aforementioned genres where the Black character(s) is the villain? And if they aren’t the villain or monster, how often are they the ones to die first? None of this is by accident, but thankfully,  Lovecraft Country does the opposite. However, the usual standard does not go unmentioned with Atticus speaking about his father’s judgment about the literature he was reading. While looking at some books in his uncle’s workplace, Atticus speaks about Montrose pointing out that fantasy, horror and sci-fi are genres filled with racist stereotypes perpetuated by white authors. Even now, this still tends to be true.

Each cast member in Lovecraft Country portrays their character exceptionally well. Majors brings Atticus to life with ease, showing off his charisma and charm, while also exploring his depth and vulnerabilities. Concerned about his missing brother, George is also worried about his nephew and just where this search might lead. Vance, as Uncle George, is nothing short of delightful. Vance plays the role of the insightful man, willing to lend a helping hand pitch-perfectly, and I especially loved his performance in the second episode (you’ll see why when you watch it).

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Courtney B. Vance as George, Jonathan Majors as Atticus, and Jurnee Smollett as Letitia in Lovecraft Country (Courtesy of HBO)

Next, we have Smollett in the role of “Leti F*CKIN’ Lewis!” The black sheep of her family (for reasons not yet known),  Leti is getting on the last nerves of her family for asking to borrow money and roaming across the country, taking photos seemingly carefree. Smollett’s portrayal of Leti is one you cannot help but love. Although it seems that Leti has some secrets, it’s hard not to root for her. This is definitely due to Smollett’s performance in the role. When she is on-screen as Leti, she makes it hard to look away. On the other side of the coin, we have Wunmi Mosaku as Leti’s half-sister, Ruby. Mosaku’s presence is commanding, and she is impressive in the role of the talented singer. Every moment Mosaku is on-screen adds another level of greatness to the series, and I cannot wait to see where her story arc goes.

Everything about Lovecraft Country is exceptionally gripping. From the visuals to the performances, every aspect of the series is very visceral. While we know that the sci-fi monsters (as they appear in the show) are not real, this doesn’t mean that monsters do not exist. There are many moments in the show that reveal where true monstrousness lies. We find it within every racist person that the group of protagonists encounter – it’s in every crude comment, vulgar gesture that Atticus, Leti, George, Ruby and Montrose experience throughout their journey, but even beyond that. We only know what we see on the series, but it’s abundantly clear that even the moments we don’t see would have been full of the same hatred.

Jurnee Smollett as Letitia, Wunmi Mosaku as Ruby, and Jonathan Majors as Atticus in Lovecraft Country (Courtesy of HBO)

While many may call the series “timely,” it is far from it. Timely makes it seem as though the experience on the show is an element resurfaced from the past. The truth of the matter is that this experience is one that never left. It’s always been here, and what Lovecraft Country indeed shows, is that Black people are still suffering from racism and dealing with very real monsters. Lovecraft Country is unapologetic in the ways that it shows the world and it is something that should be appreciated, because while it’s within the science fiction genre, it’s rooted in reality unlike any other series in the same vein.

Including elements of the genres that are often unkind to their Black characters, Lovecraft Country does a stellar job at ridding us of the awful tropes and exploring racism, history, and monsters real and sci-fi alike. Showrunner and executive producer, Misha Green and co-executive producers Jordan Peele, and J.J. Abrams certainly have a hit on their hands with Lovecraft Country.

Lovecraft Country premieres on HBO this Sunday, August 16 at 9:00 p.m. EST/PST.

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