Lovecaft Country blends the fantastical sci-fi horror genre with the horrors of being Black in 1950s America. The series animates the struggle of navigating and surviving the terrors of racism in an anti-Black society. The monsters of H.P. Lovecraft fuse with monsters of another kind, people, to create an eerie and utterly terrifying reality, where each competes to strike fear into the characters (and successfully struck dread into me!).

“the show examines how we deal with the legacy of the art left behind by an artist.”

Executive producers Jordan Peele and J.J. Abrams bring us a show which combines the heinous reality of racial injustice during Segregation with unearthly Lovecraftian imagery. In sinister ways, the former is more frightening than the latter.

Equally immersed in the horror alongside the characters, the viewers join an extra-ordinary journey that is a kaleidoscope of emotion, pursued by freakish Lovecraftian elements. We join Atticus Freeman (Jonathan Majors), along with his childhood friend Letitia Lewis (Jurnee Smollett) and his uncle George Freeman (Courtney B. Vance), in search for his missing father, Montrose Freeman (Michael K. Williams). By centring a Black family’s experience of racism, Lovecraft Country not only re-imagines horror tropes but re-imagines the horror of racism in focusing on their humanity against the monsters of another kind: the people that perpetuate prejudice.

The opening scene sets the uncanny backdrop for the show through war veteran Atticus Freeman’s surreal dream. It’s evident that Atticus, the show’s central character, loves consuming sci-fi literature. Sci-fi is a genre that has garnered criticism for its white-centric tales.

Drawing on Matt Ruff’s 2016 novel by the same name, the series contributes to the subversion of the style by exploring contemporary socio-political discourses on race in American society. Lovecraftian horror is a subgenre within horror fiction which emphasises cosmic horror as an element of shock over gore. The genre was pioneered by American author H. P. Lovecraft, who was famously a vehement racist. Through elaborating on this history, the show examines how we deal with the legacy of the art left behind by an artist.

Apart from the more abstract, Lovecraftian horror, the show elucidates the terror of the reality of being Black. Misha Green, the head writer and showrunner, observed: “In horror, there’s a level of anxiety that your life can be taken at any moment […] That’s the Black experience.” The show illustrates the different ways anti-Black racism manifests by illuminating the horrors of prejudice in many forms, including hiring discrimination, lack of access to housing, and police brutality. Between the beasts, grappling privilege and access and the scenes of police brutality and Black joy, the show resonates with several features of the ongoing contemporary struggle against racism.

“The Black characters in the series are pursued by the trauma that deadens the experience of Black people in America.”

In the HBO horror, each character has a unique storyline stoked in dread and terror, allowing us to revel in various protagonists and exciting characters. The female leads are clearly trailblazers as shown by the fiery and brave Letitia Lewis, who is handled with vulnerability and wisdom by Smollett. Letitia isn’t afraid to confront the horrors directly. Lewis is an active – rather than passive – character in the plots, effectively re-asserting “Black power” in resisting prejudice.

Besides it’s fantastical and horrific elements, the story told is both different to, and a reflection of, the horror faced today. The Black characters in the series are pursued by the trauma that deadens the experience of Black people in America. The recent Black Lives Matter demonstrations, following the murder of George Floyd, reveal that Black Americans are accustomed to both seeing and struggling against the horrors of prejudice. The ten-episode series parallels the sense of perpetual danger, fatality and struggle that is connected to the everyday existence of a Black person in a racist society.

In June, The New York Times bestseller list was comprised almost entirely of books about race in America. As you traverse through your anti-racism reading lists, horror and non-horror fans alike will experience an excellent and alternative insight into the real-life terror of racism through HBO’s Lovecraft Country.


Mountain View

What next for the Southern Gothic?

While the reality is undoubtedly unmatched, viewers can easily access the sense of terror through the ghastly imagery packed into the uniquely imaginative, terrifying, and riveting series. Still, it’s not remotely as scary as the prejudice that forges the backdrop of the series, and that haunts the lives of Black people today.

Lovecraft Country will be available to view weekly on both Sky Atlantic and the streaming service NOW TV, from Monday 17th August 2020.