I always set a low bar for adaptations, just to keep myself from being too disappointed too often – but I clearly needn’t have worried here. That was an utterly amazing hour of television period let alone for ‘genre’ fare. I don’t think I could have asked for anything more in a series premiere. HBO’s Lovecraft Country from series creators Misha Green and Jordan Peele is adapted from Matt Ruff’s 2017 novel of the same name and IS a straight up delight for any fan of Golden Age science fiction and horror. It also seems to be a whole lot more than that.
On the surface, the opening sequence pays homage to Lovecraft, H G Wells’ War of the Worlds, and Edgar Rice Burroughs John Carter novels. It was a soup of our hero, Atticus’ influences. And damn, Jackie Robinson taking out flying Cthulhu’s with his Louisville slugger. This is indeed the story of a boy and his dream.
The vibe I got from ‘Sundown’ seems to be the debate about separating the art from the artist. Tic (the above mentioned Atticus) and Uncle George both love Lovecraft, but they feel shame for doing so, because they know Lovecraft wouldn’t have loved them. There are so many of us who idolized or built an identity on art that was created by someone we probably wouldn’t be able to stay in the same room as. Balancing what the art means to you versus what the artist said or did is a conversation very worth having, and I’m not sure I’ve seen it done so eloquently in a piece of art itself.
Lovecraft Country’s excellent use of the tune Tall Skinny Papa as a character-building shorthand for Ruby, who (judging from the song choice) seems to be modeled after Rosetta Tharpe. Rosetta started off as a child prodigy, playing guitar and singing religious songs before making a fairly brief attempt at more secular work driven by the influence of her then husband/manager. Ultimately, her heart belonged to the spiritual music of her youth and she spent the rest of her life performing that. But her guitar work was far ahead of its time, influencing the first wave of rock n’ rollers in ways that have not been acknowledged widely. But it’s absolutely undeniable. Its things like that… the way it uses historical reference, quotations and music to underscore its themes. Using Hip Hop during that period Chicago street scene to point out what remains the same was brilliant.
Loved the unexpected James Baldwin passage. Loved that it reclaimed the Green Book. And well, loved Letitia fuckin’ Lewis.
I’ve never seen a car chase where the great threat after you is the Sun. It’s just incredible that it’s framed as a classic monster movie device-racing against the setting sun-but the monsters are the evil redneck police. The stakes aren’t any lower than a monster movie at all, they’ll most likely die if they don’t beat it from going down.
The scene in the diner, when the trio are slowly putting it together that this WAS Lydia’s until she was burned out (and maybe murdered?). When Atticus scuffed that flooring back to see the scorch marks just as Leticia was running out screaming. Chills, man. Chills.
I thought it was clever that one of the most terrifying — and funny— moments in the show is when the occupant of the mysterious Rolls Royce steps out of the car and reveals herself to be sooo white —- Nordic, Tolkien Elf level Caucasian — and that’s what seems to scare Atticus. Lovecraft books vary in monster reveal. If a monster is introduced early, it means there are worse things in store later on. Remember this is horror – it only gets worse.