Why critics are calling “wildly original” Lovecraft Country “a masterpiece”.
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11 September 2020

Why critics are calling “wildly original” Lovecraft Country “a masterpiece”.

In the 1950s, Atticus, a young African-American, sets out on a road trip with his childhood friend, Letitia, and his uncle, George, to find his missing father. This catapults the three into a struggle for survival against the dual terrors of Jim Crow-era America and terrifying monsters that could be ripped from a paperback written by pulpy horror author HP Lovecraft.

As the lines between real-world dangers and the realm of the fantastic start to blur, the trio find themselves caught between the monster Cthulhu and the KKK, with sinister cultists as their only allies.

“Atticus is a bibliophile and a soldier, a warrior and a poet,” says lead actor Jonathan Majors (The Last Black Man in San Francisco, Da 5 Bloods). “He’s a man that goes from living in a world of books and of sci-fi, to living in an actual world full of monsters and witches.” 

“He’s a man that goes from living in a world of books and of sci-fi, to living in an actual world full of monsters and witches.”

Jonathan Majors

Based on the 2017 World Fantasy Award-nominated cult novel by Matt Ruff, Lovecraft Country is exec produced by Oscar winner Jordan Peele (Get Out, Us) and Emmy winner JJ Abrams (Star Wars, Super 8), as well as Emmy nominee Bill Carraro (American History X, Blade Runner 2049). Misha Green (Underground, named Best New Cable/New Media Show of 2016 by the African-American Film Critics Association) is the showrunner and co-creator. 

NPR calls Lovecraft Country “a masterpiece.” Time Magazine calls it “a stunning dissection of America’s racist history – and an absolutely wild ride … smart, gripping and wonderfully wild.” And Rolling Stone hails it as “a mind-bending, genre-blending tour de force… Couldn’t possibly feel timelier.” 

Lovecraft Country has an 89% critics’ rating on Rotten Tomatoes, with much of the praise going to the formidable cast, which also includes Teen Choice nominee Jurnee Smollett-Bell (Birds of Prey, Friday Night Lights) as Letitia, Golden Globe nominee Courtney B Vance (The People Vs OJ Simpson, Law & Order) as George, and Emmy nominee Michael Kenneth Williams (When They See Us, The Night Of, The Wire) as Atticus’ father, Montrose.  

The Hollywood Reporter calls Jurnee’s performance, “a fierce turn in which her every bit of actorly business — whether driving a car, sprinting away from ghouls or wielding a baseball bat … feels instantly iconic. You can’t take your eyes off her…  It’s to everybody else’s credit that Smollett doesn’t knock them off the screen entirely but Majors is a steady, slow-burning leading man and Vance and Williams add embraceable decency and fiery torment respectively.”  

Also look out for BAFTA winner Wunmi Mosaku (Luther, The End of the F*ing World, Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them), Abbey Lee (Mad Max: Fury Road, The Neon Demon), Emmy and Critics Choice nominee Aunjanue Ellis (When They See Us, The Help, The Book of Negroes), and Zimbabwean-South African actress Sibongile Mlambo (Lost in Space, Donna in Siren – the first Black mermaid on mainstream TV). 

“Lovecraft Country is a very unusual tale. I don’t think television has seen anything like this before,” says Courtney. “In our world, there’s monsters – be they literal or figurative monsters. It’s very interesting and disheartening: some of the same issues that we’re dealing with in the fifties, we’re living them today. But we need each other in this world and that’s what our journey here will hopefully show to audiences.”

“It really blows my mind, the ingenuity that’s gone on into creating Lovecraft Country,” says Aunjanue. “You become a child again, because it is fantastical.” At the same time, she says, “It makes you question things that the world wants to turn a blind eye to. It’s a lesson in empathy.”

Perhaps the best thing about Lovecraft Country though, is that it’s a blast. “I think people will take away a sense of excitement and possibility,” says Wunmi. “It feels rebellious. Minds may be blown a little bit… maybe a lot.”

As Newsday put it, “To call Lovecraft Country ‘wildly original’ seems almost a quaint understatement. But it is wild. And original. Little doubt about that.”

The first four episodes are available to stream now, with the second four coming on 6 October and the final two episodes ready to stream from 20 October.

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