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Lovecraft Country - Sun Down - Review



HBO just keeps pulling out the stops, don't they? The cable networks latest offering, Lovecraft Country, fuses historical drama with elements of fantasy and the supernatural, a mash of genres that showrunner Misha Green blends and balances out to near perfection.

I say 'near' because as important as it was to tell the black experience and the horrors of systemic racism while introducing us to the protagonists, the close to one hour of slow-burn did start to feel a bit wearisome before those explosive final 20 minutes. There could have a been a way to cut down the development of the story by at least 10 minutes while still setting up what they wanted to achieve, but that is all nitpicking.

Those 50 minutes did deliver some fabulous scenes, including the road trip montage shown to the soundtrack of James Baldwin's still-relevant and haunting speech of systemic racism. The line, "the inequality of the Negro in the United States has hindered the American Dream," resonated the most as a bunch of white teens imitate apes as Tic and Leti approach them, amidst images of segregated lineups and Aunt Jemima billboards.

There was also the block party, which painted the neighbourhood of main protagonist, Jonathan Major's Atticus Freeman (an ode to one of the great heros in fiction, Atticus Finch), as a place of reprieve from an America full of hatred against Blacks. This is one scene that probably could have been cut down by a minute or two, but it nevertheless gave this premiere real soul through the laughter, singing, pouring fire hydrants and just the pure communal happiness, all while introducing us to the dynamic Letitia Dandrige (Jurnee Smollet) and her sister Ruby (Wunmi Mosaku). Both sisters sang a fantastic duet of Dave 'Curlee' Williams' 'Whole Lotta Shakin' Goin' On,' one of many perfect song choices to be used in Lovecraft Country's vibrant soundtrack.

If there was anything that Lovecraft Country really drove home throughout this first episode was that the most malevolent of evils that Atticus, Uncle George, and Leti have faced and will be facing is segregation and the all-encompassing presence of whiteness. The monsters of everyday people they confront are just as terrifying as the monsters of story, and we see that countless times throughout the episode.

One of the highlight scenes that really drove this home was when the trio was being pursued by the sheriff. To subvert a common horror trope (escaping a scary situation before darkness hits) with actual historical context (sundown towns) was absolutely brilliant. What made this scene ingenious and so tense was the ticking time bomb suspense as they raced to state line and at the speed limit so that they wouldn't be pulled over, which depicted real-life horrors that Blacks are confronted with on the road back then and even still today, but yet through a horror lens. Again asking the question, what is scarier? The malevolent evils of racism or the creatures that go bump in the night?

The latter of which is pretty darn terrifying too, mind you. We did not get to see much of the supernatural until the episode's conclusion in the form of the very frightening shoggoths. The fact we never got the slightest tease of the supernatural existing in this world, only to have the rug pulled out from under us made this horrific reveal even more riveting.

The scene when the sheriff turned into one of the creatures was especially bonkers. Leave it to Leti though to drive through the cabin wall to run him over, reckless as it was. Thank gosh Tic and Uncle George weren't standing there.

Overall, Lovecraft Country told a story that needed to be told and in a way that felt real and lived in. The juxtaposition of the horrors of Lovecraftian stories and systemic racism was brilliantly put together giving viewers a premiere that was chilling and tense in both its real-world depictions and the monsters of fiction.

9/10

About the Author - Kollin Lore
Kollin is a writer and a film and television freak, having grown up during the 90s and 2000s a dedicated fan of Buffy, and moreso, Angel, before Supernatural took up half his life. Kollin's nightly hours are occupied mostly by genre TV, in particular, sci-fi and fantasy with especial love for space operas and shows about things that go bump in the night.
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