HBO’s new drama series, Lovecraft Country, developed by Misha Green (Underground) premiered this week and has been garnering high praise for its cast, premise, and exploration of race in America. After watching the first episode, I can confirm that you’re going to want to visit Lovecraft Country—and here are five reasons why.
1. Jonathan Majors
Jonathan Majors has quickly established himself as one of the most exciting new talents of his generation. With noteworthy supporting performances in The Last Black Man in San Francisco and Da 5 Bloods under his belt, Majors takes center stage in Lovecraft Country as Atticus Freeman.
Majors is a certified beefcake—not since Adam Driver in The Last Jedi have we been so pleasantly surprised by a performer’s abdominal bona fides—but possesses an innate vulnerability that makes him infinitely compelling to watch. That vulnerability makes him the perfect lead for a horror series; he looks like he could kick some ass (and he can) but you don’t want him to have to.
Atticus Freeman is enamored with now-classic works of pulp fiction—he’s reading A Princess of Mars at the top of the show—but picked up skills during the Korean War that will serve him well as he and his companions travel deeper into the weird world of Lovecraft Country. Majors is equally at home playing Atticus when he’s geeking out over the heroes in the sci-fi novels he loves and when he’s blasting away at otherworldly horrors with a shotgun.
Once you see him in action, I promise, you’re going to want to go deeper into Lovecraft Country just to see what he does next.
2. Jurnee Smollett-Bell
After making her mark in Birds of Prey earlier this year, Jurnee Smollett-Bell continues to bring the heat in Lovecraft Country. Smollett-Bell brings an effortless cool to her character, Letitia, and always manages to make scenes fresh and exciting by playing beyond what the script calls for.
She’s not overacting, she’s just able to deliver her lines—or work in a movement, a glance—that elevates her work and can add humor or humanity to scenes when they’re needed most.
Hopefully, the show will continue to flesh Letitia out and take full advantage of Smollett-Bell’s wealth of talent. Whatever they do with her character, her performance is more than enough reason to tune in on Sunday nights.
3. The Tension
In its first episode Lovecraft Country demonstrated what will hopefully be a series-long penchant for expertly building tension. Whether the cast is coming face-to-face with Jim Crow-era racism or Lovecraftian monsters, the show knows how to pace its most intense sequences to perfection. There’s plenty of buildup for every payoff—some of the scenes are so suffused with dread that you won’t even realize you’re holding your breath until you let it out in relief. It’s the perfect fix for horror junkies who haven’t had enough new material to sink their teeth into during quarantine.
4. The Pulp
Jackie Robinson murks Cthulhu with a baseball bat in the show’s first five minutes. Need I say more?
5. The Creatures
The dream that opens Lovecraft Country features a phantasmagoria of flashing lights and monstrous beasts. UFOs ravage the landscape alongside the aliens from War of the Worlds, a fuchsia-skinned alien princess descends from on high, and, as previously mentioned, Cthulhu makes an appearance.
All of these creatures/machines/aliens look good, and they’re a satisfying appetizer for what the series has in store, but the most satisfying monster in the premiere comes later in the episode—the shoggoth.
The shoggoths appear late in the premiere, with gaping maws, rows of razor sharp teeth, projectile mouth-tentacles, and dozens of eyes (there’s a great shot of the eyes filming over when light touches them; it’s the kind of attention to detail we like to see in our cosmic creatures). They can take a lot of punishment, deal a lot of damage, and come with a few extra surprises that I won’t spoil here.
All that to say—I’m very, very excited to see what other monsters Lovecraft Country has in store for us this season, and you will be too.
Bonus: There’s A Book!
The series is closely based on a 2016 book of the same name, which means if you love what you’re watching you can dive right into the source material and get even more of it!
It’s rare for an adaptation to outdo the book upon which it’s based, so you might even find more to love about Atticus and his crew within the pages of Lovecraft Country than you will in HBO’s series—but that’d be a tall order.
Lovecraft Country is streaming on HBO Max, with new episodes airing every Sunday!
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