‘Lovecraft Country,’ Where the Humans Are as Scary as the Monsters

Lovecraft Country

If you plan to venture into Lovecraft Country this summer, be warned: Creator Misha Green (Underground) has populated her pulse-racing new HBO drama with monsters, ghosts, and historical injustices that might frighten you even more.

Based on Matt Ruff’s 2016 novel, the series is set in the 1950s, when Korean War vet Atticus “Tic” Freeman (Jonathan Majors) embarks on a road trip to find his father, Montrose (Michael Kenneth Williams). The only clue to the missing man’s whereabouts: a letter sent from Massachusetts — a popular location in horror writer H.P. Lovecraft’s work — with references to a mysterious birthright.

Tic’s childhood friend Leti (Jurnee Smollett-Bell) and his uncle George (Courtney B. Vance) join him for the journey. The latter is the publisher of a guide advising Black travelers of places they’ll feel safe in Jim Crow–era America. Spoiler: It won’t be raving about the sundown town our heroes find themselves in at dusk.

“Looking in history books and seeing these signs that said, ‘Don’t let the sun set on you here’ — if I made that up in a horror movie, people would be like, ‘OK, that’s real over the top!'” says Green, who not only depicts that true-life threat of racial violence but mirrors it by unleashing bloodthirsty creatures that terrorize the woods at night. “We tried to make the fake monsters just as scary as the human monsters,” she explains.

lovecraft country

(Credit: HBO)

While Tic discovers that the monsters in the pulp fiction novels he loves do exist, not all of the ones onscreen will be Lovecraftian. Producers (Get Out and Us mastermind Jordan Peele is one) wanted each episode to pay homage to different types of genre projects. “Episode 2, you’ll be like, ‘Oh, they’re bringing back that moment from The Shining!'” Green teases. Episode 3’s ghost stories pull from Poltergeist, The Amityville Horror and A Nightmare on Elm Street, and Episode 4’s adventures borrow heavily from Indiana Jones and The Goonies.

“We wanted to kind of go bananas, but really, you’re still dealing with this family drama,” she says. “How do they get rid of the shame and the secrets they have, to come together and claim their power?”

Lovecraft Country, Series Premiere, Sunday, Aug. 16, 9/8c, HBO