Posts Tagged ‘Lovecraft Country’

I read the book back in 2018 and loved it (would have done a review, but I think by that point it had been out a while). I was excited when I heard that it was getting a show…and then sad when I heard it would be on HBO. However, now I have HBO Max, so I was able to watch the show. Which I finished watching today. As I’m obligated to do, I’m writing a review.

Based on the novel by Matt Ruff, Lovecraft Country follows Atticus Freeman, a black soldier living in 1950s America who returns home to Chicago after receiving a mysterious letter from his estranged father Montrose, stating he is in Arkham, Massachusetts, a location from the works of HP Lovecraft. Turns out, it’s actually a secret community called Ardham, but that doesn’t change how fantastical life gets for Atticus. Pretty soon, his life starts to resemble a Lovecraft story, involving secret societies of sorcerers and magic, ancient history, and entities that defy reality and biology. And it may end up putting Atticus and his whole family in danger.

So, it would be more fair to say this is a variation on the novel’s story than a direct adaptation. The first season acknowledges the concept of a multiverse and uses that to explain the changes from the novel. Some of these changes are minor–some names or genders are changed, roles are reduced or expanded, etc. Others are good, such as the expansion of Montrose’s character to be a meaningful exploration of a man with a troubled past still effecting his present. And others just made me scratch my head.

An example of this would be the creation of the character Ji-ah, a character from Atticus’s past who knows more than she lets on. On the one hand, I get why they added her and they tried to make her inclusion into the story important to the plot. At the same time, I feel like this whole character’s reason was diversity for diversity’s sake, which is an odd choice considering the show.

As for the rest of Lovecraft Country, it was great for the most part. The writing in even the dullest episodes was superb, and the actors were awesome. There were several scary moments, such as the events of the first two episodes and episode eight. The exploration of racism in America was powerfully done as well, drawing many parallels between events then and now (and making me want to know more about the Tulsa race riots. I do not remember learning about that in school).

If you haven’t checked out the novel, that’s also worth the read.

However, there were some downsides. The actress playing the villainess, Abbey Lee, played her role so emotionlessly I wondered if she couldn’t get into her character’s head, let alone play her convincingly. A lot of the music choices were modern rap or music from well past the 1950s, which honestly felt out of place in a historical fantasy-horror piece. And there were a few episodes where things kind of dragged for me.

Like the novel, Lovecraft Country the TV series isn’t perfect, but there’s plenty there to enjoy and make the watch worth it. You’re going to get different things from each iteration of the story, so it’s up to you which one you prefer.

On a scale of 1 to 5, I’ll give the first season of Lovecraft Country a 3.7. Combining horror, magic, heavy themes and great characterization, it’s worth the hype I heard. A second season may be in the works, but until we get confirmation one way or another, there’s still plenty of time to check it out. Get on HBO Max if you can and prepare for a powerful experience.

That’s all for now, my Followers of Fear. I’m off to work on stories I doubt will ever get their own adaptations (though it can’t hurt to try). Until next time, good night and pleasant nightmares.

I looked for a cosmic horror GIF, and this was my favorite.

Cosmic horror is everywhere these days. Since HP Lovecraft first kicked off the subgenre in the early half of the 20th century, it’s spread from pulp magazines to all corners of horror literature, to table-top roleplaying games and video games. And while cosmic horror has been in the movies and on TV sporadically since the 1960s, in the past couple of years we’ve seen a glut of it on those mediums: Annihilation, Stranger Things, The Color Out of Space, Underwater, Lovecraft Country (which I’ll be watching soon now that I have HBO Max), The Endless, and most recently, The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina‘s fourth season (though not very well).

And there are more on the way. Just today, I heard about a new film called Sacrifice coming out next month that has Lovecraftian themes (click here to check out the trailer). Sometime this year, the long-awaited anime adaptation of Uzumaki by Junji Ito is supposed to air. Richard Stanley, the director of Color Out of Space, hopes to do a trilogy of films based off Lovecraft’s work.

And there’s a lot more that I probably don’t know about. Plus new games, novels and short stories, comics, manga and anime, poems and art! Cosmic horror is kinda going mainstream right now. Or as mainstream as horror can get.

Color Out of Space was awesome. And we may have more like it in the future.

The question is, why now? Why is this particular subgenre only now just getting mainstream acceptance? Why the sudden enthusiasm?

I think there are a few reasons. One is time and a devoted fanbase. Cosmic horror, as I said, originally came from pulp magazines with very small circulation. However, the fans who enjoyed the stories of Lovecraft and those who played in his world–what would later be known as the Cthulhu Mythos–preserved and kept the stories going even after the deaths of the magazines and of Lovecraft. Through hard work and advocacy, more fans found cosmic horror and found themselves drawn to the stories. Then as now, fans would then tell other fans, or create their own work based on these stories, which has a looping effect of creating more fans through exposure. So, it may have taken time, but cosmic horror has been able to spread with patience and the love of many who follow it.

Almost sounds like cosmic horror is an eldritch deity in and of itself, doesn’t it? I find that hilariously appropriate.

Another factor at play, I believe, is that modern audiences are more receptive to that kind of horror than they have been in the past. Like I said, it’s taken time for cosmic horror to penetrate the public consciousness, and so for many people, cosmic horror may be a nice change of pace from the usual horror fare. We’ve seen plenty of haunted house stories, slashers, and sequels and ripoffs of possession or ghost stories. Those elements are not normally part of cosmic horror. In fact, it could be a breath of fresh air for audiences.

And finally, while cosmic horror normally deals with ancient, otherworldly gods and terrible secrets, it’s a great place to talk about modern issues. Granted, horror has always been a place to explore our everyday fears and anxieties, but cosmic horror, through the perspectives and interactions of its human characters against these terrors, can do it in a unique way. Lovecraft Country uses cosmic horror to explore racism, which both was part of the genre’s start and which is a current problem today.

Is it too much too hope that one of those works might be a kickass, terrifying adaptation of Hellstar Remina by Junji Ito?

And I wrote a novella, What Errour Awoke, that combined elements of cosmic horror with the current pandemic to explore the fear with the latter. And yes, I still hope to get that published.

So, with all these factors, can we expect more cosmic horror in the near future? I think so. Maybe not in huge numbers from the movie industry, as cosmic horror tends to have a spotty track record there.* But certainly in other mediums. Horror-themed TV has been booming, so we’ll likely see plenty of shows exploring those themes in the future. Comics and manga have always loved cosmic horror. And, of course, we’ll likely see many, many new books or short stories in that vein.**

So long as they’re made with lots of love, both for the subgenre and for the projects themselves, rather than for the money, I look forward to it.

Are you a fan of cosmic horror? Are you enjoying the wave of new works in the subgenre? Let’s discuss in the comments below.

*While they were well-received by critics and moviegoers, Annihilation and Underwater underperformed at the box office, and Color Out of Space only had a limited theater release.

**Hopefully, I’ll be able to add to this. I’ve a few cosmic horror ideas waiting to be written. I’d love to share them with you all someday.