HBO's 'Lovecraft Country' Brings Viewers To A World Of Monsters, Magic and Racism The new HBO Series Lovecraft Country mixes the real horrors of 1950's Jim Crow America with the imaginary horrors of author H.P Lovecraft.
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HBO's 'Lovecraft Country' Brings Viewers To A World Of Monsters, Magic and Racism

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HBO's 'Lovecraft Country' Brings Viewers To A World Of Monsters, Magic and Racism

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HBO's 'Lovecraft Country' Brings Viewers To A World Of Monsters, Magic and Racism

HBO's 'Lovecraft Country' Brings Viewers To A World Of Monsters, Magic and Racism

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The new HBO Series Lovecraft Country mixes the real horrors of 1950's Jim Crow America with the imaginary horrors of author H.P Lovecraft.

NOEL KING, HOST:

HBO's new drama "Lovecraft Country" is about a Black military veteran and his family who are plunged into a world of magic and monsters. That world is only slightly more horrifying than the real world they live in, Jim Crow-era America. The series is out on Sunday. And NPR TV critic Eric Deggans says it's a masterpiece.

ERIC DEGGANS, BYLINE: Here's the thing about being a Black nerd who loves science fiction, fantasy and superhero stories. Often, you wind up admiring work created to glorify people who are the exact opposite of you. That's something the aptly-named bookworm Atticus Freeman tries to explain while telling a female friend about the latest novel he was reading on a long bus ride, the 1912 book "A Princess Of Mars" and its star, planet-jumping hero John Carter.

(SOUNDBITE OF TV SHOW, "LOVECRAFT COUNTRY")

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR #1: (As character) You said the hero was a Confederate officer.

JONATHAN MAJORS: (As Atticus Freeman) Ex-Confederate.

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR #1: (As character) He fought for slavery. You don't get to put a ex in front of that.

MAJORS: (As Atticus Freeman) Stories are like people. Loving them doesn't make them perfect. You just try to cherish them and overlook their flaws.

DEGGANS: That could be something of a mission statement for the "Lovecraft Country," a series based on the recent novel of the same name. The book and series reference the work of renowned horror novelist H.P. Lovecraft, known to have racist views about African Americans. The show compares the work of Lovecraftian (ph) supernatural beings which could have sprung from his books to the racism Black people faced in 1950s-era America.

Atticus Freeman, played by "Da 5 Bloods" costar Jonathan Majors, is a Korean War veteran who returns home to find his missing father. Before long, he's enlisted help from his Uncle George, played by Courtney B. Vance, and his friend Letitia, played by Jurnee Smollett. They must travel across the country from Chicago to follow a clue. And along the way, they run into a not-too-helpful police officer who informs them Black people aren't allowed in the area after dark.

(SOUNDBITE OF TV SHOW, "LOVECRAFT COUNTRY")

JAMIE HARRIS: (As Sheriff Eustace Hunt) Any of y'all know what a sundown town is?

MAJORS: (As Atticus Freeman) Yes, sir. We do.

HARRIS: (As Sheriff Eustace Hunt) Well, this is a sundown county. If I'd have found you after dark, it would have been my sworn duty to hang every single one of you from them trees.

MAJORS: (As Atticus Freeman) It's not sundown yet.

DEGGANS: But when the police officer and his buddies try to lynch the trio, everyone is attacked by huge, teethy, flesh-eating monsters who chase them into a cabin. Uncle George, who's just as much of a bookworm as Atticus, has an idea of what they might be facing.

(SOUNDBITE OF TV SHOW, "LOVECRAFT COUNTRY")

COURTNEY B VANCE: (As Uncle George) Listen to me. Children of the night. What music they make.

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR #2: (As character) What is he muttering on about?

VANCE: (As Uncle George) It's a quote from Dracula. None of them attacked me, and all I have is this flashlight.

JURNEE SMOLLETT: (As Letitia Dandridge) You think those things are like vampires.

VANCE: (As Uncle George) If I'm right and the light hurts them, it'll also why we've been driving in the woods all day and didn't encounter one.

DEGGANS: This is a tale that constantly flips the action to draw a direct line between the terrors of a supernatural story and the dread of racial oppression in the Jim Crow era.

At a time when the world is still reeling from seeing a Black man die with a white policeman's knee on his neck, there is no better moment for HBO's gripping "Lovecraft Country" to reinvent a supernatural tale.

I'm Eric Deggans.

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