Curious about HBO new series Lovecraft Country? So were we and after watching the first five episodes from showrunner Misha Green (Underground) and executive producers Jordan Peele and JJ Abrams, we’re all in for this sci-fi horror’s loopy ride.
Based on Matt Ruff’s novel of the same name, the storyline can be described as Stranger Things set in Jim Crow America. The show bounces back and forth between fighting real world threats like “sundown towns” and segregated neighborhoods of the 1950s to battling ghosts in haunted houses and extraordinary fictional creatures like shoggoths, a tentacled monster featured in the works of fantasy writer H.P. Lovecraft.
The series is in homage to the genre Lovecraft created in the 1920-1930s but with a subversive Black Lives Matter twist as he was a known racist and Ruff’s novel centers educated, entrepreneurial and fearless Black folks as the heroes. In a Lovecraft Country book review for The Guardian, it states the story “pits a predominantly Black cast of characters against ‘America’s demons’… Is it scarier if the sheet-clad thing holding a burning torch is a genuine ghost, or just your average member of the Ku Klux Klan?”
With this racial history and science fiction to unpack, we’ve done some homework and rounded up a list of six series, movies, and books you should check out before Lovecraft Country premieres (August 16).
1. Underground (Hulu)
Although the series had only two seasons and was unceremoniously cancelled, Underground was a moment in Black TV where co-creator Misha Green and star Jurnee Smollett captivated us with their incredible storytelling. Now with Green serving as Lovecraft Country‘s showrunner and executive producer, the dynamic duo are back again for a new journey. Expect Smollett’s fiery portrayal of Leti to reset the bar for badass women on screen.
2. Da 5 Bloods (Netflix)
Jonathan Majors stars as Lovecraft Country’s protagonist Atticus Freeman. Majors’ breakout role as David in Spike Lee’s Da 5 Bloods paints a similar familial picture—David’s complicated relationship with his father Paul and Atticus’s relationship with his father Montrose Freeman, played by Michael K. Williams (The Wire).
3. Watchmen (HBO)
Set in an alternate present day universe, Watchmen dives head first into topics of race while weaving in the sci-fi lore of the original graphic novel. Watchmen was developed by Damein Lindeloff, who made his name alongside JJ Abrams as co-creators of the hit show Lost. If Abrams is able to respectfully portray the images of racial bigotry with the same care that his partner Lindeloff did, then Lovecraft Country is in good hands.
4. Lovecraft Country (Audible)
The 2016 novel, written by Matt Ruff, serves as a supplemental guide to get a richer experience from the HBO series. Ruff’s first few chapters give us a deeper look into the lives and motivations of our main characters, fantasy bibliophiles Atticus (Jonathan Majors) and Uncle George (Courtney B. Vance)—who also publishes a Safe Negro Travel Guide in the series—and childhood friend-turned-photographer Leti (Jurnee Smollett). But be aware that the novel and the series take different paths, similar to the page vs. on screen adaptations of Games of Thrones.
5. Us (Hulu)
Jordan Peele’s film was more subtle in its examinations of America than in his predecessor Get Out. Nonetheless, this film is an achievement in the horror genre and leads very nicely into the graphic elements visited in Lovecraft Country. With Peele’s creative sensibilities at the helm, expect the series to make the monsters and racists in the story equally blood curdling.
6. Tales From The Hood (Peacock)
The 1995 horror-comedy mashup, executive produced by Spike Lee, is a great warmup for Lovecraft Country. The anthology movie follows six separate yet interconnected stories centered on a racial theme. These stories often venture into the fantastical and extraordinary, much like the upcoming series.
Lovecraft Country premieres August 16 on HBO.