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Blu-ray Review: Lovecraft Country: The Complete First Season

February 17, 2021

By John Corrado

★★★ (out of 4)

Based on Matt Ruff’s novel of the same name, Lovecraft Country is a TV series that certainly isn’t lacking in terms of ambition. The series comes to us from the mind of young TV writer Misha Green, who also serves as showrunner, with both Jordan Peele and J.J. Abrams serving as executive producers.

The presence of Peele and Abrams gives you a pretty good idea of what to expect from this HBO series, the complete first season of which is now available on Blu-ray. The influences of both creatives are felt throughout the show, which draws heavily upon the mythology of H.P. Lovecraft, and keeps switching genres between episodes.

The series effectively melds together science fiction, horror, adventure and fantasy, while also exploring racism in still-segregated 1950s America, centred almost exclusively around Black characters. The first episode, Sundown, finds Atticus Freeman (Jonathan Majors), a Korean War veteran, returning to Southside Chicago. His father (Michael K. Williams) has gone missing, and Atticus sets out on a road trip with his uncle George (Courtney B. Vance) and childhood friend Letitia (Jurnee Smollett) in order to find him.

This road trip takes them right through the heart of the Jim Crow South, where they encounter both Lovecraftian monsters and real life racism. This allows the series to mix elements of Black history with Afrofuturism, as it tells an expansive story that unfolds across ten episodes. The other characters include Atticus’ aunt Hippolyta (Aunjanue Ellis) and his adolescent cousin Diana (Jada Harris), a budding comic book artist; Letitia’s older half-sister Ruby (Wunmi Mosaku), who is conflicted about her identity; and a mysterious and sinister white woman named Christina Braithwhite (Abbey Lee), who comes from an ancient bloodline.

Each of the ten episodes are roughly an hour long, and this long-form storytelling format really allows the series to branch off and explore aspects of its mythology. This includes a bottle episode, Meet Me in Daegu, that is set entirely in South Korea, introducing Eastern mythology into the mix. The series is incredibly expansive in this regard, and at times the scope of it reminded me of the Wachowski’s 2012 film Cloud Atlas. The series very much occupies a genre space, and also explores a number of subgenres within the space of sci-fi and horror, working in elements of monster movie, body horror, supernatural fantasy and even time travel.

The show is also filled with deeper social commentary, and often explores race and identity in a very interesting way, working actual historical events into its fantastical storyline. This becomes apparent in the eighth episode, Jig-a-Bobo, which explores the impact of a real event from the time on one of the main characters. The episode also includes the terrifying appearance of twin girls Topsy (Kaelyn Gobert-Harris) and Bopsy (Bianca Brewton), modelled after the stereotyped character from Uncle Tom’s Cabin. Drawing upon historic, racist imagery, they are among the most unsettling apparitions on the show, and reminded me of the Tethered from Peele’s Us.

The result is an ambitious series that, while it does occasionally feel like it is biting off more than it can chew, is almost always entertaining and consistently unpredictable. I’m not sure if every element of it works equally well, but there is always something to pique our interest and keep us watching. This is a well acted series that is elevated by solid production design, including good special effects, and there is ultimately a lot in Lovecraft Country for various genre fans to enjoy.

Bonus Features (Blu-ray):

The Blu-ray set includes all ten episodes spread across three discs, with a number of bonus features on the third disc. The discs are held in a standard plastic case that comes shipped in a cardboard outer box, and there is also a handy paper insert listing all the episodes and their original airdates.

Orithyia Blue and the Imagination of Diana Freeman (11 minutes, 20 seconds): Artist Afua Richardson talks about creating the comic book that the character Diana draws in the show.

Lovecraft Country: Compendium of Horrors (12 minutes, 26 seconds): A look at the designs of the creatures seen in the show, and how they pay homage to H.P. Lovecraft.

Crafting Lovecraft Country (28 minutes, 14 seconds): This extended featurette offers a good overview of the production, including the design elements, the blend of genres, and the real life historical events that are worked into the show.

Exploring Lovecraft Country: A collection of eight short pieces featuring each of the main actors discussing their characters.

Exploring Lovecraft Country: Aunjanue Ellis (1 minute, 2 seconds)

Exploring Lovecraft Country: Abbey Lee (1 minute, 0 seconds)

Exploring Lovecraft Country: Courtney B. Vance (1 minute, 2 seconds)

Exploring Lovecraft Country: Jada Harris (1 minute, 1 second)

Exploring Lovecraft Country: Jonathan Majors (1 minute, 2 seconds)

Exploring Lovecraft Country: Jurnee Smollett (1 minute, 2 seconds)

Exploring Lovecraft Country: Michael Kenneth Williams (1 minute, 2 seconds)

Exploring Lovecraft Country: Wunmi Mosaku (1 minute, 2 seconds)

Lovecraft Country The Craft: A collection of four short pieces featuring members of the production and visual effects team discussing their roles on the series.

Lovecraft Country The Craft: Afua Richardson (2 minutes, 1 second)

Lovecraft Country The Craft: Eric Yamamoto (1 minute, 2 seconds)

Lovecraft Country The Craft: Carey Jones (2 minutes, 1 second)

Lovecraft Country The Craft: JP Jones (1 minute, 55 seconds)

Lovecraft Country: The Complete First Season is a Warner Bros. Home Entertainment release. It’s 590 minutes and rated 18A.

Street Date: February 16th, 2021

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