Jordan Peele's Lovecraft Country turns a horror icon's own racist tropes against him

Get Out" director Jordan Peele's triple nomination, and other 2018 ...

HBO’s upcoming eight-episode horror series Lovecraft Country may not have been on your radar before now. Although it’s co-created by Jordan Peele and executive produced by Peele and J.J. Abrams, Lovecraft Country hasn’t really had a lot of mainstream attention.

But HBO just dropped the show’s debut trailer, which is full of eerie supernatural creatures, intriguing genre subversions, and lots of socially conscious horror — and it’s gotten our full attention.

Based on Matt Ruff’s fantastic 2016 horror novel, Lovecraft Country is set in the 1950s and follows a young black man named Atticus (Jonathan Majors) as he searches for his father (Michael K. Williams), who’s gone missing in the New England wilds that his family calls “Lovecraft country.” He and his pal Letitia (Jurnee Smollett-Bell) go on a road trip to search for him — but they quickly wind up confronting a host of eldritch abominations along the way.

That might sound like a straightforward plot, but it’s anything but. The trailer, with its looming references to racism, segregation, and police violence, gives us our first indication that many of the monsters in Lovecraft Country are actually human — a theme both Peele and Misha Green, the series’ co-creator and showrunner, like to play with.

Lovecraft Country trailer: Jordan Peele's HBO show is full of ...

The nomenclature here tells us even more about the complex literary legacies and sociocultural dynamics Lovecraft Country is dealing with: Atticus’s name saddles him with a complicated relationship to the flawed white savior of To Kill a Mockingbird, and to that book’s own fraught legacy as American culture’s premier fictional text on racism, as molded in a white worldview. The region of “Lovecraft country” is another callout to such a white worldview: It’s both a reference to H.P. Lovecraft, the writer, and a setting drawn from the fictional, rural New England that appears throughout Lovecraft’s many stories.

Lovecraft was the most influential horror fiction writer of the mid-20th century. He wrote weird fiction, a horror subgenre which teems with implied terror, usually intimated by brushes with unknowable, unnameable monsters and glimpses of vast cosmic worlds beyond ours through which giant, appalling gods sometimes pass.

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