We Need To Talk About The Monsters In 'Lovecraft Country'
Lovecraft Country is HBO's first genuine foray into the horror genre since it started making original programming. Of course, this being HBO, it's couldn't just be traditional horror. The cabler's new series takes the horror genre and uses it to talk about the savagery of oppression and racism in the real world. But that doesn't mean the show isn't without monsters; it merely means they move seamlessly back and forth between the tropes of horror fantasy and the terror of white supremacy. So, what are the monsters in Lovecraft Country? There are many to choose from.
Warning: Spoilers for Lovecraft Country Episode 1 follow. The name of the series references H.P. (Howard Phillips) Lovecraft, an early 20th-century American writer who spent most of his life in New England. As the center of a literary circle of the era, he was considered one of the early masters of science-fiction horror. His works focus mainly on forbidden knowledge of the cosmos and the secrets held within the earth, and the mythos centered around monsters such as Cthulhu. The word "Lovecraftian" today usually references otherworldly monsters and supernatural and extraterrestrial terrors that are or could be inspired by the author's works.
As the first episode notes, "Lovecraft Country" is a real part of H.P. Lovecraft's writings. It was was a made-up county within his New England surroundings, taking up a fictionalized segment of eastern Massachusetts, populated with towns such as Arkham, a sister city to Salem, of the famous witch trials.
Lovecraft, who was famously racist, most likely never envisioned a story in which his monsters and white supremacists live side-by-side and occasionally compete to determine which is more terrifying. In the final scene of Episode 1, in which an evil sheriff begins to morph into a variation on Lovecraft's Ghasts (a vicious, dog-like creature), the monsters and the racists openly become interchangeable. (At least Ghasts can be defeated with a flashlight. Sheriffs, not so much.)
Ghasts are merely one type of monster that turns up in the premiere, though they are, so far, the only ones fans actually see. Shoggoths haunt Atticus' dreams, especially in his nightmares stemming from his time in South Korea. In fact, the opening sequence is a mashup of PTSD nightmares of the battlefield, Lovecraftian alien beings, and, in a nod to another book Atticus reads, a love interest straight out of The Princess of Mars.*
*(Forget the Disney-fied John Carter movie. The original Edgar Rice Burroughs novel's Dejah Thoris, Princess of Helium, is basically a red version of Star Trek's famous Orion women, and Atticus' vision is startlingly dead-on.)
Fans are eager to see what other famous monsters from the Lovecraft canon will turn up in the following episodes. With Shoggoths and Ghasts having already made an appearance, it's not long before some of his other famous creations populate the landscape, from the Nyarlathotep to Chthulu himself. Perhaps Atticus and George should be keeping a closer eye on Diana's map to see where the monsters dwell.
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