Spoilers below for Lovecraft Country's series premiere, so be sure to watch before reading!
Lovecraft Country kicked off its first season on HBO with a monster-filled premiere that introduced audiences to Jonathan Majors' Atticus Freeman and the search for his father, along with his friend Leti (Jurnee Smollet) and his uncle George (Courtney B. Vance). The dramatic horror series is set in the 1950s, where deadly racial tensions ran rampant across the United States, and those tensions inspired one of the most intense car chases I've ever seen, despite also being the slowest car chase I've ever seen.
The premiere's title, "Sundown," is in direct reference to "sundown towns," areas where white residents used any means necessary to keep other races out of town after dark. (Although it's not like they were too friendly during the day, either.) Atticus, Leti and George were first accosted by an intolerant cop and his foreboding warnings about crossing the county line before the sun set, and they remained his target even after they drove away. The cop's intentions of sabotaging their exit, combined with the trio's fear, made it the most harrowing car chase that never exceeded 25 mph.
During a recent Lovecraft Country press junket, I asked star Jonathan Majors if he could talk about bringing that agonizingly engaging car chase to life. Here's what he had to say:
Lovecraft Country is showrunner Misha Green's adaptation of Matt Ruff's 2016 novel, which shined a light on several real-world racial horrors often swept under history's rug, such as sundown towns/counties and the 1921 Tulsa massacre that became far more publicized in the premiere of HBO's Watchmen adaptation in 2019. As hectic as that opening is, Lovecraft's car chase manages to capsulize that same abject terror without any explosions or gunshots. Just two cars driving down the highway at non-blazing speeds.
During our interview with Misha Green, who also co-created the Jurnee Smollet-starring Underground, she brought up that sweat-inducing car chase while generally speaking about mixing real-world historical horrors into the more supernatural storytelling within Lovecraft Country. In her words:
Thankfully, everything we've been taught about H.P. Lovecraft's various gods and monsters not being real is still very much in line with reality. At least for now. I guess there are still quite a few months left for 2020 to make it happen.
On a more serious note, part of my genre fanaticism comes from knowing that 99% of the situations I watch in horror movies and TV shows couldn't possibly ever happen to me or anyone else. However, the terror that I felt while watching Lovecraft Country's car chase, as well as plenty of other moments throughout the season, came from knowing that this shit can, did and does happen to other people simply based on the color of their skin. This obviously isn't new information in and of itself, but it's still a rarely utilized storytelling avenue for horror, and the world is all the better for Misha Green (and executive producer Jordan Peele) bringing it to the forefront in Lovecraft Country.
Everyone get ready for more Lovecraft Country, with new episodes airing every Sunday night on HBO at 9:00 p.m. ET. Check out our round-up of the best horror movies on HBO Max, and then head to our 2020 Fall TV premiere schedule to plan for primetime in the months to come.
Nick is a Cajun Country native, and is often asked why he doesn't sound like that's the case. His love for his wife and daughters is almost equaled by his love of gasp-for-breath laughter and gasp-for-breath horror. A lifetime spent in the vicinity of a television screen led to his current dream job, as well as his knowledge of too many TV themes and ad jingles.
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