Spoilers below for Lovecraft Country's wild third episode, so be warned!
No matter what kind of horror subgenre Lovecraft Country tackles, you just know showrunner Misha Green is going to deliver the goods. Or the evils, in the case of Episode 3, "Holy Ghost," which dropped a haunted, ghost-filled house into the HBO series' racially charged storytelling. Leti was goaded into purchasing the house once owned by the deceased-but-not-gone Hiram Winthrop (first name-checked in the the Braithwhite house), whose unlawful experiments led to the Baby-Head Basketball Player Ghost and seven other disturbing spirits roaming the halls of Leti's home.
For my money, the Baby-Head Ghost is the most dread-provoking imagery we've seen yet from Lovecraft Country, at least on a purely visual level. (Obviously the show's murderously racist acts are more disturbing.) When creator Misha Green spoke with CinemaBlend and other outlets ahead of the Season 1 premiere, I asked what the idea was behind that adorably ghastly baby head, and she said it was inspired by real-world medical experiments combined with the fictional Hiram Winthrop's dark mythology. In her words:
Honestly, I could not have asked for a better explanation, and that's precisely the kind of brainstorming rabbit hole I was picturing, since you can't possibly start the creative process with "Baby-Head Ghost." That's the kind of concept that only happens after you've already tapped into "time travel" as a topic, since the sky is the limit after that.
As well, I wholeheartedly adore that diabolically wicked backstory that explains how Baby-Head Ghost came into existence, with imprecise time travel techniques causing malformations with his and others' bodies that are reminiscent of stories about the alleged Philadelphia Experiment. It's all so damned bothersome to consider, and that's on top of the far more heinous experiments that went down in real life, from the highly unethical Tuskegee Syphilis Experiment – which lasted 40 years and led to many avoidable deaths and diagnoses – to government-funded irradiation treatments and many more.
As if the anatomy-clashing look of the Baby-Head Ghost wasn't nightmarish enough by itself, Lovecraft Country's creative wizards doubled down by adding an infant's cries and giggles to the mix. It created quite the weird juxtaposition to have such childlike noises floating around during such a hectic and heightened scene, and Misha Green also explained that audio addition, saying:
Sometimes learning the behind-the-scenes story about a particular horror moment or scene provides some comfort in knowing the innocuous details that served as inspiration. That's not what Lovecraft Country is bringing to the table, though, so we can likely expect for true terror to be accounted for in the storytelling, both on the screen and off.
Episode 3 definitely provided star Jurnee Smollett a chance to show off her dramatic range, bouncing between joy and trauma as the episode wore on. And Leti's confrontation against Hiram Winthrop delivered as emotionally cathartic a genre performance as I've seen in a while, and was perhaps also the most peacefully handled exorcism possible. During the same Lovecraft Country press event, I asked Smollett to talk about tapping into that emotion for Episode 3's climax, and here's how she answered:
For Jurnee Smollett, that episode was as much about drawing to the surface inherited traumas from her family history, and using that to bring her own truth to Leti's story. And while it's hard to outwardly want to celebrate trauma in any fashion, applause all around to everyone responsible for putting it all on display for Lovecraft Country.
Lovecraft Country airs Sunday nights on HBO at 9:00 p.m. ET, so be sure to keep tuning in to see what will happen next, and stay tuned to CinemaBlend for more coverage. In the meantime, head to our Fall TV 2020 premiere schedule to see what else is on the way.
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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