“Lovecraft Country,” a horror series that touches on just about every evil, goes off in so many directions you’ll think you need to stop at the nearest gas station for a roadmap.
Set after World War II, "Lovecraft" follows a Black veteran (Jonathan Majors) as he returns to Chicago to figure out what happened to his father (Michael Kenneth Williams). With the help of his uncle, George (Courtney B. Vance), and his childhood friend Letitia (Jurnee Smollett), Atticus Freeman begins a road trip to Ardham, Massachusetts. There, they think dad was poking into his family’s past. But why? And why there?
Written and produced by Misha Green, the series shows how racists react to them as they make their way through the small towns of the Midwest and East. Locals refuse to serve them; law enforcement officials threaten them. When they stop in a wooded area for a break, a county sheriff approaches them and tells them they have to be out of the area before sundown. Just as they cross a set of railroad tracks, another group of lawmen await.
And then? Some of the most bizarre creatures come popping out of the trees. Like a 1950s horror film, “Lovecraft Country” quickly turns, suggesting this isn’t Kansas – or anywhere else for that matter.
Green, who based the series on Matt Ruff’s novel, sets the scene with an elaborate sci-fi opening. It’s from the pages of a book Atticus is reading, but it’s not exactly a preview of coming attractions. The series, in fact, settles into its quiet “Green Book” story before the three reach the woods. Then all bets are off and “Lovecraft” becomes a horror film sampler, pulling its trio into mysteries, Indiana Jones-like adventures and, yes, romance.
Remarkably, Green and her team of directors are able to keep the creep factor going. They introduce plenty of sketchy humans, then give them terrifying views that serve as more than metaphors.
Majors and Smollett are a great couple, playing Michael Douglas/Kathleen Turner games when they aren’t running from danger. Both have back stories, too, and a worldliness that suggests they’re not going to back down.
Vance, meanwhile, edges into that elderly voice of reason stage with this role. He’s around for guidance, but he’s also capable of fighting with a different arsenal of tools.
Green says Jordan Peele’s “Get Out” opened the door for “Lovecraft Country” and it’s easy to see why. This tosses a number of evils at its characters, forcing viewers to decide what’s more frightening – a racist or a sci-fi monster?
“Lovecraft Country,” which tips its hat to the novels of H.P. Lovecraft, has the gloss of a Steven Spielberg summer blockbuster. It also has Spielberg’s way of tucking messages in places you wouldn’t expect.