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Lovecraft Country (Spoilers for Episode 1)

I just watched the first episode, and I have mixed feelings about it. I love the characters and the setting (the casting is on point), and I love the portrayal of the time period and segregation. The special effects are also really good.

However, I don't feel they've succeeded at nailing the Lovecraftian vibe or suspense. Perhaps they are just showing too much of the monsters, but I feel it is also because of the way it was directed. It is just not very suspenseful.

I have not read the book (I wasn't even aware this was based on a book), but I do like the idea of basically cleansing the racist legacy of Lovecraft's work, by making this a story about black characters dealing with racism and segregation in a Lovecraftian setting.
 

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cbwjm

Hero
Well, that escalated quickly. I am interested to see where they go from the end of episode 2.

And the award for understated line of the year goes to "Don't eat that." :)
I'm definitely curious about what's going to happen next, felt like I was watching a mini series and this was part 2 or 2.

You're right, it was a great line.
 
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CapnZapp

Legend
I see what they were trying to accomplish in EP 2, but also think they failed.

In EP 1 the good outweighed the bad, but EP 2 was just a rushed heap of WTF...
 

CapnZapp

Legend
However, I don't feel they've succeeded at nailing the Lovecraftian vibe or suspense. Perhaps they are just showing too much of the monsters, but I feel it is also because of the way it was directed. It is just not very suspenseful.
I agree, but I don't think they're even trying for the Lovecraftian vibe.

The monsters are so in-your-face and all-action and splatter-gore I think those sequences are deliberately a subversion of how "wonderfully" monster encounters play out in classic Lovecraft: understated, after-the-fact, dreamy, etc. After all, the entire show is a Fuck You to ye olde H.P. of sorts...

But I haven't read the book either, so what do I know.
 


payn

Explorer
I actually liked the second episode better than the first. Had a very Get Out meets lovecraft vibe to it.

I can see why some folks have an issue with it. This version is not subtle at all. Not capturing the right horror suspense feel, more like a weird mystery suspense story.
 

Umbran

Mod Squad
Staff member
I can see why some folks have an issue with it. This version is not subtle at all.

1) Perhaps Lovecraft's subtlety is overstated.

2) They are doing a mass-market show. They must establish the reality of these horrors for the story to make sense.

3) I think there's an intentional and meaningful analogy there. Neither horror nor racism is subtle when it is targeted directly at you. There is no material difference between the oppressiveness of walking through a malign eldritch gothic house and down a city street filled with folks who may want to lynch you, or between the many-eyed beast chasing you through the forest, and a pickup tuck full of hicks with guns who want to shoot you for being the wrong color. People think Lovecraft's horror and his racism are subtle because they are reading both from the safety of their comfortable armchair.

Basically - racism is a horror just as much as Great Old Ones are. The subtlety is an illusion of perspective.
 

1) Perhaps Lovecraft's subtlety is overstated.

In regards to the horror element, I respectfully disagree. Lovecraft rarely discribed the monsters in his stories in great detail, leaving much to the imagination, and creating a strange other worldly atmosphere around his mythos. That is what the show (judging by the first episode) is lacking.

Subverting Lovecraft is great. But doing a worse job than him at the horror is not. Lovecraft is not a briljant horror writer by any stretch of the imagination, but he sure did horror a lot better than this show has done so far.

Basically - racism is a horror just as much as Great Old Ones are. The subtlety is an illusion of perspective.

There are many ways to do horror. Racism as horror does not need to be subtle. But Lovecraftian monsters benefit from a bit of mystery and suspense. Just throwing blood at the screen does not have the same effect.
 

Umbran

Mod Squad
Staff member
Lovecraft rarely discribed the monsters in his stories in great detail

So, he was vague. I don't think that equates to subtle.

I will be honest. I find Lovecraft's prose... boring. He was not subtle. He merely leaves out detail, leaving a dry result that lacks tension from an inability to set the mood. And no, that's not the gripe of a modern reader with a taste for modern pacing. I liked reading the Silmarillion. This is more noting that Lovecraft's general ideas were more powerful than his prose... by a long shot, and those ideas aren't really most powerful within his own writings, but in the hands of others.

But doing a worse job than him at the horror is not. Lovecraft is not a briljant horror writer by any stretch of the imagination, but he sure did horror a lot better than this show has done so far.

I will then also respectfully disagree - there are many things that classify as horror, and this is doing a solid job of some of them - maybe just not the ones you want.

There are many ways to do horror. Racism as horror does not need to be subtle. But Lovecraftian monsters benefit from a bit of mystery and suspense. Just throwing blood at the screen does not have the same effect.

I think that, if you are in a state of empathy for the characters, there's plenty of suspense in the show.
 

Snarf Zagyg

Notorious Liquefactionist
I actually liked the second episode better than the first. Had a very Get Out meets lovecraft vibe to it.

I can see why some folks have an issue with it. This version is not subtle at all. Not capturing the right horror suspense feel, more like a weird mystery suspense story.

I think that the issue is that if you go into this expecting Lovecraft, you will be disappointed.

That is not what this is. And those who say that there are parallel arguments regarding Lovecraft and the themes in this; eh, no.

Instead, it is an excellent series (so far, have only watched two shows). But is not Lovecraft; far from it. Instead, it does something very different. With very little subtlety (IMO), it transmogrifies the horror; from the unseen and unknowable, to the very real and palpable Jim Crow racism.

The terror felt by the protagonists of the story is not some concern about nebulous (or later, less abstract) concern about fantasy monsters that come when the sun sets; it is the very real concern of making sure that they are in a safe place because they are not welcome in many areas when the sun goes down. The cleverness of the nerds in finding a book and understanding the occult practices is not undone by learning of the ancient horrors and madness, but by the prosaic existence of racism (sure, you might be a descendant, but whatever).

Etc. It's not Lovecraft. But it is very good.
 

payn

Explorer
1) Perhaps Lovecraft's subtlety is overstated.
Maybe, im certainly no expert on Lovecraft's work. As mentioned by another poster, perhaps vague would have been a better description for the comparison? All I know is that this show feels different than the lovecraft stories I have read. LC is bigger in scope, with a much more encompassing narrative. I am not knocking it for that, as I do really enjoy the show, just noticing the difference.

2) They are doing a mass-market show. They must establish the reality of these horrors for the story to make sense.
Im not convinced of that. The left overs was a fabulous series on HBO with a supernatural event that is basically unexplained through the entire series. The fact that it happened and it cant be explained adds to the mystery which helps explain the character's actions. They dont know, and as viewer, neither do we. It was incredibly compelling too. Its also textbook of The Twilight Zone and The Outer Limits, albeit in episodic short story form.

Basically - racism is a horror just as much as Great Old Ones are. The subtlety is an illusion of perspective.
Is it? Racism and the Great Old Ones are both horrors that can be presented with or without nuance. This even occurs in LC. From racism, there is a sundown chase scene, but also a cultist display of racial supremacy. Thousand eye monsters chase down the main characters, but they are also subjected to strange illusions that seem all too real to them. The former is not subtle, but the latter is.
3) I think there's an intentional and meaningful analogy there. Neither horror nor racism is subtle when it is targeted directly at you. There is no material difference between the oppressiveness of walking through a malign eldritch gothic house and down a city street filled with folks who may want to lynch you, or between the many-eyed beast chasing you through the forest, and a pickup tuck full of hicks with guns who want to shoot you for being the wrong color. People think Lovecraft's horror and his racism are subtle because they are reading both from the safety of their comfortable armchair.
I think you make a great point and I certainly agree with the comparison of the horror of racism to that of eldritch mythos. In order to do this, the characters of LC must live through numerous events that likely wouldnt have worked out in Lovecraft fiction. It had to be like this to make the analogy work. However, that feels distinctly different than Lovecraft fiction. Thats ok, because this isnt a faithful adaption of Lovecraft's work, but a re-interpretation with added perspectives. The difference can be understood and appreciated without being dismissed as confusion, IMO.
 

CapnZapp

Legend
1) Perhaps Lovecraft's subtlety is overstated.

2) They are doing a mass-market show. They must establish the reality of these horrors for the story to make sense.

3) I think there's an intentional and meaningful analogy there. Neither horror nor racism is subtle when it is targeted directly at you. There is no material difference between the oppressiveness of walking through a malign eldritch gothic house and down a city street filled with folks who may want to lynch you, or between the many-eyed beast chasing you through the forest, and a pickup tuck full of hicks with guns who want to shoot you for being the wrong color. People think Lovecraft's horror and his racism are subtle because they are reading both from the safety of their comfortable armchair.

Basically - racism is a horror just as much as Great Old Ones are. The subtlety is an illusion of perspective.
Yes, we seem to agree.

It's still understandable that people hearing "Lovecraft something?" expect a more... subdued... approach.

Having a horrific encounter be told either in second hand, or by the now-insane protagonist, who uses HPs trademark flowery language to say very little using very many words.

After all, Lovecraft himself got his fame and recognition very much because he didn't go Koontz or King splattery on us.

I'm not disagreeing with anything except your notion in 2) they must do it in a certain way. The in-your-face approach is very much a choice. It is a tool to make it more clear this isn't your granddaddy's Lovecraft.

But it would be an oversimplification to equate Lovecrafts subtlety with his racism. That this show is using both should not be conflated. Yes, HP played down the horrors just like he "played down" (to put it mildly) racism. No, being subtle isn't racist.

All I'm saying is that a) You could very likely tell a non-racist story in a true Lovecraftian manner and b) It would likely not get anywhere as much attention. I would then leave it to the reader to make conclusions... :)
 

CapnZapp

Legend
I will be honest. I find Lovecraft's prose... boring. He was not subtle. He merely leaves out detail, leaving a dry result that lacks tension from an inability to set the mood.
That is okay. You don't need to like him (=his writings, I mean). You only need to display an understanding of what has made him so massively popular.

I mean we can both see why lots of Lovecraft fans might be disappointed by the action-gore-fest, right? It cuts to the core of what defines Lovecraft and sets him apart from... pretty much everybody else (broadly speaking).

What I am curious to know is if this... stylistic choice... is present in the Ruff novel as well?
 

CapnZapp

Legend
I think that the issue is that if you go into this expecting Lovecraft, you will be disappointed.

That is not what this is. And those who say that there are parallel arguments regarding Lovecraft and the themes in this; eh, no.

Instead, it is an excellent series (so far, have only watched two shows). But is not Lovecraft; far from it. Instead, it does something very different. With very little subtlety (IMO), it transmogrifies the horror; from the unseen and unknowable, to the very real and palpable Jim Crow racism.

The terror felt by the protagonists of the story is not some concern about nebulous (or later, less abstract) concern about fantasy monsters that come when the sun sets; it is the very real concern of making sure that they are in a safe place because they are not welcome in many areas when the sun goes down. The cleverness of the nerds in finding a book and understanding the occult practices is not undone by learning of the ancient horrors and madness, but by the prosaic existence of racism (sure, you might be a descendant, but whatever).

Etc. It's not Lovecraft. But it is very good.
Exactly.

Except of course, if it didn't use Lovecraft's names or locations, it would garner a heck of a lot less attention and controversy.

By the way, I liked EP 2 a lot less than EP 1. I see what they were trying to say, I just felt it was disjointed and extremely rushed, with a lot of WTF moments for no good reason.

I don't need the story to go for Lovecraftian atmosphere; but I need it to go for some kind of mood other than a Saturday morning cartoon, characters essentially yelling and slamming doors.

Sure the story is small, but maybe it needed a third episode...
 
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I think if you're going to tack the Lovecraft name onto a tv show, it had better be Lovecraftian. Otherwise you're simply going to disappoint a whole lot of people who were waiting for something different from standard horror affair.
 

Snarf Zagyg

Notorious Liquefactionist
I think if you're going to tack the Lovecraft name onto a tv show, it had better be Lovecraftian. Otherwise you're simply going to disappoint a whole lot of people who were waiting for something different from standard horror affair.

So, in fairness, I'm a big fan of Lovecraft, and also a big fan of the show (so far- only two episodes in). I haven't read the book the series is based on.

But I think of it kind of like, well, the movie Naked Lunch. If you've ever read the book Naked Lunch, you know that it's unfilmable. But if you've seen the film, you know that it somehow captures the essence of the book in many ways (and of other Burroughs stories), while also not being the book at all. It's different.

I tend to view this in a similar way. It's most definitely not cosmic horror! But so far, it's playing on, and with, those tropes. At every turn, the scariest things are often not the unknowable madness of infinities beyond, but the very knowable racism of the time.

It's a constant subversion of the tropes as to what is monstrous.

Personally, I really like it; it plays against the typical Lovecraft. Then again, I've always felt that "Lovecraft" is really hard to bring to the screen (Annihilation, The Thing, and Event Horizon all being "Lovecraftian" without being of the mythos).
 

CapnZapp

Legend
I think if you're going to tack the Lovecraft name onto a tv show, it had better be Lovecraftian. Otherwise you're simply going to disappoint a whole lot of people who were waiting for something different from standard horror affair.
Tacking the name onto his novel might be just why it became successful enough to make the show.

So, not really.
 

Snarf Zagyg

Notorious Liquefactionist
Tacking the name onto his novel might be just why it became successful enough to make the show.

No, that's not it at all.

People can have different opinions about the relevance of H.P. Lovecraft's racism to his work, but you can't deny his virulent racism. I don't think that making a book that is using themes of alienation and Lovecraftian horror to explore race relations in the context of nerd culture is exactly "pulling a fast one."
 

Well, I watched the second episode. Love the cast and the characters, nice upbeat beginning, and great effects at the end. Plus they use a lot of good music. However, the episode was very incoherent, and the show doesn't seem to know how to craft a compelling mystery or build suspense. It's a shame really.

I really wished the show would actually use Lovecraft's mythos and world building, instead of hijacking his name only. Yeah, there are monsters and there is some occult stuff, but it is really poorly fleshed out it seems.
 

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