When the first trailer for Lovecraft Country, The upcoming HBO series by Jordan Peele and Misha Green, which was released in May, was crawling with supernatural fright. It also hinted strongly at the themes of black identity and racism that gained cult status and critical acclaim for the 2016 horror novel the show is based on.
But if the first trailer was high on monsters and implied racial allegory, the newest teaser take everything but the disembodied monsters to focus on a much more familiar source of fear: police brutality. As our hero, a young black man named Atticus (Jonathan Majors), looking for his father (Michael K. Williams) through the creepy Lovecraftian forests of New England in the 1950s, he’s chased by racist police officers determined to terrorize him – and perhaps much worse.
We take a closer look at Atticus’s cross-country skiing trip to see his father and the gigantic mansion looming in the heart of his quest. The teaser also shows that he is forced into terrifying confrontations with the police during every part of the journey, in what almost feels like an inverse of Green book.
Peele and Green, the series’ co-creators and showrunners, both enjoy playing with horror as an allegory for racism and other social issues. But after nationwide protests over the murder of George Floyd, This teaser’s focus on the literal terror of racism couldn’t be more appropriate or timely – or frankly disturbing.
In particular, the trailer highlights one of the scariest moments in the book, namely one sunset city – a city where black citizens living in Jim Crow America were implicitly in danger after the sun went down. When Atticus is stopped by a local police officer in such a city, the officer gives him just minutes to drive through the county to the border and chase him all the way with absolutely violent intentions.
As a work of horror fiction, Lovecraft Country is openly about reclaiming the legendary 20th-century writer H.P. Lovecraft, an extremely white supremacist and mean racist whose lover Weird fiction often contained terribly overt metaphors because of his fear of other races and desegregation. In Lovecraftian horror, the monsters are always alien, but they are monstrous because they represent and reflect human diversity – essentially what Lovecraft sees as the blot of non-white blood slowly tarnishing America.
In the book Lovecraft Country, author Matt Ruff puts genre-conscious black characters at the center of a Lovecraftian story. The creepy Lovecraftian horror stems not from any fear of their blackness, but from the systemic racism they are constantly confronted with as black Americans. So it’s important that almost nothing supernatural happens in this latest trailer of the series. Almost nothing supernatural has to happen for the horror to be ubiquitous and real.
And when the monsters appear briefly, they are almost alarming. Their sheer redundancy shows how scary it is Lovecraft Country is it already: At some point in the trailer, a group of black travelers is trapped on all sides by the police, forced to kneel with their hands up. It is unpleasantly raw.
The foreground of Lovecraft CountryThe racist police here are confrontational. It may also be a reflection of how unexpectedly necessary Lovecraft Country might feel when it premieres in August – as a depiction of a bygone era that is suddenly getting closer than ever.