Lovecraft Country: Sundown   Show Only 
August 16, 2020 8:38 PM - Season 1, Episode 1 - Subscribe

 
(I haven't read the book, so, I won't be posting a 'Books Included' thread, whoever else wants to make that post please go ahead.)

I was a big fan of Misha Green's "Underground" series, especially the first season, so I had high hopes for this show from the get-go, especially with Jordan Peele involved, and I was not disappointed.
posted by oh yeah! at 9:04 PM on August 16 [1 favorite]


I read and loved the book, was thrilled when I heard Peele was taking it on, absolutely stoked about Misha Green, and sat down to watch it tonight with a huge sense of anticipation.

It delivered.

That opening dream sequence! Atticus and Letty have just bagfuls of charisma. The feel of the whole thing is immersive. The monsters are awesome and very genuinely scary - both the human monsters, in their all-too-familiar and horrid banality, and the inhuman, with speed and ferocity and heft. When the gore comes, it feels earned. While I involuntarily laughed at the cop's arm coming off at the first attack of the shoggoths, it was more a tension release from the suspenseful/awful scene just before it.

I demolished an entire bag of chips during the final set piece without even realizing it - I felt like a kid at the movies.
posted by dragstroke at 11:09 PM on August 16 [5 favorites]


Having read the book and was left disappointed, I really want to like this and it's making it easy to. So far.
posted by porpoise at 12:32 AM on August 17 [1 favorite]


I also laughed when the shoggoths attacked. I was already so invested in the characters I actually yelled out " NOT UNCLE GEORGE!!" when he got knocked down.

So far loving everything about this. And thanks for the heads up on the Underground series.
posted by miss-lapin at 2:05 AM on August 17 [4 favorites]


That opening dream sequence was amazing. Talk about establishing your mission statement right away!
posted by Ipsifendus at 3:34 AM on August 17 [7 favorites]


I've never seen a work that uses speeches like a score, and it works unbelievably well. I loved hearing Baldwin over the travel montage much more than I would have enjoyed music.

The supernatural horror is effective too. Jump scares and suspenseful tension. When the shoggoths first attacked, I let out a little yelp on my sofa!
posted by gladly at 6:56 AM on August 17 [15 favorites]


It was good to hear James Baldwin's voice as they set off on the journey. I know it's mere coincidence and I can't fit it into the story but I can't help pointing out that
ardham ➔ dharma
because I have an anagram compulsion.
posted by kingless at 7:51 AM on August 17 [2 favorites]


I liked it! One small detail that I appreciated was that the title, "sundown," obviously refers to both the idea of a "sundown town" and to the idea of light-fearing monsters who you have to outlast through the night. But it also represents liberation in the Chicago portion of the episode; it's only after sundown that Tic can open the hydrant without the white cop closing it again.
posted by Ragged Richard at 11:59 AM on August 17 [13 favorites]


That was excellent: my new favourite TV show, in fact.

I grew up near Bideford* in North Devon, the English town mentioned in the show, which really was home to the last three women known to have been executed for Witchcraft in England: Temperence Lloyd, Mary Trembles and Susannah Edwards, all of whom were hanged in 1682.

There's more information about the threee women and their fate here and here. I think both the US places given those names in the show are fictional, though?

* Pronounced "Biddy-ford", a corruption of "by-the-ford", which marks its position at a popular crossing point of the Torridge river.
posted by Paul Slade at 2:00 PM on August 17 [7 favorites]


I love it, I love it, I love it
posted by kittens for breakfast at 4:06 PM on August 17 [2 favorites]


I am not normally a horror fan at all but we decided to try this at our house.

We loved it.
posted by pointystick at 5:50 PM on August 17 [1 favorite]


I loved the extended moments of black joy early on - George and Hippolyta in bed, the street carnival/blues concert (that sultry version of Whole Lotta Shakin was fantastic). It has a great, rich period mood, fine acting all around, an unusual mix of genres, surprising emotional depth, only rarely clunky expositional dialogue and no skimping on delicious monsters. I could use more creepiness in general, but the tone(s) and pace of this opening episode totally hooked me.

I liked the book but had issues with it, and would also be down for a Book Included thread. The things they changed so far have been interesting.
posted by mediareport at 8:25 PM on August 17 [11 favorites]


The one thing I didn't like, and it's a minor quibble and also probably excusable due to being an HBO show. The 808s and trap beat when panning over the urban neighborhood. Totally not a period appropriate song, but I had the subtitles on so the lyrics mention "All of my boys dope dealin'" and it really took me out of the show. I mean a post war street scene with kids playing under the elevated train doesn't need that sound. I know it's 20-30 seconds or so, but it would have worked better with some time-appropriate jazz or big band. Our hero is not a modern urban drug dealer; He's a sci-fi nerd and a vet...

But ok, I'm on board. Any show with an opening dream like this one had, with a Korean Dejah Thoris coming out of a spaceship, I'm going to have to watch.
posted by Catblack at 9:00 AM on August 18 [3 favorites]


Using anachronistically modern music was kind of a signature move on Misha Green's previous show, Underground, so, I don't think that was an HBO-influenced decision. It worked wonderfully on Underground though, so, maybe you won't find it so jarring in future episodes, now that you know it's coming?
posted by oh yeah! at 9:11 AM on August 18 [2 favorites]


I could wax rhapsodic for a full 10 paragraphs about the close-up shots - the clothing! that tailoring!!! - the cinematography, actors and beautifully evocative settings. Every scene painted a visual love story, an unspoken history between the characters. As a series opener, this episode was both a paean to the times while also overtly outlining the blunt, banal horrors of America's everyday racism.

Suffice it to say that with this in its roster and that incomparable single season of Watchmen, HBO has earned my loyalty and subscription dollars for the foreseeable future. Most premieres are confusing, overly workshopped and hard to follow if I'm unfamiliar with the source material. I've not read the book, but I had no trouble instantly connecting with the characters and their story.

A friend of mine remarked that the first 40 minutes felt "boring" to him. Maybe I'm the weird one here, but I loved the slower pacing leading up to that breakneck conclusion at the cabin.

It's so hard to find a really thoughtful, well-done sci fi or horror series nowadays. Horror has, for the most part, become a launching pad for low-budget auteurs that often turn a handy profit for smaller studios. With Lovecraft Country, I feel HBO has set a new standard that I hope other premium channels and streaming services will strive to emulate going forward.

Lovecraft Country made me feel that same jolt of terrified energy from reading Ray Bradbury's Zero Hour as a pensive 11-year-old, hiding under the covers with my flashlight. (I laughed when the show name-checked Bradbury this ep, too.)

Big-budget supernatural horror spun out in bite-sized doses each week? Yes, please! I can't wait to see what happens next.
posted by Unicorn on the cob at 9:36 AM on August 18 [8 favorites]


Wow. I feel like Watchmen said, "Okay, we took it as far as we could. Lovecraft Country, you got this?" and Lovecraft Country said, "Yup. You might want to stand back."

No hyperbole, I think that was the most amazing episode of TV I have ever watched. When it was over I was almost shaking.
posted by fuse theorem at 11:20 AM on August 18 [12 favorites]


I really liked it. My one objection is that the things near the end weren't really classic Lovecraft-style shoggoths, but I'm willing to let that go as a bit of nerdy pedantry on my part.
posted by Mr. Bad Example at 1:29 PM on August 18 [1 favorite]


Okay, so the first thing I have to say is that I need to check out Perry Mason now, because people kept telling me that it looks amazing, and this looks really amazing. I began to watch the pilot on my phone on a train yesterday afternoon, and my jaw dropped then; I got home and started from the beginning on my TV, and couldn't believe how much detail I hadn't seen. I cannot imagine how much it cost to make this show, but I'd be surprised to learn a penny was left on the table.

The conceit that Ardham may have been the inspiration for Lovecraft's fictionalized stories is a fun one (reminiscent of Alan Moore's Neonomicon/Providence comics series), and I was pretty excited when Tic mentioned Herbert West by name. I haven't read the novel the show is based upon, so I have no idea what may happen in it, but I'm hoping we get a West analogue. You could just cast Jeffrey Combs!

I was terribly afraid they would kill off Uncle George, especially when he promised Hippolyta they would go on a trip together. I think we've all seen enough horror films to know what a scene like that means.

I'm really really excited to see where this goes. It's been a while since a new horror series has opened up this promisingly. I think this show will be a big deal.
posted by kittens for breakfast at 2:55 PM on August 18 [1 favorite]


A friend of mine remarked that the first 40 minutes felt "boring" to him.

I don’t understand that. For me, the first 40 minutes were all about slow scariness. For me, the actual Lovecraftian monsters weren’t that scary, compared to the dawning horror of the cop driving behind you to see if you get to the edge of the county by sundown but DON’T SPEED or he’ll stop you.
posted by corb at 5:55 PM on August 18 [19 favorites]




I'm on team "I was relieved when nightmare monsters showed up."
posted by curious nu at 8:47 PM on August 18 [18 favorites]


I love this, Oh yeah! what a wonderful find.
posted by Unicorn on the cob at 9:27 AM on August 19


That opening dream sequence was amazing. Talk about establishing your mission statement right away!

I was watching with my roommates and 30 seconds in, right when I was about to open my mouth to say "well this fucking rules," my one roommate said "ugh, I don't know about this you guys." There has never been a cleaner illustration of the massive, massive gulf between what she and I want out of television. That said, by the end of the episode we were equally on board.

I need to rewatch that opening sequence actually, because I definitely spotted the Tripods from War of the Worlds, and I'm assuming there must be tons of other classic SF monsters in that wide shot as well.
posted by showbiz_liz at 10:15 AM on August 19 [3 favorites]


Also, who else things those shoggoths were never actually a threat to our protagonists? They acted as if they were, but I don't think it's a coincidence that they killed every one of the cops and were then called off before they put a scratch on Team Woody.
posted by showbiz_liz at 10:23 AM on August 19 [3 favorites]


I've never seen a work that uses speeches like a score, and it works unbelievably well. I loved hearing Baldwin over the travel montage much more than I would have enjoyed music.

This honestly almost made me tear up, as a huge Baldwin admirer. It was stunning. Thank you for that link, oh, yeah! - that has me blown away all over again. Everything about this show has me feeling so deep. The show isn't technically Southern Gothic, seeing as it's in the Midwest - but this is the best iteration of southern gothic media I've had the pleasure of enjoying in a long time.
posted by FirstMateKate at 1:22 PM on August 19 [1 favorite]


And yeah, 100% what corb said - I was more or less expecting the supernatural horrors eventually, they're scary, but we know how they go. At the core of it, it's only so scary because you know it's fictional.

The creeping looming horror of day-to-day black experience in 1950's America? Good lord.
posted by Kyol at 2:00 PM on August 19 [6 favorites]


I haven't read the books, but this was already the scariest horror show I'd seen even before the monsters showed up at the 50 minute mark. Then the monster attack was really excellent as well.

Between this, Watchmen, Umbrella Academy season 2, and the first half of this last season of Agents of SHIELD, it's pretty great that genre television is grappling with the experience of Blacks in America. There's an audience who needs to see this who would never watch a straight historical drama about it.

Another great thing about the show: Depicting an older couple as having a healthy sex life, and not for comedic purposes.

Is everyone calling the creatures "shoggoths" just because Atticus mentioned shoggoths earlier in the show? He specifically described shoggoths as being a blob of eyes, which Leti said would be easy to outrun (holy crap, I just caught that foreshadowing). Nothing about these vampire-things were shoggoth-like except having multiple eyes. Is there some Word of God that they're called shoggoths in the script?

Also, who else things those shoggoths were never actually a threat to our protagonists?

I was very intrigued by the fact that when George shone a flashlight on one of the creatures, it neither looked like it was going to attack, nor did it recoil in pain, it just shut its eyes placidly. I'm thinking that's because it recognized George as the brother of its master's master.
posted by ejs at 8:13 PM on August 19 [2 favorites]


Was in books thread originally but haven't read the book, so I'll repost and add to my comment here:

I really liked this. All the cast was great but I thought Jurnee Smollett was particularly electric. Could be biased though since I may have a tiny crush.

I missed 1-2 minutes because of a pit stop when they first arrived at the diner and sat down. I assume that location was supposed to be safe for black folks to eat at and the significance of the painted-over fire&smoke residue is that the original black-friendly owner was burned out? And that's how they knew to skedaddle immediately? (Along with the overheard phone call.)

For a second I thought the tall blonde dude was Alexander Skarsgard and I was okay with that but I'll keep an open mind in judging this unfortunately non-Skarsgard person's performance.
posted by Justinian at 3:12 AM on August 20


I missed 1-2 minutes because of a pit stop when they first arrived at the diner and sat down. I assume that location was supposed to be safe for black folks to eat at and the significance of the painted-over fire&smoke residue is that the original black-friendly owner was burned out? And that's how they knew to skedaddle immediately? (Along with the overheard phone call.)

Yes, Uncle George had gotten a tip on the diner being a safe spot, he mentioned it to Tic before they started the road trip, saying that he needed to verify for himself before he could include it in his guide book since a bad tip could get somebody killed. When they arrived at the diner they noticed that the place next-door to it was boarded up. When they came in, there was one white guy having lunch at the counter, who stomped out after they sat themselves at the booth, so they were on pretty high alert from the get-go, which is why Tic figured out the significance of the white brick wall so quickly.
posted by oh yeah! at 4:30 AM on August 20 [1 favorite]


When they came in, there was one white guy having lunch at the counter, who stomped out after they sat themselves at the booth,

If I followed it correctly, the offended dude who stormed out returns moments later all second amendment with a friend in the pickup and they are the ones who chase our heroes out of town.
posted by ricochet biscuit at 5:05 AM on August 20


To add to what oh yeah! said, the name of the diner was also different from the one in the tip, but it was in the same location. There was some hesitation in the group about going in and driving to the next "safe town" instead. Uncle George decides they should go in anyway, but that's yet another reason why the group was on high alert.
posted by miss-lapin at 5:07 AM on August 20 [2 favorites]


My spouse and I really enjoyed the first episode. There were a few moments where the pacing of scenes felt weird to me, like it needed just a few more beats of silence for things to sink in before all the characters switched gears to the new topic. The action sequences (especially the ending one) also felt a little abrupt and disjointed. Overall it was extremely good and we are both looking forward to more.
posted by Scattercat at 12:15 PM on August 20 [1 favorite]


Great episode, and I definitely thought the hardest part to watch [in a good way] was indeed the human evil aspect. The shoggoths were fine but standard monster fare at that point.

It's interesting, because Lovecraft's stories themselves are of course more about mood and atmosphere than monsters and gore. The show [and I guess the book too from what I remember] uses the human brutality to create an atmosphere of dread more than it did the monsters, which I think works good since the main failure of Lovecraft adaptations is that its hard to film the kind of thing he was going for in the books [showing the monsters too much just becomes a monster movie, not showing them at all can just end up boring].

The fact that it does this by flipping Lovecrafts racism around is especially great.

Is everyone calling the creatures "shoggoths" just because Atticus mentioned shoggoths earlier in the show?

They are definitely supposed to be shoggoths, but they changed them for the show as this article explains. Maybe "blob with eyes" [traditional shoggoth] was too boring. After all, in the stories it's usually "people see monster, go mad". Less of the running/fighting [although this does vary a bit by story]. Which as I said before is hard to film effectively.
posted by thefoxgod at 12:57 PM on August 20 [1 favorite]




All the cast was great but I thought Jurnee Smollett was particularly electric. Could be biased though since I may have a tiny crush.

Those high-waisted shorts with the cropped tops... I needed a Gay Minute
posted by showbiz_liz at 9:13 AM on August 21 [5 favorites]


Tom and Lorenzo have a costume analysis up: The World-Building, Character-Defining Costumes of Lovecraft Country

The first thing we noticed about Lovecraft Country was the costume design. Not since Janie Bryant’s masterful work on Mad Men have we seen period mid-Century costumes that manage the trick of feeling like real clothes that real people wore while also having a highly visual and telegenic component that cause them to pop onscreen like the best fashion photography. We were smitten from the first frame. We weren’t planning on doing a post about them, but we realized late yesterday that we’d been talking about the costumes for three straight days.
posted by showbiz_liz at 10:04 AM on August 21 [13 favorites]


On the subject of sundown towns/counties, I saw this tweet about their continued existence and was gobsmacked. Perhaps I should be less surprised at this point in history, but I thought it was worth sharing.
posted by Cogito at 1:59 PM on August 21


I liked it a lot, though between the arthritic knees, making plans with Hippolyta, and looking at an old photograph, I was definitely not expecting Uncle George to survive. And then Leti and Atticus joked about him not being able to run? Wow. If he survives this series I will be very pleasantly surprised.

The diner scene and chase were terrifying. I wish I hadn't been spoiled on the effect of the bites of those creatures; that scene probably would been much more intense without knowing what was coming (though one of the characters does mention vampires right before the transformation, so ... maybe not?)

I thought the episode was great, but I'm not sure it's enough for me to buy an HBO account. Still, I'm definitely looking forward to the rest.
posted by johnofjack at 2:01 PM on August 22


I liked it a lot, though between the arthritic knees, making plans with Hippolyta, and looking at an old photograph, I was definitely not expecting Uncle George to survive. And then Leti and Atticus joked about him not being able to run? Wow. If he survives this series I will be very pleasantly surprised.

That first scene with them in bed, just being in love and planning for the future, I was like "...fifty bucks says this guy doesn't outlive the episode." I was pleasantly surprised, and now I actually wonder if they deliberately piled on the "future victim" traits just to subvert that trope.
posted by showbiz_liz at 3:50 PM on August 22 [1 favorite]


I honestly can't wait until the next episode. It's been so long since I've felt this.
posted by miss-lapin at 1:04 PM on August 23 [2 favorites]


Count me among those who are thrilled that speculative fiction is finally dealing with America's history of racism directly, rather than through allegory. We don't need to have one fictional race oppressing another to show us that racism is bad. It's right there.

Now we need more that shows that it's not just in the past, but still here.

Also, this was really, really good.
posted by Tabitha Someday at 5:06 PM on August 23 [3 favorites]


My Chicago-born husband thought the El on the South Side might be anachronistic.
posted by larrybob at 8:42 PM on August 23


. I wish I hadn't been spoiled on the effect of the bites of those creatures; that scene probably would been much more intense without knowing what was coming.

I had no idea it was coming except it was kind of obvious (to me, at least) because the dude hadn’t bled out yet and didn’t seem to be suffering from any effects from loss of blood, which at first I chalked up to TV magic but then he spoke and his voice began to have some demon undertones.


Really really liked this show a lot. Leti is definitely my favorite. Excited to see where it goes

I know it's mere coincidence and I can't fit it into the story but I can't help pointing out that ardham ➔ dharma because I have an anagram compulsion.

Well JJ Abrams is a producer so maybe not as big a coincidence as you think?
posted by LizBoBiz at 1:12 PM on August 24


My Chicago-born husband thought the El on the South Side might be anachronistic.

I assumed it was part of the old East 63rd (aka Jackson Park) branch, which ran through Woodlawn. It was partially demolished in the 1990s.
posted by chimpsonfilm at 5:47 PM on August 24


I know it's mere coincidence and I can't fit it into the story but I can't help pointing out that
ardham ➔ dharma


By the same token:

Arkham ➔ kharma
posted by Grangousier at 11:54 PM on August 24 [1 favorite]


After seeing Last Black Man in SF, 5 Bloods and this show, I really feel like Jonathan Majors is poised to be a big star. He's got a great quiet presence.
posted by octothorpe at 8:50 AM on August 28 [1 favorite]


Jonathan Majors is rumored to be Marvel's Phase 4 villain Kang the Conqueror. If so, then yeah: he's probably going to be a big star.
posted by johnofjack at 7:28 AM on September 19 [1 favorite]


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