Based on a fixup “novel” of short stories by Matt Ruff about racism and the supernatural in the lives of a black family in 1950s New England. And then adapted by Jordan “Get Out! I’m Gonna Make Another Good Movie or Show Someday I Swear!” Peele.
Humn, an unpleasant observation. I’ve read Matt “Chubby White Dude” Ruff before, and wasn’t pleased. His Sewer, Gas & Electric trilogy uses tropes of cyberpunk without understanding the ethos of “the street finds its own uses for things (mil/industrial tech)”, he just puts power in the hands of a bureaucracy and megacorporations. And it’s grossly, excessively racist while trying to… make fun of racism? I don’t know what his point was, as I threw the book out halfway thru. In it all black people die of a plague so androids are made with black skin and racist caricature behaviors, to be slaves forever, because white people missed them so. Yes, I’m serious. When you’re looking for a guy to translate around H.P. Lovecraft’s product-of-his-time racism into more modern terms, Matt Ruff’s not the guy I’d pick.
HoboMax is doing the annoying “just like old-timey television” shit of only releasing one ep a week, which I haven’t had to deal with since killing cable and buying DVD boxes around 2000. So this just covers S1E1.
On with the show.
A black Korean war veteran Atticus (Jonathan Majors) who loves pulp literature, his uncle George (Courtney B. Vance) who edits the Green Book, down-on-her-luck friend Letitia (Jurnee Smollett), go on a little road trip into “Lovecraft Country”, weird New England from Salem up to Maine, looking for Tic’s missing father. Who’s an asshole, apparently.
They do need the Green Book, early on we see incredibly hostile racist places. I’m very far in time and culture from these, so maybe I’m off, but I’ve read period histories and a lot of crime & pulps… and they’re exaggerating to an extreme level. I don’t buy fat New Englanders racing out of nowhere in car chases with fire engines and gunfire, just because black people sat in a restaurant, without first escalating from threats and bats, to threat of lynching, and then going Mad Max. Inbred pyschotic states like Kentucky, Alabama, Arkansas, or Texas, sure, but not Pennsylvania. The Green Book used to recommend that black people always carry bail money if they went to Missouri, not “Don’t go they’ll KILL YOU!”
Matt Ruff. Jordan Peele.
The period is often confused, between Tic’s dreams which waver all over time and space from WWII to aliens & saucers from ’60s-70s UFO nuts, Cthulhu illustrations popularized in the ’80s-’00s, and sets, cars, and costumes which are almost but not quite period ’50s, a lot of it looks ’60s. I’m not sure how much of that is intentionally making a timeless hostile place, some of it the difficulty of actually making period sets. The music is intentionally anachronistic, which has modern rap mixed in with period blues and jazz; I find that jarring and incompetent, regardless of what their intent was.
So after meeting all the Human monsters, we get 10 minutes with the “real” monsters. Who do great at killing no-name mooks, but are apparently utterly helpless against named characters. For a scene that’s supposed to be a horrific chase… it was just goofy. Letitia’s running scene, in particular, looked like one of those endless runner videogames, or Telltale Games’ “story on rails with quick-time events” games, where you dodge a little left or right, jump now, hammer X to grab the thing. The pacing, the comically bad CGI cartoon look of the monsters, and the stoic/detached/whacked out on ‘ludes attitude the actors all have, destroy any “horror” from these things.
I like Tic, he’s a good adventurer hero, and his love of pulp SF which often has unpleasant attitudes with a “people are complicated” philosophy. Letitia’s a little strident but bland. Uncle George is awfully naïve and passive for a civil rights organizer.
The plot so far has been very episodic and unconnected, a toddler’s “and then this happened, then this, then this”, and the cliffhanger of them knocking on a front door, wearing bloody rags, and not being shot for their hubris is out of nowhere.
I’m willing to put up with a lot if they actually get to some real horror, but so far it’s very comical.