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H. P. Lovecraft has had a bit of a resurgence lately. Not that the influence of his work has ever really been dormant in popular culture, but between recent explorations and debates on his work and his legacy of, let’s call it what it is, hate, the author has been again thrown into the spotlight. The latest chapter in this legacy comes from HBO in the form of Lovecraft Country.

HBO’s Lovecraft Country is adapted from the 2016 novel of the same name by Matt Ruff. The show is produced by Misha Green, J. J. Abrams, and Jordan Peele. The show airs Sunday nights on HBO and is available on HBO Max.

As for the show itself, let’s get weird with it, shall we? The reviews will be recaps will be filled with spoilers, but you can look at the review section without getting spoiled.

Jackie Robinson takes a swing at Cthulhu as Atticus Freeman and Dejah Thoris (Jamie Chung) watch on.

The story so far…

“Sundown” opens with a dream sequence filled with a number of pulp references as Atticus Freeman (Jonathan Majors, The Last Black Man in San Francisco) is riding the bus home. When the bus breaks down we see that we are in 1950s America, one of the last gasps of the Jim Crow era. Welcome to Lovecraft Country.

Atticus, returned from the Korean War is coming home to Chicago to find his father who has gone missing in “Lovecraft country.” Atticus recruits his uncle George (Courtney B. Vance, American Crime Story) and childhood friend Letitia (Jurnee Smollett, Birds of Prey) for a road trip to the town of Ardham; a name that is spun off from a familiar location in the works of H. P. Lovecraft, a figure who existed in the setting of the show and may not be writing fiction after all.


The road trip, under the guise of a research trip for a safe travel guide for black folks, published by George, immediately hits some snags. The show shows life across the midwest for the black community, juxtaposing their experiences with white Americana. The trio attempts to dine at an establishment, but make a shocking discovery and find themselves chased out of town by gun-toting racists. They are saved by a mysterious blonde-haired woman in a Rolls-Royce who stops the truck full of racists with what seems to be some power, flipping the truck and allowing Atticus and company to escape.

After some time learning what little there is to know about Ardham, Leti has a blow up with her brother who hosts the trio. They drive off the next morning, searching for the road to Arkham. Instead that find a racist sheriff and end up in the slowest, most tension-filled car chase to a county line ever.

Unfortunately, trapped by a roadblock of racist police, the trio are held at gunpoint in the woods and things go from bad to worse when mysterious multi-eyed creatures tear through four of the officers. The sheriff, de-armed by one of the beasts, transforms into one of the creatures inside a cabin where Atticus, George and an unfortunate deputy are hiding. The creatures, weak to light, are eventually fended off by Leti who brings the trio’s car to the cabin, flooding the space with light.

The next morning, Atticus and his band find the road into Ardham and arrive at a mansion. Atticus moves to knock on the door but it opens before he sets his hand on it. They meet a blond-haired man who seems to have been expecting their arrival.

Why was is the White House painted white?

How it worked out…

The show is a stylish period piece that features some great performances, generally strong visuals, and some moments of genuine tension. It’s a fun ride through and through and enough of one that I want to experience the next episodes. As a pilot, “Sundown” largely does its job by setting up the core leads, a long term conflict, and just a hint at the weirdness to come. It also presents the kind of alien horror people expect when they think Lovecraft, but I am not sure if it does it all that well.

My biggest issue with the show is that it has two monsters and really only makes one scary, though it is hard not to make that monster scary. The show is at its absolute best when it deals with the looming threat of living while black in 1950s America. The pilot is absolutely at its best and most horrifying here. The moments of terror inflicted on black Americans is far more intense and affecting than a five-minute CGI-fueled attack of the Shoggoths. The presence of white paint and a loose tile chills far more effectively than a special-effects reel.


Despite my misgivings with the action-approach, it is still a lot of fun. Lovecraft would have hated it, for obvious reasons, but perhaps less obviously, it turns his ideas into the very sort of two-fisted pulp adventures he routinely criticized in his letters. But that’s fine, honestly. Is the idea of a wolf-like Shoggoth any sillier than the gelatinous mass of a thousand eyes as described in his own work? It’s a suitable introduction to the themes and aesthetics. A sort of big-budget sketch of the weirdness he pioneered. It gets people interested and diversifies the weird genre and hopefully continues to bring new voices into the fold when it comes to Lovecraftian themes.

But ultimately some fans and purists are going to be let down about the Abramsification of what should be an utterly hopeless and relentless experience. I would not say that I am let down, but I do want to one day see a high budget adaptation of the world of Shoggoths and Yith without the need for guns-a-blazin’.

But you know what? I’ll take the action-adventure spin on the themes and enjoy them just fine.

Lovecraft Country, “Sundown,” rates in at four Cthulhus. 4 out of 5 stars (4 / 5)

A long night in the woodland hunting-grounds of the Shoggoths leaves the trio exhausted.

Miskatonic Musings

In each review, I have a section where I include some miscellaneous thoughts that don’t fit in the structure of the review but I feel are worth mentioning.

I just really liked the name, okay?

  • The road trip monologue you heard comes from James Baldwin’s 1965 debate against William Buckley, Jr. This show will be heavily tied to the Jim Crow era. George’s guide book, for example, is clearly based on The Green Book. Also, look up Sundown towns if you are unfamiliar with the concept and prepare to feel sick to your stomach.
  • A fair number of Lovecraft references in the premiere, as to be expected. The Outsider and Others makes an appearance. We also see what seems to be Cthulhu in Atticus’ dream. We of course have the Shoggoths. Vampires, another creature Lovecraft dabbled in, also get referenced, but George’s reference is specific to Dracula. Oh, and a refence to Herbert West as well.
  • A lot of other great references as well to other pulp literature. Take, for example, the Martian princess in the dream sequence, who seems to be played by Jamie Chung. We also have tripods from War of the Worlds, and what seems to be a Roman Centurian in the battlefield. I’d be hesitant to include The Count of Monte Cristo as pulp work, but the presense of Alexandre Dumas is definitely a welcome literary element. Can’t forget Jackie Robinson, either.
  • Who was Atticus speaking to on the phone all the way in Korea?
  • I feel I should also explain my “qualifications” when it comes to my criticism of how the show tackles Lovecraft. I earned my M.A. writing about H. P. Lovecraft and writing an interactive fiction story that revolves around decolonizing Lovecraftian themes. I am currently in production of a mobile game version of that interactive fiction piece. You spend a couple years studying the guy (horribly racist warts and all) and his writing you end up sort of insufferable, like me.
  • My review is already on the long-side, so things I want to address will be saved for later reviews. I’ll just throw out that Courtney B. Vance is a great actor and elevates the performances around him.

Please join us next week for another recap and review of HBO’s Lovecraft Country. Please let us know your thoughts on the show or this review in the comments.

David Davis is a writer, cartoonist, and educator in Southern California with an M.A. in literature and writing studies.

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Book Reviews

The Dead Take the A Train Review: Queer Magic and Monster Mayhem



“Julie crawled onto the table, straddling her intern, both hands around the knife. She torqued it downward, cursing. Brad shrieked harder.” -pg 57, The Dead Take the A Train by Cassandra Khaw & Richard Kadrey

The Dead Take the A Train is the first book in a duology by authors Cassandra Khaw and Richard Kadrey. It was published in 2023 by Tor Nightfire (like the Scourge Between Stars, which I reviewed here). I was not previously familiar with Kadrey’s work, which most notably includes the Sandman Slim series. However, I was introduced to Khaw through The Salt Grows Heavy (review here), which I absolutely adored in all its twisted, gory glory. Therefore, I was thrilled to pick-up The Dead Take the A Train, which promised similar heart in a modern cosmic horror package.

In The Dead Take the A Train, a magical fixer named Julie must hunt down eldritch monstrosities threatening the lives of those around her. To do this, she has to go up against her shitty ex, a questionable angel, finance executives, and her own sobriety. When an old friend shows up, Julie is terrified to find herself making a retirement plan that doesn’t involve getting murdered by a demon.

The Dead Take the A Train is reminiscent of N.K. Jeminsin’s The City We Became, with both featuring queer characters tackling eldritch horror plots in New York City. In the same way, the novel was reminiscent of a gorier version of Dimension 20’s Unsleeping City actual play series. However, it clearly carves out a space for itself among the droves of cosmic-horror inspired love letters to New York City. For one, it is mostly unconcerned with borough beef, which (not to sound like a curmudgeonly Midwesterner), is so refreshing. The book also has a relatively novel way the world works, which helps it stay memorable.


Overall, I really liked The Dead Take the A Train. First off, the characters are fun and easy to root for. Julie is a mess in pretty much every aspect, but her bad decisions are understandable and she is charismatic. Her romance with her friend, Sarah, also serves to make Julie more likable. It helps that the villains are so easy to hate too. What’s not to hate about rich Wall Street assholes engaging in human sacrifice? Speaking of which, I liked the juxtaposition of corporate Wall Street and cosmic cultists. The actions taken were evil, but more importantly, they were just business.

The prose was flowery, but not quite as much as in The Salt Grows Heavy. So, if you struggled with Khaw’s other works for that reason this may be a much easier read. Personally, I enjoyed the prose in both. There is quite a bit of gore in The Dead Take the A Train, but I didn’t find it to be overwhelming. I think you could still enjoy the book if you don’t love gore, though maybe not if you have a weak stomach.

One of the largest issues I have with The Dead Take the A Train, is the lack of clarity in power levels of the various characters. Especially since all their forms of magic work in different ways, it is sometimes unclear the level of danger present. This can also sometimes create room for plot holes. For example, Julie has a friend who is tapped into anything and everything happening online. This is an absurdly powerful ability (and is used as such). But there were moments where the main conflict probably could have been avoided or solved using that power. It also felt odd that no one else in this thriving magic community felt strongly about stopping a world-ending catastrophe. Because of this, the magic underground of NYC could feel smaller than I think was intended.

Having been familiar with Khaw’s work previously, The Dead Take the A Train clearly feels like a mix of Khaw’s style with someone else’s. This could be a boon or a hindrance, depending on your view of Khaw’s distinct prose and storytelling. Either way, if you are interested in learning more about the process or the authors, check out the interview they did for SFF Addicts Podcast!

Cassandra Khaw and Richard Kadrey on the SFF Addicts Podcast

I recommend The Dead Take the A Train, especially for those who are fans of modern urban eldritch horror. The book is an even bigger steal if you are looking for danger, gore, and queer characters. Check it out! And keep your eyes peeled for the next book in this duology. 


[USR 4.2]

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Movies n TV

Dolores Roach, A Fillet of Left Cheek



The second season of Dolores Roach started with a bang. The first episode was dark, gristly and in a strange way whimsical. It certainly brought to light new elements of the character.

The story

We begin our story with Dolores somewhere, talking to someone. I’d like to be more specific, but that’s all we know right now.

She tells this unknown person about her flight from Empanadas Loco. How Jeremiah killed Luis. How she, whether she meant to or not, killed Jeremiah. How she then set the building on fire by blowing up the fryer in the kitchen.


Scared and alone, Dolores then ran for the underground. Dragging her purple massage table she runs into a hole in a subway track and finds herself in a whole different world.

Almost at once, she finds a place where someone is living. There’s a hot plate, a kettle and several packets of ramen. Even better, everything has Jeremiah’s name on it, literally written on it. Exhausted and alone, Dolores makes herself a cup of ramen and goes to sleep on her massage table.

She’s woken sometime later by a small man named Donald. He knows her because he knew Jeremiah. Dolores proceeds to tell him an abridged version of events that led up to Jeremiah’s death. And by abridged, I mean she blamed Luis for everything, throwing him under the bus so hard I’m surprised she didn’t pull something.

Donald seems inclined to help Dolores. He tells her that if anyone messes with her she should go further down, down a stairwell that he points out for her.

Dolores thanks him, then tries to go back to sleep. She’s soon woken again by a young woman collecting Jeremiah’s things.


While Dolores has an issue with this, she’s willing to let it go. Until that is, this woman tries to take her table. Then, Dolores does what she does best. Because one thing is for sure. Dolores is going to take care of herself.

What worked

One thing I love about this series so far is that our main character, Dolores, is crazy. And hearing her rationalize her crazy is both terrifying and fascinating. I hate/love how sweet and soothing she can be. Even with the rat that she killed in this episode. She cooed at it, encouraging it to come to her, even calling it a subway raccoon.

Then she killed it and started crying.

I also love the underground community. It’s both horrific and whimsical. It reminds me of Neil Gaiman’s Neverwhere, which is full of worlds most people don’t see but are all around us. It’s also horrific because there are so many people that our society has failed, that they’ve gathered underground and made their own little society. That’s not great. There just shouldn’t be that many people who need homes.


What didn’t work

Unfortunately, this episode did have two major flaws. And the first one is a personal pet peeve of mine.

In the last episode of season one, certain things were established. Dolores said she was carefully rationing her weed. She said she didn’t have anything to eat since coming down to the tunnels. She still had her massage table. This episode rewrote a lot of that.

Frankly, I hate when stories do that. It may or not make a difference to the story. It just strikes me as poor planning and lazy writing. This show has proven it’s capable of doing better.

All things considered, I thought this was a great start to the season. I’m invested in the story, curious about the new characters, and worried about the well-being of everyone Dolores comes in contact with. And that’s all as it should be.

3.5 out of 5 stars (3.5 / 5)

By the way, if you like my writing, you might want to check out my latest sci-fi horror story, Nova. It’ll be released episodically on my site, Paper Beats World, starting February 5th.

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Movies n TV

The Golem (2019), a Film Review

The Golem (2019) is a folk horror film directed by Doron and Yoav Paz, starring Hani Furstenberg and Ishai Golan.



The Golem (2019) is a folk horror film directed by Doron and Yoav Paz. The cast includes Hani Furstenberg, Ishai Golan, Kirill Cernyakov, and Brynie Furstenberg. As of this review, the film remains available to Amazon Prime and fuboTV subscribers with additional purchase options on other platforms.

Set in 1673, a small Jewish community faces hardships from others as the Black Plague spreads. When these hardships reach a boiling point, Hanna takes matters into her own hands. Having secretly learned to read, she seeks to perform a ritual that would create a protector for her people. Yet, this act brings about a steep cost.

a redheaded woman walks through a village.
Hani Furstenberg as Hanna

What I Like about The Golem

The film received three nominations in 2019. These nominations include Best Actress, Best Sound, and Best Cinematography from the Award of the Israeli Film Academy. While The Golem wouldn’t win these awards, the nominations indicate a strong film.

I won’t claim to know the accuracy and intricacies of the golem in relation to its religious origin, but the film certainly brings to life its concept. The effort to create such a creature and the toll it takes from the summoner create an emotional throughline for viewers to follow.

Hani Furstenberg’s Hanna and Ishai Golan’s Benjamin bring a complicated but realistic relationship to the film. Viewers see the love between them, even as their own society attempts to cast them from each other. They feel like a couple who understand the other’s wants and needs. However, we begin to witness the decaying of this relationship.


Hanna, specifically, provides a complex character that incentivizes the viewers to root for and against her at different points in the movie. Though she navigates blatant sexism and discrimination, she remains far from flawless. These flaws and ambitions establish Hanna as an interesting character.

The Golem can be brutal. This film provides a period-accurate look into antisemitism and systemic oppression, which certainly evokes a different form of horror. However, the golem itself brings brutality through its smiting.

White background, rubber stamp with disclaimer pressed against the white background.
Disclaimer Kimberley Web Design

Tired Tropes and Triggers

As the film deals directly with systemic issues of 1673, understand that antisemitism, sexism, and hate crimes remain important elements within the film.

An assault leads to a miscarriage, which seems a point worth mentioning for potential viewers who are sensitive to such points. Fertility and bodily autonomy, generally, also play roles within the provided film.

If any of these are potential issues for your viewing experience, perhaps skip The Golem.

An obscured woman looks at a boy covered in mud. The setting is a forest.
The Golem takes Shape

What I Dislike about The Golem

Aleksey Tritenko delivers a wonderful performance for an interesting antagonist, but the role of Vladimir serves limited purposes. In many ways, he’s the representation of his societal antisemitism. While this remains perfectly valid, he somewhat disappears from the narrative until he becomes relevant. His marauders should be an oppressive threat within the society, looming over it with malice.

I can’t deny the lack of intimidation the golem’s aesthetic brings. While some films evoke an eeriness through silent children to horrific effect, this didn’t sit well with me. It should be eerie, but something was missing in execution.


The Golem focuses on a more human horror than the supernatural elements might suggest. While not a direct critique, prepare your viewing expectations accordingly. The Golem remains a folk horror film, using the folk story to represent human evil and flaws. It won’t particularly haunt you with the gore.

Final Thoughts

The Golem brings the old legend of the golem folk story to life. If you thirst for a human horror that shines a light on the flaws of the people within, The Golem might satisfy you. However, it’s not a particularly frightening film, choosing instead to tell a story of loss and overcoming suffering. 3 out of 5 stars (3 / 5)

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