‘Lovecraft Country’: Home is where the hell is

In its strongest, most haunting hour yet, “Lovecraft Country” (Sunday at 9 p.m. on HBO) finds that the comforts of home just might be the death of our heroes.

Warning! Minor spoilers follow!

In “Holy Ghost,” written by Misha Green and directed by Daniel Sackheim, some weeks have passed since beloved Uncle George (Courtney B. Vance) died, and our trio of survivors returned to the South Side of Chicago.

Leti (Jurnee Smollett) has improbably received a secret inheritance from her mother, and she decides to purchase a ramshackle mansion in the North Side – i.e., white – part of the city. She views it as a chance to make amends with her sister Ruby (Wunmi Mosaku).

The three-story (not including the basement) Victorian even includes an elevator, Leti tells her sister.

So what if that elevator doesn’t work – or works too well?

Leti plans to make the mansion a boarding house for the city’s outsiders. She doesn’t know the place comes with one tortured past and tenants – horribly disfigured spirits who burn with rage.

Also burning: that cross on Leti’s lawn, planted by Leti’s neighbors. Leti, God love her, grabs a baseball bat to settle business.

The cops are quick to arrive when things get out of hand – and arrest Leti.

Jurnee Smollett, Jonathan Majors, "Lovecraft Country" (Photo: HBO).
Jurnee Smollett, Jonathan Majors, “Lovecraft Country” (Photo: HBO).

“Lovecraft Country” does an extraordinary job asking which monsters are the most frightening: the neighbors and the policemen who seem like average folks or the beasties who want to rip your neck open?

The white folks here have the edge, perhaps because we know they truly exist.

Leti and Tic (Jonathan Majors) reach a turning point in their relationship, but with these two, it seems like a half-step forward and a mile backward.

Smollett and Majors share insane chemistry. They just burn together onscreen, and you can’t help but root for them.

Complicating matters: George’s wife Hippolyta (Aunjanue Ellis) suspects they are not being truthful about what happened in Ardham. Tic especially feels the weight of that secret.

The hour ends with one helluva nasty stinger.

The malice in “Lovecraft Country” has a long reach.

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