One of the most praised elements of HBO’s Lovecraft Country is its interweaving of America’s racist legacy with the cosmic horror of H.P. Lovecraft, resulting in a series that gracefully and powerfully tackles racism in the past and today. So HBO’s next step in tapping into the popularity of its new sci-fi horror series is to…turn it into a VR experience?
HBO is launching Lovecraft Country: Sanctum, a series of “exclusive virtual reality events transporting invited guests into a world inspired by the show.” The VR event series will act as a companion to Lovecraft Country, offering three events consisting of immersive theater, escape rooms, art installations, puzzles and a live concert, via the Oculus Quest headset, each of which are all inspired by the HBO series created by Misha Green and based on the 2016 novel of the same name by Matt Ruff. The events will be simultaneously run on the social VR platform VRChat, which allows guests to talk and interact with each other in real time within the environment, and streamed to the world via YouTube Live. YouTube Live viewers can interact in real-time too, solving riddles to trigger spells that will affect the experience.
“We were very inspired by the deeply layered and dynamic world Misha Green has brought to life in LOVECRAFT COUNTRY and wanted to create a digital experience for fans that is just as innovative as the series itself,” said Dana Flax, Vice President, Program Marketing at HBO. “We’re so thrilled to be partnering with The Mill on creating a virtual reality ‘secret society’ in Sanctum. So much of LOVECRAFT COUNTRY is rooted in the idea of travel as a catalyst for self-discovery. Sanctum provides a way for fans to come together virtually and safely in a unique new place and experience incredible performances that further explore themes and ideas from the show. These virtual events also give us the special opportunity of spotlighting the work of Black artists in celebration of this very important series.”
It certainly seems like an odd tie-in to Lovecraft Country, which doesn’t exactly introduce a world that people would want to escape to in VR. It’s a world all-too similar to our own reality, with cosmic monsters standing alongside real-life racist horrors, which is why this is a very odd move. Who wants to put on a VR headset and experience a super-realistic Jim Crow America?
But with series stars like Jonathan Majors, Courtney B. Vance, and Michael Kenneth Williams participating in voiceover, and featured works from Black artists, it seems like the intent of Lovecraft Country: Sanctum is in the right place. There will be afrofuturist art installations by David Alabo, Devan Shimoyama and Adeyemi Adegbesan; a theatrical performance inspired by the words of James Baldwin, adapted by Lovecraft Country writer Shannon Houston, and performed by star Jurnee Smollett; and an exclusive VR concert given by a soon to be announced artist.
“It is an alternate universe, built for Social VR, that tests, and exceeds, the boundaries of what we believe possible,” said Rama Allen, Executive Creative Director at The Mill and lead creative on the Sanctum experience. “We sought to create a space in partnership with Black artists and voices that centers on the Black experience.”
Lovecraft Country airs Sundays at 9:00 p.m. ET/PT on HBO and is available to stream on HBO Max.
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