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The Real Reason Netflix's Locke & Key Town Is Different From The Comics

Since making the dramatic pivot into original programming, Netflix has transformed itself from the little-streamer-that-could into an entertainment powerhouse with a treasure trove of blockbuster flicks and arthouse award winners. They've also become one of the preeminent sources of original TV series. One of their most recent genre hits ranks among the finest comics-to-TV adaptations to date: the fantastically moody horror series Locke & Key, inspired by the beloved creator-owned series of the same name.

The comic series is penned by Joe Hill (son of literary horror legend Stephen King), and it follows the tale of the Locke family, who — after the mysterious murder of their patriarch — move into his ancestral home in Massachusetts (known as Keyhouse) only to find untold wonders within. These wonders are unlocked via a series of magical keys hidden throughout the aptly named Keyhouse. Locke & Key made its Netflix premiere in February of 2020, and while the series remains a relatively faithful adaptation of Hill's creep-tastic comics, there were a few notable changes to the narrative.  

Changes are status quo when adapting any sort of source material for a new medium, of course, though one minor change did seem a bit gratuitous. That change is the name of the town in which Keyhouse itself exists, switched from the original "Lovecraft, MA" in the books to "Matheson, MA" for the series (both fictional).

Per a Popsugar report, we now know it was Joe Hill himself who encouraged the name change, as he was no longer able to reconcile the original name with the controversial legacy of the infamous horror scribe who inspired it.   

Joe Hill had a good reason to make that name change on Locke & Key

That author is none other than the legendary H.P. Lovecraft, whose macabre works of cosmic horror and weird fiction are generally renowned by genre enthusiasts, and have influenced the work of everyone from Stephen King himself to cinematic maestro Guillermo Del Toro. Over the years, a deeply unsettling legacy has come to light regarding some of Lovecraft's less influential work and the personal beliefs of the author, which are inarguably abhorrent. The sad fact is that — even though Lovecraft's horror writing was revolutionary — the man leaves behind a disgraceful legacy of white supremacy and anti-semitism.

Seems that even Joe Hill himself wasn't entirely conscious of that legacy prior to penning the first issues of Locke & Key. Armed with a new understanding of Lovecraft, the author decided it was time to take his name out of the Locke & Key equation, owning the decision for himself via a January 2020 post in his online newsletter.  

"In the comic, our heroes move to Lovecraft, Massachusetts. For the series, however, I suggested changing the town to Matheson, Massachusetts. I've learned too much about Lovecraft in the time since I wrote those first issues to feel the same way about him. And the show seemed like a good opportunity to honor the work of another, different master of dark fantasy. So that's what we did. My idea — don't blame the TV guys."

The "different master of dark fantasy" Hill mentions is Richard Matheson, perhaps best known for writing the sci-fi shocker that inspired both the 2007 Will Smith vehicle I Am Legend, and the 1971 classic The Omega Man. Matheson is also the scribe behind Steven Spielberg's 1971 directorial debut Duel, and the egregiously underrated Kevin Bacon 1999 chiller Stir of Echoes

While those titles may not conjure quite the same visceral dark energy as "The Call of Cthulhu," it's still hard to argue Hill's choice to leave the Lovecraft name behind.