Truth Seekers review: Nick Frost, Simon Pegg's horror comedy series is a thoroughly enjoyable single-session binge
Truth Seekers may not be rip-roaringly funny, but it does have a constant undercurrent of old-fashioned droll British humour retrofitted with some new-age sass.
In Amazon Prime Video's new British show Truth Seekers, the latest offering from Nick Frost and Simon Pegg, the first thing you may notice is that the series is conspicuously restrained with its humour, at least in comparison with the duo’s own prior collaborations and outings. Thankfully, it turns out that isn’t a bad thing at all.
Co-created by the pair (along with Nat Saunders and James Serafinowicz), Shaun of the Dead alumni Frost and Pegg are on familiar horror-sci-fi-comic-thrills ground with Truth Seekers; and what you get as recompense for the relatively sparse LOLs are some refreshingly clever hauntings and scares, and a motley bunch of characters designed to be cute, relatable oddballs.
Gus Roberts (played by Frost himself) is a single, middle-aged widower who installs broadband connections for Smyle, Britain’s top mobile and internet company, intent on achieving one hundred percent 6G connectivity (because that’s the ‘G’ they’re at, thus far, in the completely cuckoo Truth Seekers universe.)
Apart from being Smyle’s star installer, Gus also has a gig on the side — a strictly modest YouTube channel where he makes and features in videos investigating haunted places and paranormal events. One fine day, Gus’s unusually amiable boss over at Smyle pairs him up with an enthusiastic rookie, the curiously-named Elton John (played by endearing young Samson Kayo).
Gus and Elton’s encounter turns out to be serendipitous, as the pair almost instantly starts experiencing weird occurrences. For instance, an abandoned radio frequency that Gus is obsessed with has been transmitting the same thing ever since he chanced upon it years ago — a man’s voice saying the number ‘1’ on loop. Suddenly, just as Gus tells Elton about his odd obsession while playing the said frequency on his van’s radio, the transmission breaks the decades-long loop as the voice starts saying other numbers, piquing Gus’s interest. Elton, though, seems to have an extraordinary aversion to anything out of the ordinary — with good reason.
The unlikely pair embarks upon one spooky adventure after the other, meeting a mysterious girl named Astrid along the way. The show’s intriguing structure sees it introduce the primary characters and go into episodes with self-contained hauntings, while also relentlessly building on a larger, crazier story that’s simmering at the back, waiting to explode.
This is a show made by smart, talented Gen-X nerds for Generation Z, and it shows.
Make no mistake, in the popular horror comedy context, Truth Seekers is often high on both concept and execution (some corny visual effects apart). Episodes open with some strange — often violent — event, sometimes from way back in the past, before it yanks you back to the present day, to the lives of our unlikely bunch. Its frequent wide anamorphic frames flaring at random are a perfectly old-school way to build atmosphere and enhance the eerie-ness of all the eerie places they visit; but the spirit of the show — pun unintended — is as contemporary as one could hope for.
While Gus may be great at setting up and fixing the internet, what he does not know is how to be an influencer. Gus’s YouTube channel has a hundred-odd subscribers at best, which is why it helps that his path crosses with Elton’s socially anxious sister Helen, who has, well, a few thousand subscribers on her own channel, where she puts out cosplay make-up tutorial videos.
While the expert internet installer Gus refers to newbie Elton as a ‘greenhorn’, at the YouTube game Gus is just a ‘noob’. (Both Elton and Gus learn from each other that the two cross-generational words are synonyms.) It is this kind of wholesome, naive goodness that the show is built on, even as it has some intricate plotting that connects seemingly random events in astonishing ways. And while the show may not be LMAO-funny, it does have a constant undercurrent of old-fashioned droll British humour retrofitted with some new-age sass.
Sure, there’s the odd clumsy jump scare or horror cliche to deal with, not to mention the cute paeans to nerd-dom, but the truly audacious bits of the show are the actual hauntings that Gus and gang encounter. They’re unsettling and sometimes genuinely spine-chilling; but there’s always a strangely convincing rationale at play, with a sufficiently abstruse mix of pseudo\science and the supernatural.
Take, for example, the horror-themed hotel that’s not really haunted, but in a perpetual state of no network connectivity, not to mention a ‘Room No 2’ that’s always locked. The lack of network may be an inconvenience for guests, but a nightmare scenario for Smyle. Gus and his new partner are sent on the job, but when they investigate, they encounter more than what they bargained for (and how!)
Call it the 2020 effect, but some of the most outlandish things in the show just seem to make sense, often in the freakiest of ways. It’s not likely to give you any sleepless nights, but expect a few tingles every once in a while, as you watch.
At eight episodes, each around 30 mins long, the first season of Truth Seekers is a single-session binge, and a thoroughly enjoyable one at that. It ends on a note that suggests a much larger game is afoot. Here’s hoping that the show stays on, and BFFs Frost and Pegg up the game on its quirky ingenuity.
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