Plot: Broadband installer by day, a paranormal investigator by night, Gus is annoyed to be partnered with “noob” Elton, but comes to appreciate having someone along for the ride as they uncover a spike in supernatural activity. They’re soon joined by Astrid, who has ghost problems of her own, and the gang embarks upon creating a ghost-hunting YouTube channel, uncovering a terrifying conspiracy as they go.
Review: We can all agree that we love Nick Frost and Simon Pegg, right? From SHAUN OF THE DEAD to HOT FUZZ and THE WORLD’S END, Frost and Pegg have been a highlight of 21st-century comedy. From their early days with Edgar Wright on cult classic sitcom Spaced through the not quite as good alien comedy PAUL, their dynamic has always been destination viewing. While the duo have gone their separate ways on screen in recent years (Pegg starred as Scotty in J.J. Abrams‘ STAR TREK while Frost starred in FIGHTING WITH MY FAMILY and martial arts series Into The Badlands), they return on screen and as creator/writers of Amazon Prime’s new paranormal series Truth Seekers. The result is a decent watch in time for Halloween even if it doesn’t come close to their work with Edgar Wright.
Let me start by saying that while Simon Pegg has his name alongside Nick Frost on the posters and trailers for Truth Seekers, he only appears on screen for a minimal amount of time. Frost takes center stage for the majority of this show as Gus, a cable installer and wannabe paranormal investigator/Youtuber whose past tragedy informs his search for evidence of ghosts and other supernatural events. Pegg plays Gus’ boss, Dave, who may have ulterior motives. Gus is partnered with Elton John (yes, that is his real name) played by Samson Kayo, a rookie installer who gets a quick introduction to the world of the paranormal. They are joined by Astrid (Emma D’Arcy), a runaway who also has had a brush with the supernatural and may not be what she seems. There are also fun supporting turns by Elton’s agoraphobic sister Helen (Susie Wokoma) and Gus’ dad Richard (Malcolm McDowell) who lives with him.
Directed by Jim Field Smith, Truth Seekers looks more cinematic than other British-based series and the special effects are pretty good considering. What is easily apparent is that everyone involved truly gives this story their best effort. While Pegg and Frost are good, the breakouts here are Kayo with his wide-eyed wonder at the supernatural world around him and the iconic Malcolm McDowell who is the best he has been in years. McDowell steals every scene he is in and alone made me want to tune in to each subsequent episode after his hilarious introduction in the premiere. There is also a fun turn by Julian Barratt as Dr. Peter Toynbee that sends up the cliche expert character in every genre film and series of the last century.
Ultimately, it is not the cast that is the problem with this show. Truth Seekers runs a brisk half-hour per episode which is both a blessing and a curse. Sometimes, the stories wrap up too quickly and leave the cliffhanger or twist endings falling a bit flat. The show also plays itself straight with several moments legitimately spooky and scary. The very first scene of the series caught me off guard with some surprisingly effective scares while later episodes feature monsters and ghosts that look like rejects from Doctor Who. But there is just not enough consistency through the season to allow the narrative to gain any momentum.
Over the eight episodes made available for review, it is clear that Simon Pegg and Nick Frost have an affection for genre storytelling and cherry-pick their favorite moments from The Twilight Zone, The X-Files, and even the latest crop of ghost hunting shows peppered over TV and the internet. They also pay homage to countless horror films. The problem comes from the fact that they are missing some of the energy that Edgar Wright‘s direction brings to the mix as sometimes the jokes here just aren’t funny and the scares not scary enough. When this series works, it works, but it is far too sporadic considering the talent involved.
It is no mistake that Amazon decided to premiere this series in time for Halloween as it is a decent blend of spooky and fun that will make for enjoyable viewing for those who can’t handle the harder stuff. I wish that Pegg and Frost had eased up on the conspiracy theory side of things and stuck with a more horror-centric tone. Like PAUL, I waited for Truth Seekers to find a rhythm and it never quite did. That doesn’t mean you won’t have fun watching it, just don’t expect it to hit the same heights as SHAUN OF THE DEAD. Truth Seekers is scarier than I expected but not as funny as I was hoping for. But it is worth the time to see Simon Pegg and Nick Frost back on screen together, even if it is for a limited amount of time.
Truth Seekers premieres October 30th on Amazon Prime Video.