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Tuesday, October 20, 2020

[Review] Amazon’s Horror-Comedy “Truth Seekers” Finds the Humanity and Horror in Paranormal Activity

Amazon’s new horror/comedy series about paranormal investigators is a loving look into the genre with a fresh and scary story.

Ghost hunting has turned into an incredibly popular activity with a surprising number of shows on television that cater towards this weird corner of the paranormal. There’s a lot of skepticism around the art of ghost hunting, but there’s often just as much hesitation towards parodies and comedic takes on paranormal investigators. It’s an area that’s well defined, but it’s proven to be hard to properly nail the genre. Truth Seekers marketing makes it look like any other take on ghost hunters and clueless content creators. In reality, Truth Seekers finds a fresh energy for this material and it creates a story and characters that are easy to connect with, the series tackling the horror genre from a unique angle.

Truth Seekers centers around Gus Roberts (Nick Frost), a successful technician at Britain’s biggest Internet service provider and mobile network operator; but Gus also shares a penchant for the supernatural. He truly comes alive when he’s doing work for his YouTube channel as a plucky paranormal investigator. Gus’ rhythm gets seriously thrown off when he’s partnered up with a new hire, Elton (Samson Kayo), and they both begin to face real hauntings and paranormal activities on a level that they’ve never encountered before. A lot of shows would perhaps dig into the animosity between Gus and Elton and how he feels threatened by this new partner, but instead the two very quickly fall in step with each other. It’s a real joy to see the friendship that these two find in one another.

The characters in Truth Seekers are one of the series’ strongest assets and everyone is lovable in a way where you just want to spend more time with all of them. What’s also very important here is that Truth Seekers never treats Gus or any of his paranormal partners as fools or makes them the butt of jokes because of their interest in the bizarre. They’re portrayed as passionate and curious individuals and the series looks at this community of people with a level of empathy that’s often absent in ghost hunter content. It should also be emphasized that Truth Seekers is a team effort between Frost and Kayo; Simon Pegg’s involvement in front of the camera has certainly been exaggerated. He plays Dave, Gus and Elton’s boss at SMYLE. He’s a very fleeting presence in the series, but he ultimately gets to prove his worth in a bigger way by the end of the season.

There’s great chemistry between everyone, not just Gus and Elton. Astrid (Emma D’Arcy) is another individual who comes with her own set of experiences with the paranormal and finds her way into Gus’ weird supernatural circle. They’re a strange group, but it doesn’t take them long to find a comfortable rhythm. Truth Seekers also establishes a good dynamic between Gus and his live-in father, Richard (Malcolm McDowell). At first Richard is treated like a punchline that’s a little reductive to elderly characters, but he gains a deeper significance that ties together with Gus’ entanglement with this greater paranormal plot. McDowell also brings a tenderness to the character and the series and he and Elton’s sister, Helen (Susan Wokoma), forge a really sweet and unlikely bond. They’re both very natural and affectionate presences in Gus’ and Dave’s worlds. Some of the most entertaining scenes in the series are when the entire cast gets to be out on a case together. They feel like a real team by the end of the season.

Truth Seekers utilizes a fun structure where different Wi-Fi and broadband-related problems for Gus and Elton end up leading to supernatural happenings. It’s a silly way to mix together the mundane and extraordinary aspects of Gus’s life. Some really beautiful and poignant stories are told through the use of ghosts and unexplained phenomena. Truth Seekers also tells a much larger story that slowly builds through the season until it reaches a breaking point wherein Gus and Elton may be what stands between an evil entity stealing dozens of people’s souls.

Each episode of Truth Seekers is a satisfying self-contained story, but the series does a good job at weaving a compelling mystery that builds over the season. There’s a growing sense of dread that accompanies this and the final episodes of the season become rather intense. The series finds the right balance for how to parse out details and it really works when these disparate threads come together and these beleaguered characters can find a purpose through their unity. There’s a clear love for the different sub-genres of horror that are on display here like exorcisms, haunted dolls, cryptids, and serial killers, but then Truth Seekers will mix it with comedy that all feels very authentic to Frost and Pegg’s style. The recurring themes of nanobots, soul transference, and eternal life also become ongoing fascinations for the season.

Truth Seekers leans in a lot of directions, but it benefits from how it’s actually scary when it tries to be. These moments are well earned and there’s a high-level of quality that’s present here in the monsters and the effects. Some of the recurring ghosts in the series are truly disturbing. It’s one thing for the jokes to land in a series like this, but the show works all the better because the peak moments of the paranormal activities feel like they could legitimately be out of horror movies. Truth Seekers makes sure that both the horror and comedy elements feel authentic when they go to these extreme places. Jim Field Smith’s direction with writing from Frost, Pegg, Nat Saunders, and James Serafinowicz creates something really fun here from a scenario that could easily feel derivative at this point. Those familiar with the rest of Frost/Pegg’s work shouldn’t be disappointed with Truth Seekers. There are definitely vibes of Spaced here in terms of the stylistic flourishes towards the horror genre, but it actually bears the largest resemblance towards Peter Jackson’s The Frighteners and John Carpenter’s They Live, both in terms of tone and scope.

Truth Seekers joins what’s already an overcrowded genre, but it manages to make an impression and not just join the chorus of lost souls. It’s not the best show of the year, but it’s the perfect, lighthearted horror distraction for the Halloween season. It pushes a feeling of optimism and community that’s important now more than ever. The first season of this show touches on some unconventional bases and it’s exciting to think where a second season would take these characters and what fresh aspects of the horror genre that it’d like to examine. Hopefully Truth Seekers will be given a chance to grow, but if it doesn’t it will still stand out as an excellent piece of horror/comedy that tells a complete story on its own.

Season one of ‘Truth Seekers’ premieres on Amazon Prime on October 30th.

This review is based on all eight episodes of the first season.



source https://bloody-disgusting.com/reviews/3637529/review-amazons-horror-comedy-truth-seekers-finds-humanity-horror-paranormal-activity/

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