It wouldn’t be quite true to say that Gus (Nick Frost) is a broadband installation engineer by day and a paranormal investigator by night. Mainly because his job with Smyle already involves visiting rundown and remote dwellings affected by intangible interferences and mysterious malfunctions. Once he’s identified a likely haunting spot, he can whip out his special contraption to identify “EM waves from the spectral plane” while briskly re-establishing an internet connection in time for tea.
Summoned to the office, he’s informed by unctuous boss Dave (Simon Pegg in a chunky wig that makes him look like the long-lost blond fifth Beatle) that he’ll be “babysitting some mouth breather” (Gus-speak for training a new engineer). But it doesn’t take long for Gus to inveigle Elton John (Samson Kayo) to be cameraman for his YouTube channel, “The Truth Seeker”, although Elton has none of the barnstorming confidence of his namesake. He’s usually too terrified even to hold the equipment steady.
Truth Seekers has all the charm of a self-deprecating British spin on Stranger Things. The retro clunkiness of the kit is no 1980s homage but a function of Gus’s ethos of loving handicrafting and making do. There’s even a waiflike gamine fleeing horrors in the manner of Millie Bobby Brown’s Eleven (and just as irritating). Astrid (Emma D'Arcy) is being haunted by a figure that looks like the Betamax Bandit from The Mighty Boosh dressed up for the Venice Carnival. Tackling him will take all the wiles of glamorous trailer-park medium Janey Feathers (Morgana Robinson).
The various supernatural plots and devices cunningly interweave, with the mysterious “Lincolnshire Poacher” radio transmissions briefly mentioned in episode one elucidated later on with Gus and Elton’s visit to “Britain’s most haunted three-star hotel”. Set up as a horror-themed hostelry by proprietor Jack (Kevin Eldon, always a joy), this labyrinthine establishment features such delights as the Nightmare on Elm Suite. The WiFi’s dreadful though. Likewise, the blood-inscribed page ripped out of Janey Feathers’ grimoire, the Praecepta Mortuorum, develops its own lively subplot, involving much chanting of Latin and Julian Barratt as Gus’s hero, bestselling author Dr Peter Toynbee.
Worlds collide at CovCosColCon, a West Midlands-based collectors’ and cosplay shindig, where Toynbee lectures on other dimensions, Astrid and Elton sample an immersive horror experience — as though their previous spectral showdown wasn’t terrifying enough — while Elton’s agora- and germ-phobic sister Helen (Susan Wokoma) stays in the van with her Dalek costume. Unless Dave can be induced to leave his office (“How can I make you Smyle today?”) we won’t be seeing much of Pegg, but the rogue casting of Gus’s irascible dad does allow us to ponder what it might be like to have Malcolm McDowell as a parent. (Terrifying.)
On Amazon Prime from October 30
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