It would be a somewhat massive understatement to say that when Simon Pegg and Nick Frost work together, it’s usually a good time. There was the beloved TV series Spaced (1999-2001), Shaun of the Dead (2004), Hot Fuzz (2007), Paul (2011) and The World’s End (2013). It’s quite a list, and when news arrived that the boys would be pairing up again, for a genre comedy no less, it seemed like a good time was all but guaranteed. It’s more than a little disappointing then to report that Truth Seekers, their first team up in seven years, is a little bit ordinary.
Truth Seekers tells the tale of amiable loner, Gus (Nick Frost), a broadband installer and amateur paranormal investigator. Shortly after being saddled with new employee, Elton (Samson Kayo), Gus’s rather prosaic supernatural experiences kick up a notch, and he’s thrust semi-willingly into a series of fortean adventures that are, well, fitfully entertaining.
The first thing to note about Truth Seekers, is that it’s about 80% Frost, 20% Pegg. Don’t get us wrong, Nick Frost is an absolute comedic delight, and a lovely bloke too, but it’s the combination of the pair that brought that goods in the likes of Shaun of the Dead, whereas here Pegg feels like a special guest star. This is, no doubt, due to Pegg’s fairly hefty Hollywood workload, but it certainly hurts the comedic dynamic. And while it’s great to see Malcolm McDowell playing Gus’s sassy father-in-law, Richard, the casting of Samson Kayo and Emma D’Arcy as ghost plagued Astrid never really adds up to an exciting dynamic.
Truth Seekers is further plagued by rather listless direction, with the show looking great, but lacking that whip smart comic timing and crackling visual irony from Edgar Wright helmed efforts like Spaced or Hot Fuzz. And the show certainly wants to have that style, with Edgar Wright-esque whip pans and visual comedy frequently attempted, but sadly rarely realised well. It’s not a bad show, and each episode runs about 25-30 minutes so it’s an easy watch, but it’s just never particularly compelling beyond seeing which great British comedy actor will pop up in a cameo next.
Ultimately, Truth Seekers is a slight and only sporadically amusing effort that lacks the panache and wit of previous pairings of Pegg and Frost and frankly squanders a lot of the promise of the premise. It’s amiable, and watchable, and Nick Frost is just a lovely, ever enjoyable teddy bear of a man, but it’s hard to shake the feeling that we’ve all seen better versions of this material before.
A while back, we were wondering why Werner Herzog was hanging out in Australia, and now we have the undisputed answer, Herzog has collaborated with his Encounters at the End of the World and Into the Inferno volcanologist Clive Oppenheimer on this 'extraordinary journey to discover how shooting stars, meteorites and deep impacts have focused the human imagination on other realms and worlds, and on our past and our future.'
Now in its third year, Canneseries moved from April to October as a live event, though unfortunately mainly took place virtually for international press and guests, instead of on the Riviera. Still, there were plenty of tasty morsels of new international TV series to savour.
Writer (American Beauty, True Blood, Six Feet Under) / Director (Towelhead) Alan Ball mines the personal for this nostalgic story of the gay uncle and his exotic life, as seen through Beth's (IT's Beth Bledsoe) wide eyes.
From writer/director Pete Docter (Inside Out) comes this love letter to jazz and a rumination about what it means to be human. Voice talent includes Jamie Foxx, Tina Fey, Phylicia Rashad, Ahmir “Questlove” Thompson, Angela Bassett, Daveed Diggs. Alice Braga, Richard Ayoade, Wes Studi, Graham Norton and NZ's own Rachel House.
Horror anthologies can be a lot like the end result of a night’s trick or treating; a collection of sweet goodies that you probably shouldn’t consume in one go, because you won’t sleep but you’re pretty much going to anyway. Sure, one segment might not tick all your boxes, but there’s the promise of another one just around the corner.
There have been some absolute corkers over the decades, including Asylum, The House That Dripped Blood, Creepshow and for the more modern palate, VHS 2 with its brilliant death cult segment by Gareth Evans (The Raid). There’s also been some less than reputable ones that cash in on quantity over quality, such as ABCs of Death and the absolute nonsense of 60 Seconds to Die. Thankfully, The Mortuary Collection can certainly hold its own against its contemporaries.
Written and directed by Ryan Spindell, and marking his feature length debut, The Mortuary Collection sees Clancy Brown (Shawshank Redemption) as the brilliantly monikered Montgomery Dark. Dark, seemingly held together by cobwebs and dust, singlehandedly runs a funeral parlour in a small town and is actively looking for someone to help him in his duties. Along comes Sam (Caitlin Fisher), a twenty something college kid who doesn’t seem too uncomfortable around dead bodies.
Dark decides to test the steel of his potential assistant by recounting the gruesome endings of some of the clientele. As our host for the evening, Brown appears to be living his best life as the mischievous mortician, whilst Fisher listens incredulously to his seemingly tall tales. This sets up the framing device for Spindell to fire out four short stories, including his previous short The Babysitter Murders.
Set against a backdrop of early sixties American nostalgia, we become witness to haunted medicine cabinets, escaped asylum inmates, and pregnant misogynists. Spindell rides a fine line between the macabre and the humorous, which is shown to its full effect in the film’s third tale, where a man makes the decision to euthanize his very ill wife. Ultimately a sad tale about how hard it is to let go, Spindell seems to relish dishing out uneasy laughs.
It’s always a welcome surprise to come across an anthology where every story is as strong as the last and so it is with The Mortuary Collection. Eyes are gorged, genitals explode and human flesh is oven baked, but the film is never nihilistic or nasty. It puts a bony arm around us and encourages us to enjoy the ride. It’s a genuine delight to watch. This deserves a spin on anyone’s Halloween playlist.
Femflix will focus on 'the best stories that reflect equality behind the camera with at least one female-identifying person in the role of Director, Producer, Writer, Cinematographer or Lead Protagonist (usually more than one).'