Director: Ian Boldsworth
Writers: Ian Boldsworth, Barry Dodds
Starring: Ian Boldsworth, Barry Dodds, Carol Fieldhouse
Duration: 108 mins
BBFC Certification: 15
The ParaPod Movie’s lasting claim to fame may well be that it is the first (as far as I am aware) movie ever made that has been based on a podcast. The Parapod was a comedy podcast that ran between 2015 and 2018, featuring two comedians (Ian Boldsworth and Barry Dodds) discussing the paranormal. The comedy and friction at the heart of The Parapod came from Dodds, being a firm believer in all things ghostly, trying to argue against Boldsworth’s deep skepticism; The Parapod went on to become a huge hit, boasting, at the time of writing, over 3.5 million downloads. It seems it was inevitable that a movie version would soon come calling.
Despite having an interest in the supernatural, I had never heard of The Parapod until this movie. Yet, despite a desire to catch up, I held back. No doubt the film would appeal to Boldsworth and Dodds legions of fans, yet how would their movie hold up for those audience members who had never heard of them before?
The premise of The Parapod is incredibly simple, taking the formula of the podcast out on the road. Dodds accompanies Boldsworth (who also takes on directing duties for the film) to some of the most haunted locations in Britain in order to find tangible evidence of the supernatural in the hope of finally making Boldsworth a believer. Needless to say, hilarity ensures.
It is worth noting right from the off that anyone coming to The Parapod expecting some semblance of realistic investigating into the supernatural will come away disappointed. This certainly isn’t a movie version of Most Haunted (and maybe that’s a good thing), with Dodds’ efforts at trying to find a ghostly presence often resulting in nothing more than speaking into empty rooms or wandering around with a cheap looking EMF reader. Instead, the movie’s main focus is on Dodds’ constant jitteriness and Boldsworth’s exploitation of that in trying to make him jump out of his skin.
The success of this central, often antagonistic relationship, is integral to the success of the film. While some may find Boldsworth’s constant joking and pranking a little frustrating (how is Dodds ever going to try and successfully prove that ghosts exist if Boldsworth acts as if the whole thing is simply an opportunity to lark around) ultimately the relationship between the two men proves to be an absolute pleasure to watch. Anyone who is a fan of Ricky Gervais playfully goading Karl Pilkington will find a lot to like here.
As much as Boldworth’s hilariously brutal takedowns of Dodds’ beliefs make you laugh, his arguments aren’t simply facetious. There is a genuine intelligence and logic behind Boldsworth and Dodds’ discussions that often make the film as fascinating to watch as it is amusing. There are even moments that feel genuinely uncomfortable, such as Boldsworth’s confrontation with a psychic towards the latter half of the film. Despite not taking its ‘hauntings’ seriously, The Parapod nevertheless offers some genuine meat for those who like to debate the reality of ghosts and the supernatural.
Towards the end of the film, The Parapod shifts gear slightly by trying, for the first time, to scare its audience rather than make them laugh. While this doesn’t quite have the dramatic impact and lasting impression you feel that Boldsworth was aiming for, it is a refreshing attempt to add some chills to what has so far been an exercise in comic japery and heated, often very funny, debates.
It is the comic sparks that fly between Boldsworth and Dodds that make The Parapod a success. Laced with scathing, idiosyncratic British wit and amusing set pieces, they are simply a pleasure to watch together. Add in some genuinely interesting debates on the supernatural and The Parapod proves itself to be a thoroughly entertaining take on our continual fascination with ghosts and the supernatural. While those looking for evidence of genuine paranormal investigations will perhaps be disappointed, those looking for an amusing ghost train of a film with find a hell of a lot to like here.
And for fans of the podcast? I have no doubt that they will absolutely adore it.