The completely-crowdfunded lovechild of ‘The Ricky Gervais Show’ and ‘Most Haunted’, ‘The ParaPod – A Very British Ghost Hunt’ is a charmingly comedic exploration of belief, scepticism, one-upmanship, and things that go bump in the night.
The ParaPod – A Very British Ghost Hunt, adapted from the popular podcast series of the same name and starring its hosts Barry Dodds and Ian Boldsworth, is notable for a number of things. Not only is it the first-ever podcast series adapted into a film, but its existence was also made possible entirely due to the crowdfunding efforts of its listeners—of which there are many, and all of them are listed in the film’s end credits. The efforts made with their hard-earned cash were certainly worth it, as the film is hilarious, surprisingly deep, and extremely well-made.
In the tradition of British sitcom film adaptations, the movie takes Dodds and Boldsworth out of their typical location—in this case, the podcast studio—and into the wilds of England and Scotland, as the two embark on a ghost tour with the aim of proving and disproving, respectively, the existence of the paranormal. Taking in locations that range from Edinburgh’s underground labyrinth to 30 East Drive, Pontefract, home of the country’s most irritable poltergeist, the two use all the equipment and know-how they have at their disposal to explore the reality of the seemingly ridiculous.
Dodds and Boldsworth’s character dynamic is the centre of the film, and often reminds one of the comedy duo Ricky Gervais and Karl Pilkington. Their relationship is marked by a brand of pranks and jokey, near-angry banter that you’ll either buy into or you won’t. Boldsworth plays the dominant joker and Dodds the easily convinced, almost naïve pawn exploited for comic effect. But what raises it above the classic conventions of one-upmanship is the genuine warmth between the two, and the strength of their convictions.
Dodds is a born believer, refusing to give way despite the lack of proof at any of the many, many locations the two visit, whilst Boldsworth is the classic sceptic, refusing to believe he has been scared at any point. This means that one minute you can be laughing at one of Boldsworth’s pranks (I won’t spoil them here, but they can more or less be categorised under ‘pissing about a bit’) before being engaged in discussions of scepticism and religious factionalism. Whilst these discussions raise interesting talking points, they never fail to be funny. The film even manages to use a Protestant church to comic effect—certainly not an easy thing to do.
The ParaPod – A Very British Ghost Hunt also cleverly combines the podcast source material and film medium. Although it primarily consists of numerous Most Haunted-style shaky night vision camera shots and static recreations of recording the podcast, Boldsworth shows off the film’s budget and his directorial skill with sweeping panoramas of snowy landscapes and some rainy atmospheric shots of the ParaPod Hearse (currently for sale). It also makes strong use of its talking head experts, who are used minimally but pointedly to illustrate the nature, and attraction, of both belief and scepticism.
This is also a clever act by the film which takes it beyond its podcasting origins. We are able to hear from other people who do believe, creating a greater challenge to Boldsworth’s scepticism and other opportunities for humour, as when a supposed medium uses her communication with ‘Alan’ to rip Boldsworth a new one over his lack of belief. The people and places outside our hosts are chosen well and always add to the overall effect.
An intriguing and hilarious investigation into the nature of belief, scepticism, and ghostly pranks, The ParaPod – A Very British Ghost Hunt is a comedy documentary that works. There is much to enjoy and cower at in this tale of a complicated friendship, spooks, and storytelling.
Words by Issy Flower
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