Directed by Ian Boldsworth
We have a rather unique approach to the paranormal in this country, don’t we? It usually results in a few F-bombs and Scooby-Doo prats falls. Yet, our obsession with the supernatural and what lies beyond the veil is as ancient as it could possibly be. From Psychics to the Vaults of Edinburgh, and the poltergeist activities of Pontefract, the U.K is a hub of spiritual and ghastly goings-on. Or, at least for sceptics, a haven of otherworldly and ghoulish storytelling.
Comradery, banter, spooky road trips and just a soupçon of resentment, the unrelenting appeal of ParaPod lies squarely on the shoulders of director Ian Boldsworth and co-host Barry Dodds. Loaded up and ready to hunt, the Podcasting juggernauts of the ghost-hunting world take their show, quite literally, on the road in a characteristic attempt to persuade cynic Boldsworth once and for all of the existence of something spectral. Before Dodd’s dies from fright.
Challenging preconceptions, ParaPod takes a diversion from the expectant comedic nature in moments, a welcome manoeuvre against the tropes of Ghost Hunting. This film is less a visual Podcast and more a genuine cinematic escapade that dips and dives between the pair’s origins in the recording studio and location-based adventures. Dodds’ charming bumbling attempts to find a ghoul in every shadow comes to a revelation, and the jokes surrounding the scared nature of Dodds give way to a more interesting study of our relationship with death and passing.
Abrasive, the rationale and confrontation Boldsworth takes with a Psychic is an authentic and precisely the surprising level of integrity the film brings. Undoubtedly a comedy, there’s a core of sincerity and inquisitiveness which lifts ParaPod out of the realms of a schlock parody road trip and into something refreshing, yet belly-achingly comedic.
However, the midsts of the paranormal take effect in the film’s interim, muddying the film’s midpoint as montages and sequential break-ups cycle through visits to other locations otherwise unexplored, with cuts of the usual japes and messing around. It’s a touch out of context and feels under edited, suggesting a lengthier cut exists. And while the opening pertains to the comedy set-up, and the finale lashes with a depth of humanity, this middle act drops the ball a little.
Cutting to a root issue, otherwise underutilised in narratives, what precisely would happen to someone if they discovered ghosts are real? What consequences on everyday life and beliefs would alter if there was definitive proof of an afterlife. The sequences which break the expectant humour, where Boldsworth and Dodd’s delve into a more intimate discussion on the correlations of religion and death makes for an otherwise unexpected depth, with an additional dynamic to the film’s framing away from the ‘found-footage aesthetic of the ghost-hunting sequences.
And while an Oscar may ostensibly be off the table, the finale is far from the rafters of a fearful Razzie award – and indeed stretches towards a BAFTA-winning performance that raises even the most sceptical eyebrows for a moment or two. And while the sceptics will remain unconvinced, the believers will source plenty of sightings and ‘orbs’, regular audiences will latch onto the connection Boldsworth and Dodds share. And likely capture a few new listeners for the Podcast – we’re certainly won over.
The ParaPod: A Very British Ghost Hunt is coming to select cinemas from September 7th find your closest cinema here: theparapod.com or catch it On-Demand from September 27th.