I’d never heard of The Parapod before starting this film: a podcast that has run for three series since 2015 to the present, and has been downloaded more than two million times, as well as having been nominated for awards, and winning the Midlands Comedy Awards ‘Best Online Comedy’ in 2016. Despite knowing nothing about the podcast, or its hosts Barry Dodds and Ian Boldsworth, who’s also doing double duty here as director, the film is incredibly accessible, and sets things out within the first few minutes before delving into the fun.
The premise of the movie is that Barry is a firm believer in the paranormal and ghosts, and is trying to provide evidence to sway staunch sceptic Ian. Over the course of the film the two of them will visit some of the most haunted locations in Britain, from the haunted ‘Screaming’ woods of Pluckley in Kent, to a witches’ coven in the vaults of Edinburgh, to the most active poltergeist in the world in Pontefract.
If you’re expecting a film that’s going to play out like an extra long episode of Ghost Hunters or Most Haunted you’re only partially right. Yes, the two of them visit some haunted locations, and Barry does try to collect evidence of the paranormal in these places, but it soon becomes obvious that he doesn’t really know what he’s doing. The dozens of static cameras, EMF detectors, voice recorders, and investigators that you get on ghost hunting shows aren’t present here, and after a while you begin to suspect that Barry is trying desperately to replicate their techniques with no real knowledge or practical experience.
His attempts are hampered somewhat by Ian, who is clearly there for a good time, and isn’t that willing to help Barry out. He makes jokes, plays pranks on Barry, and intentionally leads him to a point where he starts looking a bit silly. But, this is a big part of the charm of the film, and Ian’s near constant ribbing of his friend makes for some hilarious moments. Barry still can’t work out how Ian ‘moved’ their tent whilst he was sleeping in it by the end of the film, something that’s painfully obvious but baffles the poor man. And this isn’t even the meanest thing Ian does to him across the movie.
But the film isn’t just about Barry’s attempt to make his friend believe, as it also takes a look at belief itself, with a few talking head interviews thrown into the mix with people who are experts in the field. There are genuine moments of self reflection for the two, especially Barry, and there is a point where things descend into a full blown argument between the two of them as they finally clash over their beliefs.
Ultimately though, this is a pretty feel good movie, one that will have you laughing more than anything else. It’s a kind of movie that I think will appeal to people across the spectrum of paranormal belief. Some people will side with Barry, believing as he does even though he doesn’t collect a shred of evidence throughout the whole thing; whilst others will side with Ian, looking at Barry and what he’s doing as being ridiculous, because they just can’t believe in what he’s claiming. The film isn’t going to try and sway you to one side of the debate, but simply presents these two longtime friends and their little adventure in the hopes that it’s going to entertain you; and it really does.
Podcasts are big business now, and several of them have already come to television, but The Parapod is the first to come to film, and that’s a hell of an achievement. A good, funny, and engaging movie that I’m sure will result in a lot of people checking out the podcast. Oh, and make sure to sit through the credits too, as the fun doesn’t stop until the very end.