I bet you a thousand pounds that not even The ParaPod stars, Barry Dodds and Ian Boldsworth (above), would have guessed that just five years after the creation of their smash hit podcast they would be introducing a feature film based on it to an adoring audience at a sold-out Leicester Square premiere. But on 7th January 2020 that is exactly what happened. I was lucky enough to attend.
The premise of The ParaPod Movie is simple enough: Paranormal believer Dodds takes steadfast skeptic Boldsworth on a Road Trip, in a customised hearse of all things, to some of the most-haunted locations this grey isle has to offer. The mission: prove to Ian the existence of ghosts. Anyone familiar with The ParaPod podcast will recognise the set-up. Those unfamiliar won’t need long to get on-board. It is hilarious in podcast form, largely due to the wonderful dynamic between the odd couple, but as a film it transcends even the most fevered dreams of the Paranati.
What starts as a thrilling and hilarious adventure – one man’s ardent quest to resist another’s – grows rapidly into one of the warmest, most emotionally engaging and genuinely scary documentaries I’ve ever seen. There are laughs at machine gun rapidity (so much so that after the screening we were reliably informed that we missed many of the best gags due to us laughing over them!) but there’s much more than that. I don’t want to give anything away, so I’ll just say this: What starts as a film about two comedians investigating the paranormal shifts dramatically into a movie about two comedians making a movie about them investigating the paranormal, and all the ups and downs that entails. It’s not what a lot of people think it’s going to be. This isn’t a daft romp. The ParaPod Movie is a sweet, terrifying and impressive piece of documentary film making.
Ian Boldsworth is on fine, fiery form as he deftly dissects the arguments of well-meaning but ultimately misguided believers in supernatural phenomenon, (there’s one scene in a very famous ‘haunted house’ that demands repeat viewings just to take in the surgical precision of Ian’s argument for reason) and it is every bit as delicious as you’d expect. With impish mischievousness, our skeptic keeps the wheels turning. The final showdown, as I think it best to describe it, left me on the edge of my seat and afraid to even blink for fear of missing something that just must be there! The closing moments are breathtaking, frightening and face-achingly hilarious. Ian is the best we’ve ever seen him.
But it’s Barry Dodds who deserves special praise for simply being himself, unashamedly. If Ian is the bone-rattling driver of this no-such-thing-as-a-ghost train then Barry is the willing passenger who, at times, appears to have bitten off more than he can chew. With refreshing vulnerability we see him go from tour guide, to mark, to victim, to hero. I laughed and cried at what he went through. I can’t state strongly enough how beneficial it is to go into The ParaPod Movie with no spoilers. I also can’t state strongly enough how stressed one of those spoilers made me. I was literally shaking at one point, through a combination of empathetic fear and heartbreak. I had tears in my eyes at the aftermath.
I know I’m a fan, but I vowed to be as unbiased as possible in my review of The ParaPod Movie. The truth is that there is not a single thing I can think of that I feel deserves criticism… I wish the cinema had turned the volume up a touch, so I could hear the jokes we missed over the blanket of audience laughter. That’s it. Against all odds, Ian Boldsworth, Barry Dodds, Simon Gibbs and everyone on the crew have created something very special indeed – an hilarious film that stays true to the promises of 30+ episodes of much-loved podcasting, while pressing ambitiously toward a heartfelt and disarmingly deep exploration of the relationship between our stars (and they are stars); one which caught me completely and joyously off-guard.
The ParaPod Movie is the culmination of three years hard graft by director/star/everything Boldsworth and heart-of-the-piece/co-star Dodds, along with a small but hugely talented crew. Special mention to editor Simon Gibbs (eyes open for one of the most beautiful wipe cuts I’ve ever seen) and composer Thomas van der Ree, who treated the premiere audience to the first ever live performance of The ParaPod theme tune. Everyone involved should be incredibly proud of themselves.
This film was shrouded in a fog of hype, thanks to an exhaustive documentation of its production on Ian’s Patreon page. It could’ve been a massive failure, but for the efforts of all involved. What we’ve been given is one of the most enjoyable cinema experiences I’ve ever had the pleasure to sit in on. The ParaPod Movie deserves awards, it deserves praise, it deserves a massive audience. And not just an audience of fans of the podcast; EVERYONE should see this film.