By Ed Sum
(The Vintage Tempest)
It’s hard to believe two comedians can embark on The ParaPod: A Very British Ghost Hunt based on their interest in proving and disproving the paranormal. They are not expert ghost hunters because they don’t have established protocols for each place they visit. Well, one of them tries to set some rules down….
The team of Barry Dodds and Ian Boldsworth (who also directs) are better known for their individual work at comedy clubs and the local (fringe) theatre circuit before starting their podcast in 2015. They are a double act. Three years in the making, this mockumentary follows their exploits at trying to outwit instead of convincing the other about the existence of the supernatural. Their success is less about the fun they had together, and more thought-provoking when they look back at all that’s they’ve uncovered.
The scares are nonexistent. Though we learn Dodds saw something during one of their overnight vigils, only he can say the image of that spectre still sends shivers down his spine. The banana, Boldsworth, may have seen something at another time, but he hides it. He yuks it up more often than not–perhaps to hide his own insecurities–and pull pranks on his partner. I’m surprised the taller man hasn’t said, “That’s it, I quit. You’re impossible,” and refuse to deal with the bushy-haired Ian. The straight man took a leave of absence, but was convinced to return.
As the skeptic, Boldsworth needs that tough to discount experience to say the paranormal world exists. This work doesn’t get to the answers. Instead, it’s about these two looking at all they’ve done in a recording studio and wax rhetoric. Those moments are better to watch than the flashbacks showing how terrible one man is to the other. Instead of a sidekick asking questions, Ian trolls Barry and pulls cruel pranks on him. The worst is perhaps locking the straight man in a home alone in a place that’s reputed to house a poltergeist. It’s tough to like the chubby guy because of that, and ultimately, this movie is about their relationship rather than the investigations.
The locales are haunted. Pluckley is considered the most spooked village in Britain and The Ram Inn is the most famous. Other places like Pontefract (home to the most violent poltergeist) aren’t as known. They also journey up to Edinburgh and what their road map draws (and reveals at the end) shows this team is not invested in the search for the truth. The movie is marketed as an adult comedy. If the profanity isn’t enough to insult Ian Boldsworth, then just whether or not people will respect this guy after seeing this film will.
3½ Stars out of 5