My notes on Extra Ordinary, which I saw at the Ramaskrik Film Festival. It opens in the UK this Friday.
One smart thing about this disarming, whimsical Irish supernatural comedy is that it putters along amiably on lo-tech effects like floating sheets with VHS inserts from the heroine’s dead ghost-hunter father … but then pulls out the stops with the odd graphic gore effect and a last-reel portal to hell which disgorges an apparition (admittedly, a high-tech floating sheet) that could hold up in a much higher-budgeted movie. For the most part, Extra Ordinary concentrates on slow burn character comedy and near-farce, but it knows when to bite too.
Rose Dooley (Maeve Higgins), a schlumpy small-town driving instructor, has a reputation as a psychic but no longer practices because she feels responsible for the death of her father (Risteard Cooper) in an exorcism-related accident. Martin Martin (Barry Ward) is abused by the poltergeist of his dead wife Bonnie, who insists he wear the same shirt every day and batters him whenever he goes against her whims. Martin’s daughter Sarah (Emma Coleman) nags him into consulting Rose, but he has to pretend not to be able to drive to get to her. Meanwhile, Christian Winter (Will Forte), a burnout one-hit wonder (‘Cosmic Woman La La La’), is performing a ritual that requires a sacrificial virgin in order that the Devil grants his wish to have a hit album – and has targeted Sarah after his dim bulb wife Claudia (Claudia O’Doherty) has disastrously intervened and exploded his levitating first choice schoolgirl.
The plot has many twists and turns, with Rose and Martin running around the community performing exorcisms to harvest the seminal-seeming ectoplasm of six ghosts for a counter-ritual, and novely dovetailed bits with Rose’s practical, pregnant sister Sailor (Terri Chandler) and her weak-willed date Brian (Jamie Beamish). Though it’s quite a tight storyline, neatly setting up a reversal during the climactic ritual (riffing a bit on The Monster Squad), the film really connects through its bits and pieces of character comedy. Higgins, who scores an ‘additional writing’ credit, is a very winning protagonist, credibly fed up with her ghost-bothered life and dryly amused by the eedjits she comes in contact with (the old woman whose dead husband haunts her recycling bin when she dumps food waste in it), while Ward does double duty when his doormat widower character is possessed by the fagash Lil-type side-talking Bonnie during moments of crisis.
The three main characters – Rose, Martin, Christian – all have people in their lives to talk to – Sailor, Sarah, Claudia – and their characters are teased out in funny, rambling conversations. Forte makes for a grandstanding, absurd, vain caricature villain, and the pettiness of his ambitions is an amusing contrast with the usual apocalyptic business of movie Satanists, but Christian is just awful enough even in his bumbling to be a proper threat. Written and directed by Mike Ahern and Enda Loughman. Horror comedies are a lot harder to pull off than many filmmakers believe, and this one’s fresh, sweet, wicked and on occasion slightly spooky.