Directors: Mike Ahern, Enda Loughman
Writer: Mike Ahern, Enda Loughman
Starring: Maeve Higgins, Barry Ward, Will Forte, Claudia O’Doherty, Terri Chandler, Emma Coleman
Did you ever wish Ghostbusters starred a deadpan Irish driving instructor? Of course you didn’t. Nevertheless, Extra Ordinary exists, and I’m glad that it does. The driving instructor is Rose (Maeve Higgins), a lonely woman who used to exorcise ghosts with her father before she believes she inadvertently caused his death. There’s also Martin (Barry Ward), a widower with a teenage daughter, who is dealing with his deceased wife still haunting his house. If you add a washed-up pop star named Christian Winter (Will Forte), who is trying to make a deal with the devil for another hit, you start to make it sound really twee and annoying.
It isn’t though, to my surprise. I’m not turned off by stuff that’s a little too precious. I enjoy the majority of Wes Anderson’s films–and several indies that coasted off of his success–but once it veers to far into quirky-for-the-sake-of-it, then it’s like nails on a chalkboard to me. Luckily, Extra Ordinary is closer to What We Do in the Shadows when it comes to its style and comedy. Higgins in particular is hilarious as the lead. She’s not afraid to seem goofy or sad, and that actually gives her character a lot of dignity. She is who she is, and she knows it.
Rose is a reluctant hero, getting dragged into the story when Martin’s daughter Sarah (Emma Coleman) is possessed and caught under the spell of Christan Winter, who plans to sacrifice the teen during a blood moon. That means Rose and Martin need to collect ectoplasm from seven spirits before then in order to break Sarah from the spell. To do that, Rose has to stop ignoring the calls she’s been receiving from the townsfolk and put her real talents to use.
The exorcisms are the most fun parts of the film. Higgins and Ward bounce off of each other really well, and Ward’s deceptively everyday good-looks hide an affinity for impression when it comes time for Martin to be possessed by these spirits. He’s a good sport, and he spends a lot of time spitting some unknown gel into jars, so he deserves extra credit for that. The movie is pretty gooey as a whole, with Sarah being put in this position because Christian and his wife Claudia (Claudia O’Doherty) accidentally blow up their first virgin sacrifice.
Forte is the “big name” in the production, and he brings to it exactly what he’s supposed to. He’s obviously the broadest character — give or take some of Martin’s inhabitants — but he doesn’t go so over the top that he grates. He’s always had a weird energy, and it works well in a film with this kind of tone. When he’s walking around town with a big staff shaped like a penis to locate another virgin, it does actually feel like people in the town would shrug it off pretty quickly. That’s just the world they live in.
Generally the film is shot in a very locked-down and centered way, adding to the indie aesthetic. The only time the feel of the film hinders things is during the climax. It’s arguably the most important part of Extra Ordinary, but it’s easily the weakest. There’s just too much going on, and the movie itself isn’t built for something so frenzied. It would be different if it felt like a purposeful build-up, but everything else is so deliberately paced that it just feels like more and more characters and payoffs are stacked on top of each other with diminishing returns. Luckily, the finale also has some good, simple, creepy effects with the cast doing the best that they can.
Extra Ordinary is worth checking out if you love movies like Tucker & Dale vs. Evil, What We Do in the Shadows, or Severance. It’s a worthy entry to the horror-comedy genre, and I hope a lot of people discover it and enjoy it, too.