Have you ever had a movie hit you at just the right time and in just the right way, becoming an instant favorite as the credits roll? A movie so delightful and charming that you feel the need to tell everyone about it immediately? For a lot of people I know, that movie was something like Paddington 2 or Frozen. In my case, that film is Extra Ordinary.
Lest the “comparison” to two children’s films confuse you, Extra Ordinary is not a children’s film. It’s an Irish film which centers around around a woman who can communicate with the dead colliding with a washed up musician attempting to regain fame and fortune through Satanic means. Though it’s classified as a horror-comedy, directors Mike Ahern and Enda Loughman are clearly interested in making their audience chuckle rather than scream.
Maeve Higgins plays Rose, a socially awkward driving instructor with a famous talent that she doesn’t use anymore after it resulted in the death of her father. Her voicemail is full of people wanting her assistance with hauntings, and her sister is desperate to find her companionship. Then, along comes Martin Martin (Barry Ward), a nice single father whose late wife haunts him and his teenage daughter. Rose takes a liking to him, but refuses to help him with her gifts.
Meanwhile, washed up musician Christian Winter (Will Forte), who wouldn’t be out of place in a Jared Hess film with his self-centered eccentricities and bad hairpiece, is attempting to reclaim fame and fortune. When his nagging wife (Claudia O’Doherty) accidentally causes his virgin sacrifice to explode before the ritual, Christian has to find a new one — and sets his sights on Martin’s daughter. This prompts Rose to help the single father
The set up sounds darker on paper than it is in practice. Extra Ordinary keeps its tone light and amiable, never veering so far into darkness as to wipe the smiles of its viewers’ faces. It’s more in line with What We Do in the Shadows than The Exorcist — but that doesn’t mean the filmmakers aren’t fans of the classic horror film. It lovingly spoofs and subverts the expectations of the Satanic panic films of the ’70s and ’80s, all while never forgetting to be its own thing entirely.
A large part of what makes Extra Ordinary work is its endearing characters and the performances that bring them to sweet, awkward life. Higgins and Ward make an adorable pairing; you’re not likely to find more likeable leads in any other movie this year (and that’s not just because everything is currently getting delayed to next). An early scene has Higgins rummaging through the fridge in her spanks, relatable as ever in a time like this. Martin is sweet as a man scared of his wife’s easily irritated spirit, and his unwavering desire to do right by his daughter makes him a protagonist easy to root for. Ward also gets to shine in a dual role during the third act as he hilariously becomes inhabited by a chainsmoking spirit.
While the protagonists are affable, the same can’t be said for the villains of the film — though they’re also a hoot to watch. Forte’s self centered and talentless musician just can’t seem to catch a break. Between his own mental hangups and his wife’s constant belittlement, he finds himself growing more and more frustrated as the film reaches its climax. As his antics get more desperate and heinous, the humor increases tenfold. Forte is clearly having a wonderful time in the role, and O’Doherty scores big laughs as his gold digging wife who doesn’t understand how black magic works.
From humorous driving lessons to gross out gags involving ectoplasm, Extra Ordinary keeps the laughs steady and diverse. Even when characters reveal tragic backstories, they’re always punctuated with a gag. The jokes land with amazing consistency, even when throats are being slit and characters are being dragged into the underworld (again, it sounds darker in writing than it actually plays).
While its light tone is its greatest strengths, this could potentially alienate those looking for something scarier in their horror comedies. It’s a surprisingly sweet movie, more of a romantic comedy that just happens to contain possessions and Satanic sacrifice — and the funniest love scene you’re likely to see in this lifetime. With very little in the way of gore or scary images, I hesistate to even classify this as a “horror” film. With its mix of dry humor and endearing awkwardness, Extra Ordinary moves quickly and pleasantly through its runtime. It’s a film so full of delightful surprises, it becomes one itself.