★★★★1/2 out of ★★★★★
A near pitch-perfect possession horror comedy from Ireland, featuring one of the most endearing and unlikely horror heroines in recent memory.
Directed by Mike Ahern and Edna Loughman
One of the most unexpected favorite films coming out of the Overlook film festival is the little Irish horror-comedy Extra Ordinary. The film stars Maeve Higgins as Rose Dooley, a modest driving instructor who had previously gained notoriety for participating with her father as a supernatural medium, and an exorcist in training. Past mishaps has Rose hiding from her past as a seer, but circumstances, and a romantic interest brings Rose back to her past.
Barry Ward is Martin Martin, a widower whose daughter Sarah (Emma Coleman) has been pestering him to deal with his relationship of her ghostly mother, who continues to badger Martin as a largely benign poltergeist. Martin ends up contacting Rose, trying to satisfy Sarah’s request. He requests driving lessons from Rose, who is smitten by Martin’s modesty and charm, though she is very shy with men, lacking confidence in all things romantic.
The third major player is Christian Winter (Will Forte) a fading, a largely naturally inartistic pop star, whose global hit was the result of a demonic pact, and as he is becoming cash strapped to pay for his castle, decides that it is time for him to make another virgin sacrifice, and sets forth in finding, capturing, and offering some poor helpless virgin soul to get him back in hit-making mode. He uses his phallic virgin finding staff (a very amusing scene) and settles in on Sarah as his target after the virgin he had been preparing exploded. (Hysterically funny bits involving waking a levitating virgin sacrifice were served up quite amusingly.)
Rose and Martin find out that they make a fabulous team of mediums, but Rose has to overcome some inner guilt issues centering on her failure at an incantation that ended up disastrously for her ghost-hunting father. Eventually the duo begins to harvest ectoplasm, to rescue Sarah, courtesy of Marin expelling (barfing) up some disgusting white liquid to cleanse himself of ghosts who Rose transfers to him as a host.
The inevitable showdown is filled with multiple hilarious moments that capitalizes upon the awkward relationships and the insecurities of all the characters. The leads are bolstered by a fantastic supporting cast, who add additional flavor and character to the proceedings. The movie takes a “ghosts are everywhere” attitude, and that the ghosts are largely harmless and just a source of wayward souls, not something malign and evil.
Forte supplies most of the evil needed for the story, and his eye rolling grimace is a winner. Winter’s mustache deserves its own character name. Sometimes you wonder how performers like Yanni managed to be as successful as they are, and Forte translates that accidental mega-star vibe perfectly. The comedic timing is light and on-point for all the performers.
The romantic comedy angle could have felt forced, but the actors were so natural in their chemistry that it was hugely endearing. How many horror films can also integrate a good romantic comedy? The pickings are very very small where all of the elements click just right, and that’s what you get with Extra Ordinary. It’s light, it’s fun, it’s gross when it needs to be. It also provides homages in just the right way. Wait for a wonderful Exorcist reference that is similarly handled with great delicacy and timing.
Extra Ordinary is not yet rated, but would probably earn an R for sexual content, language, and a little bit of gore. And, as it is still working through the festival circuit it isn’t yet available for streaming yet, but keep an eye open for it in a few months, it’s worth the wait.