Horror comedies almost never work, but ‘Extra Ordinary’ has low-key charm
Fear and laughter don’t often mix well at the movies, but the slight, almost apologetic Irish horror comedy Extra Ordinary manages to balance its contradictions by going low-stakes. It’s about a woman named Rose (Maeve Higgins) with the power to communicate with the dead. In the 1980s, Rose’s father released a series of VHS tapes about ghosts. Rose worked with him to help people deal with restless spirits trapped between this world and the next.
EXTRA ORDINARY ★★★ (3/5 stars)
Directed by: Mike Ahern, Enda Loughman
Written by: Mike Ahern, Enda Loughman, Demian Fox, Maeve Higgins
Starring: Maeve Higgins, Barry Ward, Will Forte, Claudia O’Doherty, Jamie Beamish, Terri Chandler, Risteard Cooper
Running time: 94 min
Something terrible happened and now Rose works as a driving instructor while ignoring messages from people who want her to bust old ghosts. But a widower (Barry Ward) whose daughter is in danger and a has-been pop singer using Satanism to revive his career (Will Forte in full goofy villain mode) help Rose rediscover her talent for performing extremely modest exorcisms.
Extra Ordinary hit theaters on March 6 for a shortened theatrical run before indie cinemas made it available as a streaming option for a few weeks. That’s a shame because it’s exactly the kind of crowd-pleasing feature that would have benefitted from attentive audiences seeing it on a big screen. It’s now on iTunes, Amazon Prime, and other streaming services as a rental or purchase.
Extra Ordinary sometimes strains under the weight of trying to balance so many tones while cannily aping the visual aesthetic of drab ‘80s horror films like The Omen. But Higgins fills the lead performance with such sweetness and cheerful humor that the hauntings and demonic sacrifices in the story become secondary to the subtly-mined bits of verbal comedy. Ward’s role requires him to deftly inhabit multiple characters, but he primarily plays a long-suffering dad named Martin Martin. The way he complements Higgins’ warmth turns Extra Ordinary into an unexpectedly charming romantic comedy that blooms amid a bunch of gross ectoplasm sight gags and a broad and silly Will Forte performance that will test the patience of anyone who doesn’t like Will Forte.
The movie sprinkles in the daffy bits, such as Rose’s hilarious driving lessons, just enough to lull you into a sense that you’re in a sweet little Irish soap opera where nothing can go wrong apart for a few spooky apparitions. But the climax goes full bonkers. Not all viewers will enjoy the clash of tones at the end. But for those who grew up adjusting the tracking on their worn-out videotapes, watching weird ‘80s comedies that looked like first-time filmmakers (as is largely the case here) made them, Extra Ordinary will scratch a very specific nostalgic itch. This is a weird movie that is also weirdly lovable.