Title: Extra Ordinary
Director: Mike Ahern and Enda Loughman
Cast: Maeve Higgins, Barry Ward and Will Forte.
Extra Ordinary 2019 reviewed by ANDREW GARVEY
In the same way that Shaun of the Dead is firstly, a fantastic comedy that happens to be about a zombie apocalypse, Extra Ordinary is a hugely entertaining, riotously, sweetly funny film about ghosts, possession and demon-summoning.
Small town driving instructor Rose Dooley (stand-up comedian Maeve Higgins in a role specifically written for her) leads a quiet, gently lonely and anonymous life. Apart from the fact she’s the daughter of the departed 1980s(ish) television ghost hunter Vincent Dooley. Oh, and she can see and communicate with ghosts. But, blaming herself for her father’s untimely, and, we later find out, ludicrous, death she’s tried to put all that behind her.
Speaking of Vincent, clips of his old, fantastically cheap TV programme are interspersed throughout the film, working brilliantly as both exposition and jokes. Have you ever wondered why you get nightmares after eating cheese? Well, Vincent explains, you may have eaten a ghost, the spirit of the bacteria in the cheese that you consumed.
Such ridiculousness is what inspired the film in the first place – the idea of small, mundanely unnoticed hauntings and a single clickbait ‘news’ story about residents of an old folks’ home being groped by ghosts that was dealt with by a pair of part-time ghost wranglers, a lorry driver and a woman who worked in a bank.
Try as she might, Rose can’t really escape her past and, when she’s reluctantly contacted by Martin Martin (Barry Ward, who clearly has a great time playing him, especially when the mild-mannered man undergoes a surprising change in the final act) she’s dragged back in. Hen-pecked by the angry ghost of his wife, Martin ends up partnering with Rose to try and save his daughter from paranormal peril thanks to the arcane activities of one Christian Winter.
The film’s finest comic creation, Winter (played with absolute scenery-chewing joy by Will Forte) is living in Ireland for tax purposes and fast running out of money. He turns to Satanism in his desperate quest to relaunch his music career. A pathetic one-hit wonder from at least two decades earlier, Winter’s bumblingly repellent villain is a genuine joy to watch.
Speaking of joy, the jokes are a great mixture of a witty, warm, lively script, some brilliantly self-aware gags, a bit of slapstick and a sprinkling of filthy, but low-key lines. Taken together, the whole experience is constantly, consistently and engagingly funny.
Director and co-writer Ahern talked about the film (his first feature) after its English premiere at Manchester’s Grimmfest on 5th October. The Irish Film Board’s squeamishness about the subject matter delayed the financing of the film for a couple of years but, Ahern hopes, a successful run in cinemas and DVD/VOD will help secure the backing for a hoped-for adaptation of the central premise and characters as an episodic television show.
Hopefully, as a huge fan of classic 1990s Irish sitcom Father Ted (yes, the comparison is a predictably lazy one, sorry), I’ll get to see more of Rose and Martin’s spooky adventures in the future. Go and see it. Buy it. And support the best horror comedy from this part of the world in a long, long time.