The reason there seems to be a plethora of horror-comedies is that the set up for both share a number of similarities. First comes a normal situation, followed by something that isn’t quite right, then the punchline, or scare, lands. Interestingly, there is less of a pervasive presence of a full-blown comedy that uses horror trappings. They do exist, to be sure, they are just rarer than movies trying to balance both. Co-writers and co-directors Mike Ahern and Enda Loughman keep this subgenre alive and well with Extra Ordinary (yes, it is two words).
As a child, Rose Dooley (Agatha Ellis) and her father Vincent (Risteard Cooper) hosted a paranormal program where they attempted to help people who were experiencing the unexplained. Vincent could channel the spirits into his body, and Rose could talk to them. They did this until a terrible accident involving a dog, a magpie, and a sewer demon killed Vincent.
Decades later, Rose (Maeve Higgins) is now a driving instructor, having left that side of her life behind after the tragedy. She’s incredibly close with her pregnant sister Sailor (Terri Chandler) and no one else. In her small Irish town, Martin (Barry Ward) and his teenage daughter Sarah (Emma Coleman) are being haunted by their departed wife/ mom. This ghost chooses what clothes they’ll wear, their diet, she seems to have control issues in general.
Sarah is at her wit’s end and convinces her dad to call Rose for help. Shortly after that, 1980s one-hit wonder Christian Winter (Will Forte) uses his occult magic to track down a virgin to sacrifice on the blood moon to regain the fame and wealth he once had. Now, Martin and Rose must save an unconscious, floating Sarah, whom Christian chose for the ritual. The duo must travel all over town excising ghosts to collect seven jars of ectoplasm to cast a specific spell.
“…the duo must travel all over town excising ghosts to collect seven jars of ectoplasm to cast a specific spell.”
Extra Ordinary begins with an episode of the show Vincent and Rose hosted together. Vincent goes on about the varying strength of ghosts determines the sort of objects they can haunt; save for cheese. Cheese and ghosts are made of the same stuff, so it is incredibly easy for all ghosts to haunt cheeses. These ridiculous claims are presented with the most second rate, public access production value imaginable; and I was riotously laughing the whole time.
The script is, and the gags come at a fast and furious pace. Christian uses a special wooden staff to help him find the right person for the sacrifice; it is adorned with a giant penis and an ancient demon at the base. For him to use it, he has to pick up, say a short incantation then drop the stick. It will point in the right direction, so he walks up to one end of it, picks back and repeats the whole process. It is as absurd as it sounds and it is hysterical.
The best part though is probably the car chase. See, the virgin sacrifice floats to the destination of the ritual. Christian and his wife Claudia (Claudia O’Doherty), after breaking Rose’s holding spell follow Sarah in their car, to ensure she arrives safely. Discovering that his daughter is missing, Martin and Rose start looking for her. They saddle up behind the occultists’ car, going, at best 10 kilometers per hour. Watching the slow-moving chaos will make anyone smile.
Ahern and Loughman did not eschew characterization either. Rose is easy to sympathize with, and her refusal to acknowledge her powers makes sense. Sarah’s frustration with her dad is believable, as are Martin’s reasons for not wanting to let go of his spouse entirely. Sailor a hairdresser, goes from man to man, to the point that I am not sure even she knows whose kid she’s carrying. However, she’s always there for sister and wants the best for Rose.
“Cheese and ghosts are made of the same stuff, so it is incredibly easy for all ghosts to haunt cheeses.”
Extra Ordinary features a strong cast giving it their all. Higgins, whom the role of Rose was explicitly written for, is astounding. At the behest of Sailor, Rose spies on Martin, as they had instant chemistry. Martin goes to talk to Sarah, who is at work. Rose goes in using a mop to hide her face and an outrageous, clearly fake voice that will put you into stitches. Barry Ward’s straight man routine only lasts half the runtime, if that. See, to collect the ectoplasm, the spirits must enter his body and then he vomits up the white goop. Ward’s physicality here is impressive and when he becomes possessed by his wife, the manner in which he holds himself is excellent.
Will Forte plays his oblivious character at just this side of sardonic and it works. All he wants is to be famous again, and while his methods are questionable, he is affably goofy. To learn of a weakness, Christian secures the services of Rose as a driving instructor. This isn’t a send-up, as Christian’s greatest fear is to drive. After a brief moment in the car, having gone only a few feet, if that, Christian decides that might be all he can handle today. Then he just waits in the car until Rose gets out and opens the door for him. O’Doherty’s character never understands the sacrifices, nor why they can only be killed at certain times. The way she’s always this clueless juxtaposed against her sharp, quick thinking, means she gets a lot of the heartiest laughs of the movie.
Those expecting that a movie about an occult sacrifice to ever become scary will be disappointed with Extra Ordinary. The filmmakers use the trappings of that kind of film for an all-out comedy. Thanks to its nonstop jokes, strong, likable characters, and marvelous cast the movie is hysterical.
Extra Ordinary (2019) Directed by Mike Ahern, Enda Loughman. Written by Enda Loughman, Mike Ahern, Maeve Higgins, Demian Fox. Starring Maeve Higgins, Barry Ward, Will Forte, Claudia O’Doherty, Terri Chandler, Emma Coleman, Risteard Cooper.
9 out of 10 Haunted Gravels