Extra Ordinary (2020)
Written and Directed by Enda Loughman & Mike Ahern
The Conjuring meets Edgar Wright would be one of the best ways to describe this hilarious horror-comedy. Wright has such a distinct visual style, and it’s clear these filmmakers are great fans of his, putting those little touches without becoming a knock off. There is still enough of a distinct comedic voice that it differentiates itself but remains firmly in the same subgenre where these two types of films meet. There are some missteps along the way and some underused cast members, but overall it’s a refreshing break from the typical comedic pablum seen in theaters most weekends.
Rose (Maeve Higgins) is the daughter of a deceased paranormal investigator who has her own talent for channeling and seeing the spirits of the dead. She’s put all that behind her though after a terrible accident in her youth and now works as a driving instructor. Circumstances pull Rose back into that old life when she’s approached by Martin Martin (Barry Ward), whose wife is haunting his home and bullying him. The situation becomes even more complicated when Martin’s teenage daughter comes under the spell of a local Satanist. The devil-worshipper is Christian Winter (Will Forte), a famous singer whose heyday is long behind him. Winter has resorted to a pact with a demon to revive his career and needs to sacrifice a virgin under the upcoming Blood Moon.
The movie ends up being a charming romantic comedy between Rose and Martin with touches of some bloody gore and hauntings. The filmmakers manage to balance an endearing comedy with some gross-out moments spectacularly well. There is a subplot where Rose must collect ectoplasm to exorcise the ghost of Martin’s wife. She learns Martin can speak with and hear the dead, which makes him a vessel. She channels the spirits into Martin, who vomits them up in the form of viscous ooze into small jars. It never stops being funny, especially with the timing of these moments. The writers will give the two a sweet moment as they grow closer, and then Martin spews up some ectoplasm.
The funniest element of the movie is Maeve Higgins, who is spectacular. She has such great comedic instincts and plays Rose as a dorky, clever woman. She’s a bit naive, not knowing what The Exorcist or Ghostbusters are. The melodramatic aspects of her character and her relationship with her late father are played just absurdly enough that they feel honest & sweet but still incredibly silly. You can’t help but recall Paul Feig’s failed attempt at rebooting Ghostbusters with a female cast, who were all talented but forced to fall back on too much improv rather than work from a sharply written script. If only they had Maeve Higgins on their team, it might have salvaged that movie.
I was a bit disappointed with Will Forte in the movie. He has genuinely hilarious moments, but then some others that fall flat and seem like they should have been edited out or punched up. Forte is an actor who I think can lean into improv and come out with something spectacular. Here it feels like he’s trying to deliver gags that don’t quite fit his comedic persona at all times. Even worse is how wasted Australian comedian Claudia O’Doherty is as his wife. I loved O’Doherty’s performance in the Netflix series Love and when I saw she was attached here was even more excited to see the movie. I just don’t think the character was a good fit for her strengths. O’Doherty feels even flatter than Forte for most of the film, and I wish we could have seen her showcase just how funny she is is.
Extra Ordinary is well worth your time, especially if movies like Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz are some of your favorites. There’s a chipper energy to the whole affair, a horror-comedy with big stakes but also something that is going to deliver a happy ending. This has definitely put Maeve Higgins on my radar as an actress to seek out and anticipate future work from. She is so incredibly funny and is the crucial ingredient that makes this a must-see film.