Horror Comedy is ‘Extra Ordinary’

by Nick Spacek on March 5, 2020

in Print Reviews,Reviews

[Rating: Solid Rock Fist Up]

Written and directed by Mike Ahern and Enda Loughman, the horror comedy Extra Ordinary (opening March 6 from Cranked Up Films at Alamo Mainstreet and Screenland Armour) is the rare bird of a film which manages to be zany and restrained at the same time. Starring Maeve Higgins as Rose Dooley, the film manages to subvert expectations at every turn, and the resulting experience makes for a quietly riotous film.

“Rose, a sweet, lonely driving instructor in rural Ireland, is gifted with supernatural abilities. Rose has a love/hate relationship with her ‘talents’ & tries to ignore the constant spirit related requests from locals – to exorcise possessed rubbish bins or haunted gravel. But! Christian Winter, a washed up, one-hit-wonder rock star, has made a pact with the devil for a return to greatness! He puts a spell on a local teenager- making her levitate. Her terrified father, Martin Martin, asks Rose to help save his daughter. Rose has to overcome the fear of her supernatural gift & work with Martin to save the girl, get the guy and be home in time for a light snack…maybe a yogurt or something…”

Watching Extra Ordinary, one is immediately struck by the feeling of restraint which fills the entire movie. While Ahern and Loughman’s script frequently inspires cackling laughter and more than a few instances of loudly-exclaimed “Ha!”, the film never feels as though it’s going for cheap laughs. It’s astonishingly dry, even when characters are vomiting ectoplasm into jam jars or possessed virgins explode in splattery gore.

Much of that is due to Higgins as Rose and Barry Ward as Martin Martin, as their portrayal of two people who are shy and awkward when compared to the brazenly honest folks who surround them. They’re sweet and frequently put-upon, but never does it seem to result in performances which beg for sympathy. You honestly empathize with these two, really cheering for them to overcome their past tragedies and current sad positions.

The contrast between the likes of Rose and Martin and their closest counterparts – Rose’s sister, Sailor (Terri Chandler), and Martin’s daughter, Sarah (Emma Coleman) – who are brash and unrestrained, makes for a fun and funny series of interactions. Despite the fact that our protagonists can’t be more different from their family members, there’s not a sense of irritation. These folks genuinely love one another, and are really hoping for the best for their family.

This is all, of course, contrasted with Rose’s past experiences as a paranormal investigator with her father, Vincent (Risteárd Cooper), who died tragically in an accident when she was young. The VHS tapes which pop up to introduce various segments of Extra Ordinary are perfectly ’80s vintage, all full of interlacing and a bit of fuzz, and Vincent’s deadpan delivery as he introduces floating goats or explaining Satanic rituals. It’s material which wouldn’t be out of place on Tim & Eric, delivered in a way which could easily be seen as chock-full of irony on the part of the filmmakers, but it’s so forthrightly manufactured, it comes back around to pure sincerity.

What makes Extra Ordinary work so well is that it’s a haunting comedy, which allows for subversion of so many tropes – the local investigator, the harried parent worried for their child, and the outsider looking to do harm – by simply allowing them to play out.  Ahern and Loughman aren’t afraid to use pauses and long looks at a scene to let the humor come naturally, which is a blessed change from winking acknowledgment to the viewer. The scenes with Will Forte as Christian Winter will be of no surprise to anyone who’s ever seen the former SNL actor’s MacGruber, which is itself a film that also plays with the line between homage and subversive parody.

By the time we’ve reached the inevitable final showdown, all of the characters have been given time to breathe and come into their own, making for a finale which actually has stakes, in which we’re rooting with real gusto for good to triumph over evil. It all wraps up a little too quickly for my tastes, with a few too many things crammed into the final 15 minutes, but that’s just as much due to wanting to spend some more time with these folks as it is an issue with the script.

Nick is a self-described “rock star journalist,” which is strange, considering he’s married with two kids and three cats. This is just further proof that you can’t trust anyone online. In addition to his work for Scene-Stealers, Nick can be found bitching about music elsewhere on the Internet at his blog, Rock Star Journalist, and the Pitch’s Wayward Blog.

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