Maybe it’s my advancing years, but a sub-genre I’ve really found myself gravitating toward is the oddly gentle horror/comedy. Completely unsure of what that means? Well, the best example I can think of right now is last year’s unbearably sweet Little Monsters – which saw Lupita Nyong’o’s kindergarten teacher strive to keep the tots under here care from being eaten or traumatised by a sudden zombie infestation at a petting farm and Taika Watiti’s utterly perfect What We Do In The Shadows. Gentle, yet painfully hilarious, they proved that not all horror comedies have to bludgeon you in the face with stunning un-subtlety to garner a laugh (although I do also like this approach) and had you grinning from ear to ear by the time the credits rolled after it’s feel good ending.
Well now we have another film that treats it’s material with a soft (and frequently silly) hand with Extra Ordinary, a hilarious Irish indie that blends the down to earth drawl of Derry Girls with the horror-flavoured cheese of the magnificent Garth Marenghi’s Dark Place to create something heartfelt, weird and very, very funny.
Rose is a lonely driving instructor saddled with the startlingly original “talent” to spot the dead. They’re all around us at all times, desperately lonely and trying to get our attention by causing things to float or tap randomly. It’s a world that the painfully single Rose knows too well ever since she renounced her gift after her paranormal investigator father died in an unfortunate incident involving a haunted pothole and now she spends her evenings alone, eating yoghurt and microwave lasagne in her pants while bouncing on an exercise ball.
Living a similarly miserable life is Martin Martin (not a typo) a single parent widower whose domineering wife is still bullying him for things like putting bowls in the wrong place in the dish washer despite the fact that she’s very, very dead. Taking his teen daughters advice and calling up Rose for help she takes quite a shine to the sweet, soft spoken man but complications arise in the form of Christian Winter, an American former one hit wonder desperate to jump start his stalled career via the rather niche market of sacrificing a virgin to Satan. Using his Virgin Divination Rod (which has a phallus on the end and is referred to as a “willy stick” by his awful wife”) he selects Martin’s daughter as his victim to be and after casting a spell she is found by her father comatose and floating four feet above the bed. Finally agreeing to help, Rose and Martin have break the spell by going around and performing exorcisms around town in order to collect the ectoplasm left behind as it’s a main ingredient needed to break the trance but as the lonely couple start to bond, time gradually is running out as the Blood Moon is imminent and Winter is anxious to get his career back on track.
Loaded with quiet, yet intelligent invention – a lot of exposition is delivered in the form of clips from a grainy video series recorded by Rose’s father which involve floating goats and sinister cheese – Extra Ordinary utterly killed during it’s 2019 festival run and upon watching it’s easy to see why as the movie instantly works it’s way into your heart thanks to it’s cabal of sweetly eccentric characters.
Maeve Higgins is magnificent as the desperately sad Rose whose awakening feelings for Martin and her stilted social ways make her hugely endearing (“Oh, I haven’t read it.” she replies when someone name checks Ghostbusters), similarly, Barry Ward has much the same effect as the timid Martin but scores some amazing laughs when it’s discovered he has also has a talent for being a conduit for the dead and so the latter half of the film has him adopt a couple of very different personas which includes the no-bullshit of his tyrannical wife. In comparison, Will Forte’s weak willed satanist is a tad less interesting but still manages to mine some top comedy from scenes involving a disastrous driving lesson or patiently trying to deal with his gobby wife.
The most spectacular thing about Extra Ordinary, however, is the sheer amount of confidence the first time filmmaking team of Mike Ahern and Enda Loughman display in both their cracking script and the finished film which will hopefully signal the beginning of long and entertaining careers. How can you not want more from a duo that include a car chase that involves two vehicles following a possessed, floating girl down a country road where none of them manages to get above speeds of five miles an hour, or a climatic appearance of the demon Astaroth who is comprised entirely out of linen. The directing duo flex their muscles when it comes to various subtle nods when it comes to the film’s horror roots with sneaky references here and there to such movies as (of course) The Exorcist and Drag Me To Hell.
Ireland seems to be somewhat of a tiny mecca of knowing, under-the-radar, genre comedies (also check out 2012’s wonderfully Tremors-like Grabbers, if you get a chance) and this movie is hugely deserving of any cult status it most assuredly deserves and hopefully it’s appearance on streaming sites will bolster the amount of people who will undoubtedly enjoy it’s many pleasures.
Warm, heartfelt and loaded with genuine hilarious characters and situations, Extra Ordinary is out there just waiting for you to take… possession of it’s many joys.