Fantasia Review: 'Extra Ordinary' Finds Dark Comedy in Psychic Horror Directed by Mike Ahern and Enda Loughman
Starring Maeve Higgins, Barry Ward, Will Forte, Claudia O'Doherty, Terri Chandler, Risteard Cooper, Emma Coleman
Published Jul 31, 2019Mike Ahern and Enda Loughman's feature debut, Extra Ordinary, opens with footage of a fictional TV show called Vincent Dooley's Investigating the Extraordinary — clips from the show play throughout the film as a way to divide it into chapters. In its introductory episode, Vincent (Risteard Cooper) discusses ghosts, and in all seriousness, explains that if we have nightmares after eating cheese, it means that we have eaten a ghost, because ghosts like to possess cheese (move over Annabelle!). It's the perfect way to introduce a buddy-comedy-horror that also acts as a spoof of the genre, with Maeve Higgins delivering the best comedic performance of the year.
The film follows Rose Dooley (Higgins), a driving school instructor with an extraordinary talent: she's able to communicate with the dead. But she swore she'd never use her supernatural powers again, because she blames them for killing her father. "I'm sorry for murdering you, daddy," she says in her opening line. Her sister Sailor (Terri Chandler) assures her that it was an accident, but asks, "What do they call it when you kill your father anyway? Dadslaughter?" It's not a situation that should be laughable, but the film manages to take so many serious moments and make you feel guilty for finding pleasure in them.
Rose is haunted by her father, as much as she is haunted by the whispers of ghosts in sheets that want her attention. But then she meets Martin Martin (Barry Ward), who's being haunted by his aggressive, dead wife Bonnie. Rose's spiritual intuitions are well known in town, and on the advice of his daughter Sarah (Emma Coleman), he calls Rose for help.
Martin pretends he wants driving lessons and is apprehensive about Rose's supposed talents, as he believes the Dooleys to be crazy, but there's a spark (literally) and the two bond quickly. The chemistry between Higgins and Ward is palpable, with the pair playing off each other to provide the biggest gags. It wouldn't be a surprise if their dialogue was improvised.
Extra Ordinary subsequently shifts its focus to fictional recording artist Christian Winter (Will Forte), a one-hit-wonder who is hoping to climb the charts once again with a new album, but he's using Satanism to do it. Conducting satanic rituals in his castle outside of town, he uses what his wife Claudia (Claudia O'Doherty) calls a "dick rod" to find a virgin to sacrifice. The virgin he finds just happens to be Martin's daughter Sarah. Rose breaks the sworn oath to herself to never use her powers again in order to help Martin save Sarah. The duo experiences many hilarious ghostly encounters along the way, with Rose also hoping this crisis will result in Martin falling in love with her.
Ahern and Loughman, along with Higgins and Demian Fox, craft a script that excels more as a comedy than a horror, but it still includes amusing nods to films like Batman Returns, The Exorcist, and Ghostbusters. You can tell that Extra Ordinary was a project brought together by people who love the genre, and it could easily be added to any best debuts list.
But the directors aren't the only first timers. For many of members of the cast, this is their first acting gig, but you would never know it. With the natural talents and list of comedians as headliners, there's rarely any scene that isn't humorous. It's not that the narrative relies heavily on jokes either, the dialogue is just as clever and hilarious as the cast's line delivery. All of this creating the best horror-comedy mashup in recent memory and a story that also provides poignant themes of acceptance and moving on.