Sadly, this year’s SXSW festival has been canceled, but one of last year’s most unexpected delights, “Extra Ordinary,” finally makes its way to theaters.
Maeve Higgins stars as Rose Dooley, a driving instructor from a small Irish town in this quirky horror comedy. But, you see, Rose isn’t just a driving instructor. She has spent years suppressing her talent for communicating with the dead. When the daughter of charmingly awkward widower Martin (Barry Ward) falls victim to a satanic ritual, Rose comes out of retirement to try to save the girl.
It may take a minute or two to get into the groove of “Extra Ordinary” and its oddball sense of humor. But once it settles into its story, it is a fun and very funny flick with a lot of smart dialogue and quick jokes. It’s the kind of movie that will hold up well on repeat viewings as we find new bits we missed the first time or three.
Maeve Higgins plays the self-deprecating loner very well. For some of us, Rose may hit just a little too close to home when she walks into her kitchen after a long day, drops her pants in the middle of the room and proceeds to eat yogurt while sitting on her yoga ball in a corner. This routine is perfectly normal and without words, Higgins is able to give us a peek into Rose’s mostly solitary life. She has her sister, Sailor (Terri Chandler), a foul-mouthed, single mom-to-be who also happens to be Rose’s strongest supporter. We don’t spend a lot of time with the sisters, but it’s clear they are healthily involved in each other’s lives.
Martin is an unexpected variable in Rose’s life. She’s content with how things are, not necessarily looking for more, but certainly open to it. Like Rose, Martin is a bit stuck, although for a much different reason. The ghost of his dead wife still hangs around, refusing to let go. The dynamic leads to some laugh-out-loud moments, and presents a different sort of haunting. Instead of Martin’s wife hanging around out of love, she won’t to move on because she’s kind of mad about being dead, and therefore won’t let him move on. It’s a creative and welcome twist on the classic idea of the dearly departed. The chemistry between Rose and Martin is natural and it’s easy to believe these two weirdos would find each other.
Added to the mix are American one-hit wonder, Christian Winter (Will Forte) and his wife Claudia (Claudia O’Doherty). Desperate to reclaim the fame he enjoyed decades ago, Christian sank the remains of his fortune into an Irish castle outside of town, the perfect location for selling his soul in exchange for another hit record. Forte’s terrible wigs and campy line delivery are perfectly balanced by O’Doherty’s strange blend of supportive and dismissive. She believes in what he’s doing so long as it stands to benefit her, but that won’t stop her from interrupting his incantations when the Chinese takeout arrives.
“Extra Ordinary” was written and directed by Mike Ahern and Enda Loughman, with additional writing from Demian Fox and Maeve Higgins. This horror comedy is far more comedy than horror. It is raunchy, but not too raunchy, finding the right balance between twisted and just plain wrong. Intermixed with the action on screen are cuts to a series of videos Rose and Sailor’s father made about the paranormal. These snippets are so delightfully reminiscent of old 80s mail-order VHS sets provide exposition through clever delivery.
If you enjoy quirky, slightly off-kilter writing that combines romantic comedy with the ritualistic sacrifice of virgins, and adds in silly 80s pop culture references, this is definitely the movie for you. This is the kind of movie that is destined for cult status.