‘Extra Ordinary’ is a Feast for the Jaded Horror-Comedy Palate (Fantasia 2019)

I’m going to do something I never do in a review: shout out to my friends/colleagues. Both Karen and Kristen informed me numerous times that when the Irish horror-comedy Extra Ordinary came to a festival, theater, or streaming service near me, I needed to see it. Okay, I thought, if you say so. Then, Fantasia 2019 listed it as part of their lineup, and I settled down to watch. About fifteen minutes in, I understood. For Extra Ordinary is my sense of humor in film form. This film is me.

Extra Ordinary is the tale of a driving instructor, Rose Dooley (Maeve Higgins, replacing Miranda Hart in my heart), who gave up exercising her talents as a spiritual medium after she “dad slaughtered” her paranormal investigator father in an exorcism gone wrong. But though she gave up the spirits, the spirits didn’t give her up, and she still sees them every day as she travels about her small Irish town. She’s finally called into the home of Martin Martin (Barry Ward), who’s haunted by his deceased and nagging wife. At his daughter Sarah’s (Emma Coleman) insistence, he begs Rose to help him get rid of the wife and finally give them both some peace. Meanwhile, former one-hit-wonder Christian Winter (Will Forte) is living in a nearby castle and planning to sacrifice a virgin to Satan so that he might have another hit record. When he chooses Sarah as his sacrifice the race is on for Rose to trust her powers, save Sarah, and maybe get the guy.

Extra Ordinary is a funny, bizarre Irish Ghostbusters, in the best possible way. It reinvigorates the flagging horror-comedy genre by providing funny and occasionally terrifying twists on common tropes. The ghosts are treated as regular people, usually hanging about because they refuse to let go of something, or feel that they still need to help out their family members (or just harass them). The films balances between comedy and drama as it develops Rose’s fears about using her powers again. It becomes as much about her accepting the remarkable person that she is as it is about finding humor in her situation. The result is a film with far more heart and emotional resonance than I expected, all without sacrificing the comedy. There are even some legitimately frightening sequences, including one evil spirit far scarier than anything Ari Aster could come up with.

Forte might be the biggest name in Extra Ordinary, but he doesn’t dominate it. Instead, hilarious performances stud the cast, from Barry Ward’s charmingly befuddled love interest, to Terri Chandler as Rose’s foul-mouthed, pregnant sister. Maeve Higgins holds a writing credit on the script and is truly a lovely, funny screen presence. The script never treats Rose as a pathetic person, but as someone who has tried to bury her own amazingness because she’s afraid it will wind up hurting someone she loves. Of course, she has to find those gifts again, and forgiveness for herself, in order to save the day.

As with any comedy, there are some jokes that fall flat and some sections that appear elided over, or dismissed entirely, to move toward the conclusion. But these issues pale in comparison to what Extra Ordinary does well. This is a different kind of ghost story that uses tropes in unique ways while crafting its own fantasy concepts and rules. Much of the humor recalls similar Irish horror-comedies like Grabbers, a drunken Lovecraftian mashup that defies categorization. But Extra Ordinary is something all its own. It’s simply delightful, a deft, intelligent, very funny movie. I cannot recommend it enough.

Extra Ordinary is showing at Fantasia 2019.

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