I’ve heard it said that people who have a talent for creating comedy have a natural proclivity towards also making horror. The idea being that both genres are heavily indebted towards timing, something that can be very hard to master. So, if you end up finding yourself as someone who can successfully pull off a joke, you can probably extrapolate those skills to pull off a successful scare. And, I think that that idea tracks pretty well. So, it makes sense that comedy and horror blend together so well. For the longest time the only horror movies that I was ever actually connecting with were also comedies, sometimes blatant spoofs of genres and sometimes just a tongue-in-cheek take on a horror premise. So, whenever I see someone taking a stab at making a comedic horror movie, it usually can catch my interest. And, when I then see that its a magnificently charming-looking and quirky little film that is playing with a goofy take on a story of demonic magic possessing people in a small Irish town, I was very interested. Extra Ordinary looked like an absolute delight to me, and after hearing some solid buzz from the various festivals it played last year I found myself eagerly awaiting when it would finally get released in the States. And, it was well worth the wait, because this film is indeed a delight.
The story revolves around a woman named Rose Dooley who lives in a small town in Ireland working as a driving instructor, and doing her best to distance herself from her childhood. Her father was a prominent psychic and paranormal investigator who included Rose in his work, until his accidental death. Rose swore off anything paranormal at that point, and has done her best to lead a quiet, boring life in the ensuing decades. Unfortunately, that becomes difficult when Rose is contacted by a man named Martin Martin. He and his teenage daughter Sarah have been living in a house that’s been haunted by the ghost of Martin’s late-wife Bonnie, and Sarah convinces Martin that they need to get help from Rose. So, he attempts to pretend that he’s interested in driving lessons, only to try and get help from Rose. But, she refuses, and Martin heads back to his haunted house. Meanwhile, we learn that a one-hit-wonder prog rock musician named Christian Winter has moved to the town, and that he’s currently engaged in some sort of Satanic ritual to sacrifice a virgin on the night of a Blood Moon in order to gain commercial appeal again. And, after accidentally killing the virgin he already caught, he heads into the town to find a new one, and ends up selecting Sarah. He casts a spell on Sarah, and that night she begins floating in a trance. Martin is pretty terrified about that, and ends up calling Rose for help. And, despite some reticence, she found herself developing a connection with Martin, and decides to come help.
Rose is pretty out of her league regarding this possession, but using her dad’s old books she ends up finding that the only way to break this sort of spell is to get ectoplasm from seven different ghosts. Luckily, Rose has been getting voicemails about various hauntings for years, so she and Martin head out, let a ghost inhabit Martin, and then collect ectoplasm after finishing the ghost’s business. They get some success, and get ready to do much more work the next day. However, Christian becomes aware of their scheme to stop him, and begins plotting a spell to destroy Rose’s abilities, at the same time that Rose starts to doubt them in fear of getting Martin hurt like she did with her father. However, Martin convinces her to help him anyway, and they head around getting all the ectoplasm they needed, until it becomes clear that the last one they’re going to need will come from Bonnie. But, Bonnie doesn’t want to be exercised. She antagonizes Rose, all while Christian and his wife Claudia arrive and steal Sarah. By the time they realize that something is a foot they’re forced to rely on a magpie inhabited by the soul of Rose’s father to Christian’s castle. But, they’re too late. Christian completes the ritual, and a demon arrives to take Sarah. However, it turns out that Sarah isn’t a virgin, and it decides to take Rose instead, who turns out to actually be a virgin. Luckily, Martin is able to have very quick sex with Rose though, defeating the demon, who takes Christian to Hell with it as recompense. We then see that Martin and Rose have started a paranormal investigation business together, moving on with their life.
This movie is a whole lot of fun. It’s incredibly goofy, tells a fun little ghost story, and ends up really leaning into an Irish aesthetic. Especially in the form of Rose’s father’s VHS videos on the paranormal, which really seem to be inspired by the old Love Around You shorts where someone deadpans very ridiculous things over grainy stock footage. I do think that the whole virgin climax gets a little strange, especially when they all get kind of mortified that Sarah isn’t a virgin, but I guess it’s hard to escape sexual mores in a Catholic-dominated society. But, that minor quibble aside, the movie is just a whole lot of fun. Rose and Martin are incredibly charming and just really fun characters. Will Forte aside I really wasn’t familiar with any of the actors in the film, and I ended up adoring all of their performances, especially Billy Ward as Martin as he began rapidly switching through the various personalities of the ghosts that are allowed to possess him temporarily. And, Will Forte is a hoot in the film, playing a wonderfully campy musician whose whole motivation to get the movie rolling is hilarious. It’s just a very fun and good natured movie full of silly supernatural elements, and a whole lot of heart.
Because, at its core, this is a movie about people learning to cope with past trauma, and move on with their lives. Which, honestly, it probably the best way to use ghosts. Ghosts are literalized versions of our pasts, something lingering over us and holding sway past its prime, and in this film we have Martin being unable to deal with the death of his wife, and Rose being unable to deal with her father’s death perhaps being tangentially her fault. These things have completely dominated both of their lives, to the point that they’re become something of recluses, slaves to the ghosts of their past. Martin is essentially in an abusive relationship with the ghost of his dead wife, and Rose lives a sad life where she has literally locked away the memory of her father. And yet, when the come into contact with each other they end up finding that they have the ability to help each other break out of those patterns. They’re both holding back elements of their lives, and find those missing elements in each other, able to move past their issues. They can’t keep ignoring them, they have to confront them and realize that life is for the living, and they can’t keep dwelling on the past. And, by the end of the film, they’re doing better. They have a business, and Rose even turns down a proposal, because she realizes that she can lead her own life, with Martin’s help, and can do whatever she wants. Because the idea of being freed of your emotional baggage is a very beautiful one.
Extra Ordinary was written and directed by Mike Ehern and Enda Loughman and released by Wildcard Distribution and Cranked Up Films, 2020.
Categories: Reel Talk