SXSW 2019: Extra Ordinary
There’s zany and then there’s Extra Ordinary zany. Writer-directors Mike Ahern and Enda Loughman’s supernatural comedy leans on spoofing and homaging the classics, like The Exorcist and Ghostbusters but it really, truly becomes its own unique concoction by the end, going beyond the ridiculous and becoming enjoyably endearing.
The film begins with a VHS taped program, hosted by a paranormal expert in rural Ireland. We jump to the present where the expert’s daughter, Rose, is living her life as a driving instructor, trying to hide away her father’s past and her gift of communicating to the dead. Things get complicated when Christian Winter, an American pop star, in hopes of finding fame once again moves to Rose’s town. Not going the conventional route of writing his next hit album, Christian plans to sacrifice a virgin as part of his pact with the devil, and Rose must use her powers to stop him.
Maeve Higgins plays Rose, the lonely 30-something who immediately falls for Martin Martin (Barry Ward), a widowed father whose dead wife is haunting both him and their daughter. It’s here where Extra Ordinary has some much needed heart; it could have easily been a grating, wacky comedy experience, but the character of Rose is both refreshingly unconventional and naturally funny to boot. Martin and Rose form their own paranormal team, hoping to save his daughter from demonic possession, as they try to stop Christian. Writers Ahem and Loughman build a unique methodology for their supernatural world, and Higgins and Ward are game for the physical gags built in — one running gag involves ectoplasm and credit goes to everyone involved for making it both disgusting and hilarious in equal measure.
Will Forte absolutely goes for it as the eccentric, yet evil, Christian. Forte, as always, is committed, dressed in robes and chanting spells to get his way, he gets many of the film’s laughs. He’s aided by his wife Claudia (Claudia O'Doherty), who’s frustrated by the rigmarole behind his husband’s witchcraft. Once Christian and Claudia are introduced into the film it does feel jarring; these two, as hilarious a combo as they are, feel like they’re in their own separate movie, exploding levitating possessed virgins aside. It’s not until the beyond outlandish final act that all these elements come together into a, I dare say it, beautiful orgy of absurdity.
It helps that this quirky comedy features competent and never-lazy character work from its supporting players. Terri Chandler plays Rose’s pregnant and dating sister, Sailor, and helps Rose in her lovelorn quest, with plenty of dirty jokes, and only adds to the insanity of that final act. Ward as Martin Martin is the perfect straight man for a majority of the film, but once Rose tries to rid Martin’s home of his ex-wife’s spirit, she screws it up and Martin is possessed by his wife — that’s just the half of it, really. And I want to give special recognition to O’Doherty as Claudia, who does steal the show whenever she’s on screen and deserves a lot more comedic roles in high profile films immediately.
I keep alluding to Extra Ordinary’s final act, and I don’t want to spoil exactly what happens. It’s in the final moments that the film won me over. For most of the film, the plot feels a tad too convoluted for its own good, and the cartoonish antics are close to exhaustic, but the payoff is more than worth it. And that final line in the film is close to genius, too. Go along for the ride, get lost in the zaniness, and you’ll be won over by Extra Ordinary.