Rose, a mostly sweet and lonely Irish driving instructor, must use her supernatural talents to save the daughter of Martin (also mostly sweet and lonely) from a washed-up rock star who is using her in a Satanic pact to reignite his fame.
A brilliant painter facing the worst creative block of her life turns to anything she can to complete her masterpiece, spiraling into a hallucinatory hellscape of drugs, sex and murder in the sleazy underbelly of Los Angeles.
Rose, a sweet, lonely driving instructor in rural Ireland, is gifted with supernatural abilities. Rose has a love/hate relationship with her 'talents' & tries to ignore the constant spirit related requests from locals - to exorcise possessed rubbish bins or haunted gravel. But! Christian Winter, a washed up, one-hit-wonder rock star, has made a pact with the devil for a return to greatness! He puts a spell on a local teenager- making her levitate. Her terrified father, Martin Martin, asks Rose to help save his daughter. Rose has to overcome the fear of her supernatural gift & work with Martin to save the girl, get the guy and be home in time for a light snack...maybe a yogurt or something...Written by
According to the cast, neither Maeve Higgins (Rose) or Claudia O'Doherty (Claudia) can drive in real life. Ironically, both Will Forte and Barry Ward, whose characters both take driving lessons in the film, can. See more »
A charming Irish ghost story that is consistently hilarious; but Chris de Burgh is definitely going to sue
The debut feature from writer/directors Mike Ahern and Enda Loughman, Extra Ordinary is an unexpectedly hilarious Irish ghost story. I'm sure there are other examples in the Irish comedy/ghost subgenre, but the only one I can think of off-hand is Neil Jordan's well-intentioned but poorly executed High Spirits (1988), a film built almost exclusively on "look how strange the Oorish are" humour. Extra Ordinary, on the other hand, isn't about the Irishness of the characters at all, focusing instead on their inherent decency, and, in the case of the villain, his tendency to call upon Astaroth so as to achieve musical success. As you do. It's a quant film in all the right ways, leaning into the trope of small-town people forced to deal with situations far beyond their ability, and it gets a lot of mileage out of just how completely out of their depth they find themselves. The humour is low-key and irreverent, but it doesn't rely on winking at an audience it assumes to be Irish - I would imagine most of the laughs will translate well to international markets. Some of the nuances will certainly be lost, but, by and large, the film is working with a broader palette by juxtaposing the supernatural with the utterly banal. And it works exceptionally well.
In an unspecified rural Irish town, Rose Dooley (stand-up comedienne Maeve Higgins, who is also credited with "additional writing") is a lonely driving instructor. Gifted with the ability to talk to ghosts, Rose hasn't communicated with the dead since a childhood incident with a haunted pothole (don't ask) left her father, paranormal researcher Vincent Dooley (Risteard Cooper, playing the character as if he's in an ultra-serious existentialist drama), dead. When Rose is contacted by Martin Martin (a superb Barry Ward) asking for a driving lesson, she happily obliges, and the two click. However, when Rose learns that his real reason for contacting her is that he and his daughter, Sarah (Emma Coleman) are being haunted by Martin's deceased wife, Bonnie, she is unimpressed. Meanwhile, one-hit-wonder Christian Winter (a hilarious Will Forte in full caricature mode) is desperate to make a comeback, and has abducted a local virgin, who he must sacrifice to Astaroth on the night of the blood moon. Which wouldn't be a problem except that his wife, Claudia (a spectacularly acerbic Claudia O'Doherty), accidentally causes the young girl to, well, explode. With the blood moon in a couple of days, Christian must find another virgin, and lands on Sarah. Deducing that Sarah is imprisoned in a "holding spell", Rose tells Martin that the only way they can save her is by collecting the ectoplasm of seven ghosts, and they can only do that by letting each ghost temporarily possess Martin.
Extra Ordinary is one of those films that could have been distractingly sardonic if it wasn't made with such genuine warmth. Sure, the humour is irreverent, but it's done in such a way as to endear the characters to the audience due to their imperfections rather than encourage us to laugh at their failings. For example, when Rose explains to Martin what she has to do to release Sarah, he responds, "oh, so like The Exorcist?", to which she says, completely seriously, "I don't know, I've never met him." It's a funny moment, but so too is it a rather sweet moment, and a lot of the humour is in this vein; on the edge of being sarcastic, but never cynical.
Another important aspect of the humour is that the jokes come thick and fast from the opening few seconds. Indeed, there's rarely a scene without some element of humour somewhere in it. This isn't the type of comedy where everything gets serious at certain points, or where the characters' experiences force them to make major changes to their lives because they have learned this lesson and that lesson. Instead, from the opening voiceover to literally the last words spoken, this is wall-to-wall humour. For example, take Martin's relationship with Sarah. He's introduced as being overly protective of her (his great fear is that she'll end up "a homeless sex maniac living on the streets and snorting hash"), whilst she views him as a bit of an embarrassment. However, their relationship never leads to the clichéd old scene where (insert emotion here) they learn to value one another's flaws. That's just not the film's modus operandi, and it's all the fresher because of it.
The film opens with a VHS recording of Vincent Dooley's TV show (featuring some of the most low-rent production values you'll ever see), with Dooley explaining that the reason cheese gives people bad dreams is because cheese is made of the same stuff as ghosts, and hence, they find it easy to inhabit. And this is the tone in which the entire film takes place; it never really departs from this register. Later on, a major plot point is Christian's "virgin rod", a magical staff which can point towards a suitable virgin for sacrifice . To avail of its services, he must hold it up, whisper an incantation, then drop it, and it will point towards a virgin. He must then walk a few feet in that direction, pick it up, and repeat. And yes, it's as ridiculous as it sounds, and the shot of him wandering across an empty field as he continually picks up and drops the stick is absolutely hilarious.
The film doesn't rely too heavily on sight-gags, but there's a moment towards the end that is side-splitting. As Sarah floats down the road towards the sacrificial altar, she's followed by Christian and Claudia in one car and Rose and Martin in another. Except the entire chase is taking place at around 10mph. It's one of the film's most slapstick moments, but Claudia's solution to speed things up elevate it to a whole other level. And I won't spoil anything, but the "ginger werewolf scene" has to be seen to be believed; suffice to say, it's pure Father Ted (1995), with an elaborate build-up that makes the utter mundanity of the punchline exquisite.
However, the single most hilarious moment is when we see a brief clip of Christian's claim to fame, a song called "Cosmic Woman" that is so obviously a riff on Chris De Burgh's "A Spaceman Came Travelling By" (1976), I'm pretty sure he could sue for royalties. Everything about it, from the cheesy special effects to the instrumental refrain to the self-important lyrics, just screams out where it was taken from.
Elsewhere, there are plenty of smaller moments that stand out. For example, at the outset, a "based on a true story" subtitle appears. Perhaps getting a dig at the never-ending spate of horror films to make this claim, no sooner has the subtitle appeared when a garbage truck drives across the frame, erasing the words behind it. Along the same lines is cinematographer James Mather's tendency to use overly dramatic crash pans, especially in car scenes, with the incongruity between the hyperkinetic form and the utterly mundane content never failing to make me chuckle. Speaking of overly-dramatic shots, in one particular scene Mather even uses that most dramatic of shots - the split diopter. Except he does so in the most mundane setting you could possibly imagine (in a scene in which a person holds a mop in front of their face as a disguise). There's also Christian's hilarious driving lesson, which sees him spend more time putting on a pair of driving gloves than actually driving. And then, managing to go all of four feet (giving himself a bloody nose in the process), he decides he's had enough for the day. Also consistently funny is Claudia's inability to understand why the virgin must be sacrificed on a particular night, with her refrain of "just kill the b***h" one of the film's best running gags.
Extra Ordinary is a distinctly Irish film, but it's one whose self-aware brand of Irishness should travel pretty well. Strong performances all-round, constant laughs, some terrific sight-gags, and a generally warm tone make for a fine film. For some, the highpoint will be Forte's ludicrously over-the-top Christian, for others, it will be the touching character beats between Rose and Martin. Irrespective of your preference, however, I would strongly recommend this truly charming film.
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