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Extra Ordinary, a supernatural horror comedy

Marcianne Miller

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Released in the U.S. in time for St. Patrick’s Day, Extra Ordinary is a totally bonkers gem, a low-budget Ghostbusters, Emerald Isle style. If you’re slightly deranged, you’ll love it. If you cling to logic, well, you might not give it the 5 stars that most of the critics did.

Rose Dooley (County Cork-born, New York-based standup comic Maeve Higgins) is a small-town driving teacher, trying to find happiness despite her tragic past. Self-deprecating, pleasant but frumpy and oh dear, still unmarried, she’s what you might call extra ordinary. That’s because she refuses to use her real talent. Her father, the famous ghost chaser Vincent Dooley, told her when she was a child— “Rose, you are a ‘paranormal facilitator’ of extraordinary talent.” Alas, that’s before she fumbled a spell and he got splattered by a speeding truck. These days Rose cheerfully acknowledges all the happy spirits she sees in town, but refuses to engage with the many living neighbors who beg her to get rid of their annoying ghosts.

While Rose plods through her lonely life, across town is troubled widower and single father Martin Martin (Dublin-born Barry Ward). His wife, dead for 8 years now, is still nagging him and makes his life, well, makes it hell. His fed-up teenage daughter Sara (Emma Coleman) demands he get rid of Mom or she’s going to leave home.

Meanwhile, not far away (at Charleville Castle, a renovated Gothic splendor), one-hit wonder rock star Christian Winter (American comic Will Forte) has made a pact with Satan to re-kindle his career. After performing numerous spells and burning hundreds of candles, chewing up the scenery and having entirely too much fun, all Winter needs now is a virgin to sacrifice. Of course, he’s chosen Sara Martin, who he spies working at the local housewares shop.

The goofy plot thickens (and occasionally sickens, I must admit), careening from quirkiness to violence and whirling unapologetically around utter absurdity. It skewers spiritualism, witchcraft, tax haven-bound celebrities, the island’s awful food and its even more terrible sexual repression. Extra Ordinary is not a spiritual powerhouse, but, being Irish, it has plenty of laughs that remind you of what is good about being alive. “I’m always with you,” Rose’s dead father reminds her--isn’t that something we all want to know from our parents who have passed on? For me, the main spiritual message of Extra Ordinary is that you can make a perfectly wonderful film about heroes who are ordinary and decent.

It seems these days more films are being directed by teams. A previous film I reviewed, the epic sci-fi film based on an epic poem, Aniara, was co-directed by two Swedish filmmakers. Extra Ordinary was helmed by two creative Irishmen, Mike Ahern and Enda Loughman. It’s a promising debut, since all the performances are outstanding, and tech credits are accomplished, especially the simple special effects.

Shot on locations in central Ireland (such as counties Wicklow and Offaly), Extra Ordinary doesn’t make any use of the spectacular landscapes tourists crave (though it did cooperate with the country’s Tidy Town efforts, no kidding.) It’s a gentle world, where the worst thing a person can do is use bad language. (“Language, language,” everyone is being reminded.) But the film does offer an endless string of weird curiosities to write home about – bloating goats, floating virgins, flying French-fries, a cawing magpie, a killer cuckoo clock, and a surprise ending that recaps Daddy Dooley’s message from beyond the grave -- “Love defeats evil.”

Rated R for language, sexual content and some horror violence. Time: 94 minutes. Language: Irish-accented English.

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Edited by Marcianne Miller
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