Extra Ordinary made its Canadian premiere at Fantasia Festival 2019.
The premise alone for Extra Ordinary, a film about a timid driving instructor whose ability to communicate with the dead puts her in a position to save the life of a teenager who is about to be sacrificed by a one-hit-wonder musician in order to resurrect his career, should be enough to warrant the price of admission. Fortunately, this horror-comedy from directors Mike Ahern and Enda Loughman, capitalizes on the wild premise and delivers an incredibly funny, charming little story.
Maeve Higgins stars as Rose, a socially awkward but kind and caring driving teacher who gave up her paranormal communication business after her father, a famous medium, was tragically killed in the line of duty. Rose believes she is responsible for her father’s death, so she represses her abilities and lives a quiet life of loneliness in a small Irish town, attempting to teach people how to drive.
After meeting a widower named Martin (Barry Ward) and discovering his late wife has been haunting him and his daughter, Rose is reluctant to help, but after Barry’s daughter gets kidnapped by an aging rock star (Will Forte) — who plans to sacrifice her during a satanic ritual — she comes out of retirement and must utilize all her abilities to help save the day.
While Forte may be the most notable cast member, playing the laughably buffoonish evil and annoying Christian Winter, its Maeve Higgins who manages to be the standout here, with her deadpan delivery and tragically funny reactions to the various situations in which she finds herself. Extra Ordinary often uses dry, awkward comedy, and Higgins deftly handles this material to great effect.
Ward also carries a lot of the comedic weight of the film, most notably when he’s used as a tool in Rose’s arsenal for collecting ectoplasm. He becomes an empty vessel for spirits, allowing himself to be possessed over and over resulting in a number of comedic gems.
Though not scary per se, the film does employ some fun supernatural elements and doesn’t shy away from getting surprisingly dark when the story calls for it. In addition, there’s a bit of a love story tacked on as well, which — while slightly underdeveloped — adds a sweet layer to an otherwise pretty grim horror-comedy.
Extra Ordinary makes for a solid blend of spooks and laughs, reminiscent of What We Do in The Shadows or the more recent TV spinoff Wellington Paranormal, but it has its own distinct voice, never feeling too derivative of those properties and carving out its own hilarious, strangely heartwarming story that I would be happy to revisit in a sequel.