Howling Horror

Extra Ordinary is a devil of a good time

Courtesy photo

The paranormal gets a gracefully schizoid comedic approach with Extra Ordinary, perhaps the best paranormal comedy since the original Ghostbusters.

Part Ghostbusters, part The Frighteners, and owing a lot to Mike Leigh romantic comedies, the film is a winning mix of broad comedy, dry/dark comedy and engagingly sweet romance. It's a strange and weird effort for sure but, considering its subject matter, that turns out to be a very good thing.

Rose Dooley (Maeve Higgins), an Irish driving instructor, lives a guilt-ridden and alienated life after an accident with her father while performing a supernatural exercise. She has hidden talents allowing her to communicate with the dead, and she looks at this as a curse. Not in a depressing, my-life-is-hell sort of way. She's just mildly irritated by ghosts using trees and electrical cords to wave at her. She would just like to teach her students about parallel parking in peace.

Martin Martin (Barry Ward) is a widow living with his teen daughter, Sarah (Emma Coleman), and the ghost of his dead wife. The ghost taunts him about paying the bills and wearing the right shirts, occasionally hitting him in the head with cabinet doors and throwing his donuts in the trash. He's had enough, he knows that the driving instructor lady used to talk to ghosts professionally in the past, and he gives her a call.

This is the setup for what turns out to be one of the more unique romantic comedies in a long while. Actually, it's almost an insult to call it a romantic comedy, but it's funny, and the two leads do start to develop a rather unorthodox love for one another.

The wild card in the movie would be singer Christian Winter, played by consummate goofball Will Forte. Christian had a big hit with "Cosmic Woman," but the follow up single, "I Like My Hat" bombed, and he's experiencing some writer's block. An accomplished Satanist, Christian plans to sacrifice a virgin to the Devil and his minions, so that he might be able to write some catchy tunes.

Co-directors Mike Ahern and Edna Loughman (who also contributed to the script) walk a crazed balancing act that goes from quiet moments between Martin and Rose, to outlandish and sophomoric sequences between Christian and his blasé wife Claudia (the hilarious Claudia O'Doherty), who is more interested in her take-out Chinese orders than the virgin who just exploded in her study. Forte has lost none of his comedic chops since his days on Saturday Night Live. If anything, he's gotten more absurd and even funnier.

It's not an easy tonal task to cross from sweet romance to Will Forte screaming out incantations to his dark master, but Ahern and Loughman do it beautifully. Much credit goes to Higgins and Ward, who provide the film with a sensible center. That doesn't mean they don't contribute to the crazy moments, especially when Ward's Martin gets possessed, changing voices and spewing ectoplasm. Ward and Higgins come out of nowhere to impress.

A fine soundtrack and decent gore effects tie the movie together. Granted, the movie isn't a gore fest, but the few moments where blood splatters are handled masterfully. It's a deftly crafted movie, all around. I especially liked the depiction of the main monster, a visual treat I won't give away here.

This movie is proof that there's a lot of talent out there that we are not aware of. Higgins and Ward are quite terrific, and I had heard of neither before seeing Extra Ordinary. The movie is also proof that Forte needs to be in more movies. His gonzo presence always seems to boost any production he's involved in. Somebody needs to green light a big-screen adaptation of The Falconer!

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