Star Rating:

Extra Ordinary

Directors: Mike Ahern, Enda Loughman

Actors: Barry Ward, Will Forte, Maeve Higgins

Release Date: Friday 13th September 2019

Genre(s): Comedy, Fantasy, Horror

Running time: 94 minutes

The best Irish comedy of the year...

Rose (Maeve Higgins) is a sweet, lonely driving instructor in rural Ireland who happens to be gifted with supernatural abilities. Rose has a love/hate relationship with her 'talents' and tries to ignore the constant spirit related requests from locals - to exorcise possessed rubbish bins or haunted gravel. However, when a washed-up former rock star (Will Forte) makes a deal with the Devil in order to regain his fame, Rose has to face her fears and embrace her gifts.

Coming right as spooky season starts to set in this September - and on Friday the 13th, no less - 'Extra Ordinary' is a distinctly Irish horror/comedy that stands out for all the right reasons.

Set in small-town Ireland sometime in the early 2000s, Extra Ordinary introduces us to Rose, a sweet but shy driving instructor who has been shunning her psychic gifts after an exorcism gone wrong resulted in the death of her father. However, her low-key existence is rocked by the arrival of Christian Winters (Will Forte), an American one-hit-wonder with nefarious intentions of Satanic sacrifice and... international tax-dodging. When Christian’s incantations possess the daughter of a charming local widower (Barry Ward), Rose is spurred into action and must resume her ghostbusting ways to save the day.

Writer/directors Mike Ahern and Enda Loughman have nailed this on just about every level, clearly establishing the world and the characters within it with great humour and affection. Details like grainy VHS recordings, 'Nationwide' broadcasts, ‘Chat Break’ magazine and absorbing games of Snake played on Nokia 3310s build a well-lived-in and recognisable Ireland, allowing the more outlandish elements of the film to really pop. There's statues of the Virgin Mary crying tears of 7up, while Christian’s wife prepares ‘goujons and chips’ as he is summoning demons.

There’s a real mastery of comic editing on show here too, with the film’s hectic climactic montage, a driving lesson gone badly wrong, and the least dramatic car chase you’ll see on screen this year among the highlights.

The cast, too, all keenly understand this film’s energy, and are uniformly excellent. It feels disingenuous to call this a breakout performance for Higgins, familiar to Irish audiences since 2005’s 'Naked Camera', but she gives a truly star-making performance as Rose, bringing a very Irish nervous neuroticism to the erstwhile ghost whisperer while retaining her good-humour and humanity. Barry Ward puts in strong work as widower Martin, as well as his brusque late wife Bonnie, who possesses him on occasion. Will Forte is a delight as the villainous Christian Winters, equal parts swaggering rock star and put-upon loser. Watch out too for a hilarious cameo from Siobhan McSweeney, better known as Sister Michael from Derry Girls.

If at times it feels like there’s a lot going on in just 94 minutes - not even mentioning Rose’s pregnant sister Sailor, Christian’s money-hungry wife Claudia, or a mysterious ever-present magpie - 'Extra Ordinary' is so delightful, it’s hard not to forgive some narrative clutter.

Hilariously funny, with a fabulous lead performance from Maeve Higgins, 'Extra Ordinary' is 'Father Ted' meets 'The Exorcist' - the best Irish comedy of the year.