blogging by Andrew Wickliffe

Extra Ordinary (2019, Mike Ahern and Enda Loughman)

A few minutes into Extra Ordinary, after a stylized prologue and then opening sequence, I realized it was a low budget marvel. The film has under five locations and six characters. Directors Ahern and Loughman widen the proverbial lens to make it feel bigger with choice location shooting—being able to do the driving in the car stuff well does a lot—and, of course, the excellent special effects. Extra Ordinary is a ghost comedy, meaning there need to be a lot of ghost effects, and they’re able to execute all of them well, most of them comedically. The supernatural in the film is a combination of mundane and uncanny, with an understanding the latter is only possible with some filmmaking finesse, otherwise you get the former.

The film opens with hilarious (film in the film) eighties VHS series on the supernatural. It’s one of the only times it really feels low budget because the VHS filter they use still looks way better than actual VHS would. A very amusingly straight-faced Risteard Cooper hosts the show.

In the present, Cooper is long dead; something went wrong with the supernatural and now adult daughter Maeve Higgins still blames herself for it, even though sister Terri Chandler tries to assure her she’s not. Higgins is a driving instructor who used to do some other kind of work. Turns out she was a medium for hire, but has given up the trade. All she wants is driving instruction gigs, all anyone ever calls about is ghost busting.

So when she gets a message from Barry Ward for driving lessons, she thinks it’s a real gig. Only then it turns out Ward’s being haunted by his dead wife and daughter Emma Coleman told him he had to call Higgins or she was moving out.

Throw in American-rock-star-in-tax-exile Will Forte who’s trying to get his Satanic ritual together and needs a virgin, setting his sights on teen Coleman, and Extra Ordinary’s got the ingredients for a rather eclectic ghost comedy.

The make and break of the film turns out to be Higgins, who’s phenomenal from the first moment and for a while it’s not clear if the directors just really know how to direct her or if it’s Higgins. It seems to be Higgins, who’s able to keep character development going even when she’s got to be the most static one in the film. Not to knock the directors; they do an exceptional job—and it’d be impossible to image the film looking, sounding, or feeling any different—but Higgins is still the star.

Ward’s a fine sidekick for her; she’s got to introduce him to the supernatural around town. He’s always good, sometimes better. He just starts better than he ends up so it’s not as easy to be excited about his performance. He’s got a big swing and it’s a hit, but like just enough to get to first base. Nothing special. Not like Higgins being able to carry the film.

Then the other two main stars are Forte and Claudia O’Doherty as his wife. Forte’s awesome. The film’s got great timing, Forte’s got better timing. It’s incredible how well he sells the Satanic one hit wonder trying to get back on the charts with his terrible music.

O’Doherty’s always funny as the needling wife, though it’s definitely one of the film’s shallower parts.

Ahern and Loughman’s composition is almost always excellent. In the handful of shots where it goes a little wrong, it’s obviously something about the budget. Cinematographer James Mather works wonders and the film looks great, but there’s just something off every once in a while. Usually reaction over the shoulder shots actually.

Great editing from Gavin Buckley, great music from George Brennan. Again, it’s a low budget marvel.

And they’re able to do a big effects sequence.

Extra Ordinary is an extremely well-made comedy and a great showcase for Higgins.

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