[Fantasia Festival 2019 Review] Extra Ordinary is Extraordinarily Charming

Have you ever had nightmares after eating cheese? I hate to tell you this, but according to Vincent Dooley and his VHS tape series about the paranormal, you might have eaten a ghost. You see, according to Vincent, even the weakest ghost can possess cheese due to the living bacteria in it. Ghosts are all around us, but most ghostly encounters are so minimal that we often overlook them.

Vincent (Risteard Cooper) was once the premiere investigator of ghostly phenomenons before his untimely death when he and his daughter Rose (Maeve Higgins) tired to perform an exorcism on a swirling pothole that had swallowed a dog. “I’m sorry for slaughtering you, daddy,” she tells the makeshift memorial and her sister Sailor (Terri Chandler) created on the side of the road, near the scene of the accident. She places a vase of flowers on the memorial and leaves…only for a dump truck to immediately swing by to pick up the fresh flowers.

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Since that exorcism gone deadly, Rose gave up her psychic ways and became a driving instructor. Her rituals now are much more mundane; namely dropping trou in front of her fridge when she gets home, selecting a yogurt and then sitting on her bouncy ball while listening to voice messages, most of which are from people who want her psychic help. She summarily ignores them. Until Martin Martin (Barry Ward).

Martin calls her under the pretext of learning to drive. But the truth is, he’s being haunted by the overbearing and domineering ghost of his late wife, Bonnie. Bonnie is the kind of ghost who lays out the clothes she thinks he should wear, leaves messages to pay the car tax on his steamed mirror and informs him the dog has worms by burning the text into the side of some toast.

She also smacks him with the wardrobe door when he tries to wear different clothes and throws plates when he puts them in the wrong place in the dishwasher.

Bonnie’s lingering presence has pushed Martin’s daughter Sarah (Emma Coleman) to the edge. It’s either Bonnie or Sarah. One of them has to go. So he enlists the aid of an unwitting Rose, who doesn’t want to help because of her deadly past, but who also notices a little spark of attraction. She quickly becomes smitten by him, which complicates her desire to leave the psychic business behind. 

Meanwhile, across town Christian “One Hit” Winter (Will Forte) is staging a comeback. It’s been a very long time since his only hit “Cosmic Woman” (that has the lyrics, “Cosmic woman, la la la!”) was a hit and money has dried up. But he has a demonic book, a satanic ritual and a floating virgin to get him back on top. Unfortunately, his wife and manager Claudia (Claudia O’Doherty) accidentally tries to wake the virgin and the virgin explodes, leaving Christian virgin-less with the blood moon only a day away. Luckily, though, he has a phallic-shaped staff that can lead him to a virgin and he stumbles upon Martin’s daughter…

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These three stories converge on each other in the first act and can be quickly summarized by Rose’s plan of action: “Just go over there. Save the girl. Don’t slaughter anybody again. Fall in love. Get that guy. And then be home in time for something to eat…maybe something light. Just yogurt or something.”

This is just the jam-packed first act of this delightfully droll and charming horror comedy. What follows is more amusing humor as Rose & Co race against time to save Martin’s virginal daughter from being sacrificed. I wasn’t quite sure what to expect on the humor level with Extra Ordinary and I was pleasantly surprised to find it light on slapstick and sight gags and more about character-driven humor.

While there are some huge laugh-out-loud moments of hilarity, the tone is mostly witty and dry. Comedian Maeve Higgins embodies Rose with self-deprecating humor and deadpan jokes, and provides most of the humorous steam. Meanwhile, Martin’s Barry Ward is given some very funny physical comedy moments as he gets possessed by a variety of ghosts in order to free them from their earthly prison.

It’s all very sly and witty and incredibly enjoyable. A third act twist ratchets the stakes and takes the comedy in a different supernatural action direction that has a low speed car chase, big ghosties and Will Forte being…well, Will Forte. Working as a team, Mike Ahern and Enda Loughman direct from a script they co-wrote with additional writing by Demian Fox and Maeve Higgins (presumably providing the hilarious dialogue).

Mostly, it’s just a fun and playfully charming movie that hums along at a nice pace. Nothing revolutionary but what’s here is just rather delightful. It’s a good first feature with lovable characters and fun banter.