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Extra Ordinary - Film Review

Posted by FilmSoc on Sat, 14-09-2019

by Kieran O'Brien

Horror-Comedy is a fiendishly difficult genre to pull off well, but Extra Ordinary does it with a grace and ease that most viewers are sure to enjoy. Set in a small Irish village (presumably somewhere in County Cork), we follow Rose (Maeve Higgins), a lonely and guilt-ridden driving instructor on her journey to save her love-interest’s daughter from being sacrificed in a Satanic ritual. 

Nothing can be said about Extra Ordinary without first praising the acting. Comedian Maeve Higgins gives an incredibly natural and charming performance here. She is exceedingly endearing and excels as both a comedic and dramatic actor. She makes the whole thing believable, even during some slightly weaker character moments (more on that later). Also taking the stage are Barry Ward as Rose’s love interest Martin Martin (that is not a typo), and the antagonist duo of Claudia O’Doherty (Love) and Will Forte (SNL, The Last Man on Earth). The casting of O’Doherty and Forte (an Australian and an American respectively), really adds a lot to this film. Not only does it distinctly set them apart from our heroes, it also forces the writers to explore comedic options other than ‘Irishness.’ Too often Irish comedies rely on certain Irish turns of phrase or accents as a comedic device, and while Extra Ordinary does lean into that at times, it never feels like overkill thanks to the inclusion of some actors from overseas. 

The humour is also surprisingly dark. You might think this is to be expected in the genre, but other famous horror-comedies (for example, What We Do in the Shadows or Shaun of the Dead) rarely go to places this film does. It is black indeed, and all the better for it. It’s more than witty dialogue too, the filmmakers are thankfully skilled at visual humour and have generally excellent comedic timing. There’s a great rhythm to the film; no scene feels too long or too short, although there are a few small instances where the filmmakers choose not to show some moments of the plot, and other moments that felt unclear regarding time progression, but this doesn’t take too much enjoyment from the experience.

It’s also worth pointing out how excellent the visual effects are. Food jumps out of reach, dishes fly across rooms, and floating teenagers are pulled along by the ankles. All of it looks impossibly realistic. There’s one moment of somewhat cartoonish CGI towards the end, but given the film’s no-doubt limited budget, the filmmakers found a very clever, practical way using the location’s set design to make it look a lot better than some CGI on big-budget films has looked in recent years.

In terms of flaws, there’s nothing that’s really worth griping about. The film is funny and self-aware enough to keep most people entertained for its 90-minute run time, but there are a few minor issues. Rose’s backstory about her guilt surrounding her father’s death strains believability a little bit. Maeve Higgins sells this guilt extremely well, and the filmmakers make the right choice to hide the exact details of the father’s death for a significant portion of the film, but the reveal was somewhat underwhelming. There’s also a small world-logic problem towards the end of the film that I won’t give away, but if you finish the film, ask yourself ‘But wasn’t the baby also a…?’ (you’ll know what I mean) and see if everything still jives.

Finally is the issue of how the film handles domestic abuse. Okay, I get it, this is a comedy and that’s pretty dark subject matter (even for this film) to be dealing with, but they’re the ones that brought it up. Martin Martin’s dead wife Bonnie abuses him both physically and emotionally, and while these scenes aren’t played entirely for laughs, they are dismissed with the convenient fabrication that ‘ghosts aren’t themselves’ to avoid diving into the issue. At the same time, characters are shocked by this abuse, as shocked as anybody would be by non-ghost-related abuse. It’s a contradiction the film creates within itself, but if the topic was explored properly it might have added another dimension to Martin Martin’s character.

However, none of that is anything that will seriously hinder anybody’s enjoyment of Extra Ordinary. What we have here is an Irish gem unlike any other, and further proof that Ireland is capable of telling engaging, well-crafted stories for the screen, and, excitingly, able to draw serious talent from Hollywood. It’s easy to overlook how impressive is it that Will Forte is in this film (the man’s filmography is powerful) and that is thanks not only to great work in the casting department, but also a testament to the several recent Irish films making waves around the world. Extra Ordinary is a great time. It’s funny, it’s heartfelt, it’s scary, it’s well-made, and if you’re still not convinced, I can only urge you to go see it anyway and let the film prove your scepticism wrong.

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