Someone please make Rose Dooley (Maeve Higgins) an honorary Ghostbuster! (And hopefully it would still be an honor even though she hasn’t seen the movie herself.) Similar to the 1984 classic, Mike Ahern and Enda Loughman’s feature directorial debut Extra Ordinary is a brilliant mix of dry wit, unforgettable dialogue, heart and ectoplasm, resulting in an endlessly charming and highly re-watchable “ghost-busting” romp.
Rose keeps busy working as a driving instructor but it’s really just to force herself to steer clear of a particular “talent” she was born with; Rose has supernatural abilities including the power to exorcise wayward spirits. She’s able to ignore a multitude of requests from locals struggling with haunted trash cans and gravel, but when a one-hit wonder named Christian Winter (Will Forte) attempts to make a deal with the devil in exchange for more hit music, threatening innocent lives in the process, Rose is finally encouraged to re-embrace her powers.
At this point I’ve been lucky enough to catch Extra Ordinary twice, once for its world premiere screening at SXSW 2019 and now again at the North Bend Film Festival, and the double viewing has reaffirmed that this one rocks the qualities of a cult classic. Ahern and Loughman cook up a very clever scenario where ghosts run amuck, not with malice like in many exorcism movies, but rather doing very mundane things any average individual might should they pass and get caught between realms. For example, let’s look at Martin Martin (Barry Ward). His wife passed away but most certainly hasn’t left. Her hauntings range from picking out his clothing in the morning to forbidding him from indulging in doughnuts. And Rose? She’s often greeted by spirits who are only capable of the slightest bit of physical interaction, like waving a branch. It’s one absurd yet clever detail after the next, and that makes Extra Ordinary a super silly and enjoyable experience.
And the same goes for the character quirks, especially when it comes to Rose. She’s as kind as they come but without her “talent,” she’s also dully predictable. When she’s not teaching a client how to drive, Rose can often be found sitting on an exercise ball in her kitchen eating a yogurt. It’s details like that paired with the warmth Higgins brings to the role that makes Extra Ordinary surprisingly sweet and grounded, even with the heightened humor and outrageous predicament at hand. Even Forte manages to find a way to fully embrace Christian’s cartoonishly diabolical qualities but with the slightest degree of sensitivity. And the same could be said for Ward who gracefully tackles one especially outrageous calamity for Martin towards the tail end of the film as well.
It’s also well worth highlighting the power of a gifted comedy ensemble with loads of chemistry. Extra Ordinary is a fittingly swift package at 94 minutes with purposeful, expertly timed dialogue from start to finish, but there’s a very natural flow to the humor that gives the impression that the filmmakers might have loads of alt-takes on their hands, especially with characters like Claudia, Christian’s wife played by Claudia O’Doherty, and ensemble moments that add Rose’s sister Sailor (Terri Chandler) to the mix.
Extra Ordinary is also an excellent example of a movie making the most of every penny in the budget from a technical perspective. It’s packed with stylish and very well executed scene transitions contributing to the swift pace of the film, a significant amount of the imagery is designed to enhance comedic beats, and the effects are spot on as well. Given what the ghosts in Extra Ordinary are capable of, there isn’t much tradition paranormal VFX needed to do things like, let’s say, flip open a trash can lid, but even when Extra Ordinary goes a little bigger with the supernatural components, it’s done in a way that well suits the playful vibe but it’s also rendered well enough to still feel very real within that world.
It’s hard walking away from a movie like Extra Ordinary. It’s reminiscent of wrapping up What We Do in the Shadows. There’s something about the characters, the concept and the atmosphere that leaves you wanting to just stay in that clever, rich world a little (or a lot) longer. Hopefully someone’s got a pitch for an Extra Ordinary series in their back pocket.