'Extra Ordinary' film review: Hilarious subversion of horror's scariest subgenre
What "Shaun of the Dead" did for zombies and "What We Do in the Shadows" did for vampires, the hilariously off-kilter horror comedy "Extra Ordinary" (screening during the 2019 North Bend Film Fest) is an absurd take on the demonic possession genre.
In short: Rose (Maeve Higgins) is a sweet and lonely woman happily living her quiet life as small town driving instructor with supernatural abilities -- but she reluctantly helps a widower with a possessed daughter and must stop a washed-up musician (Will Forte) trying to resuscitate his career using dark rituals.
This Irish gem is both a sharp send-up of the supernatural genre and a totally legit supernatural horror flick in its own right. "Extra Ordinary" includes totally aware nods to genre favorites (such as "Ghostbusters" and "Poltergeist"), yet totally commits to the very typical horror conventions that it gently mocks. And just to get an idea of this film's sense of humor, the supernatural elements here consist of a haunted pothole, exploding virgins and very petty ghosts. The script walks to the very brink of parody, yet keeps one foot firmly planted in some very dark and genuinely unsettling elements. While never outright scary, "Extra Ordinary" is clearly a film crafted by horror fans for horror fans who can also have a bit of a laugh at traditional horror twists and turns.
Lead actress Maeve Higgins also just gets the wry and aware tenor of "Extra Ordinary." This unlikely protagonist embodies the cat lady stereotype, except she doesn't own a cat. Rose's charm is utterly disarming and she radiates sheer warmth -- yet it never undercuts her brilliant comedic delivery or timing. She's reluctant but never quite in-way-over-her-head, because even in her most hesitant moments, Rose time and again proves herself adept at a skill she's tried to deny for years. The film's script is gleefully sharp, but the casting of Higgins cannot be understated as one of the film's greatest strengths. Despite all the silliness, Rose who keeps the story grounded in its core theme of a woman denying her talent and coming to terms with a past failure - in a story about exorcisms, it's Rose who has to learn to let go and move on.
Although she is relatively unknown in the U.S., Higgins doesn't let co-stars Will Forte ("Saturday Night Live") or Claudia O'Doherty ("Love") steal the show -- a feat that's all the more impressive given how sharp Forte and O'Doherty are in this movie. Forte gets to have fun with his ridiculous character, who seems more petulant than outright evil - even he's totally willing to ally himself with pure evil.
Final verdict: "Extra Ordinary" is simultaneously a tongue-in-cheek ribbing of supernatural horror flicks - yet, is unapologetically a thoroughly entertaining possession story.
"Extra Ordinary" screens during the 2019 North Bend Film Fest. This horror comedy has a running time of 94 minutes and is rated R for drug use and some sexual content.