'Extra Ordinary': Film Review | SXSW 2019

James Mather
A light but enjoyable horror/comedy/romance whose star deserves the exposure.

Irish comedian Maeve Higgins plays an exorcist who fears using her gift, in a comedy by Enda Loughman and Mike Ahern.

A well-tuned vehicle for the comic charms of Irish stand-up Maeve Higgins, Extra Ordinary introduces a woman who has had to hide her paranormal gifts for decades, fearing that using them would get someone hurt or worse. The feature debut for writing/directing team Mike Ahern and Enda Loughman, the lightweight film mines familiar horror-comedy ground, but amid all the ectoplasm and satanic rites, it's really the story of a shy and lonely woman who may have found the right man. It should perform well on streaming outlets, helping Higgins become a better-known face Stateside.

The comedian plays Rose Dooley, a driving instructor whose heart really isn't in the job. She grew up with a dad who was well known as an investigator of supernatural events: Host of a cheesy series of videos, he argued that ghosts are all around us, inhabiting everyday objects. ("Even the weakest ghosts can possess cheese quite easily.") As a young girl, she was his partner in exorcisms. But one went badly, and he died. Despite receiving several requests a day for help, she has sworn off using her "talents."

Across town, a one-hit-wonder musician from the U.S. lives in a castle. Christian Winter (Will Forte, enjoyably hammy) relocated for tax reasons, and is hard at work trying to summon hellish powers that might give him another hit record. It's a project you'd think his wife Claudia would support, but her patience is wearing thin. (Viewers who only know Claudia O'Doherty as the Aussie sweetheart on Netflix's Love will enjoy seeing her as a greedy schemer here.)

Winter's Satanic bargains require the usual virgin sacrifice, so he casts a spell meant to summon Sarah Martin (Emma Coleman) from her bedroom to his pentagram-decorated lair. But Sarah's father Martin Martin (Barry Ward) intercepts his sleeping, levitating child, and convinces Rose to get un-retired and help save her. If things go well, maybe Rose will also exorcise the ghost of Martin's late wife, who has been pestering him for ages and standing in the way of his meeting new women. In the ghost-busting business, we call this a conflict of interest. But these two mild-mannered lonelyhearts are clearly meant for each other.

Higgins is endearingly awkward as Rose tries not to flirt too hard while Martin's daughter's soul is in danger. The two race across town, collecting the supernatural goop they need to fight off Winter's spell. Is it a spoiler to say they fail? Well, things don't end there, as you may guess. In a goofily surprising twist, Loughman and Ahern wind up solving a couple of the characters' problems at once. Now if only Rose would help me banish the ghost in my laptop that keeps messing with my email.

Venue: South By Southwest Film Festival (Narrative Feature Competition)
Production company: Blinder Films
Cast: Maeve Higgins, Barry Ward, Will Forte, Claudia O'Doherty, Terri Chandler, Jamie Beamish, Risteard Cooper, Emma Coleman
Directors-Screenwriters: Mike Ahern, Enda Loughman
Producers: Katie Holly, Yvonne Donohoe, Mary McCarthy, Ailish Bracken
Executive producers: Lesley McKimm, Kieron J. Walsh, Adrian Politowski, Mike Ahern, Enda Loughman
Director of photography: James Mather
Production designer: Joe Fallover
Costume designer: Kathy Strachan
Editor: Gavin Buckley
Composer: George Brennan
Casting director:
Sales: Epic Pictures

93 minutes