[North Bend Film Festival] ‘Extra Ordinary’ Weaves A Touching Tale About Grief and Ghosts

If there’s something strange in your neighborhood, who are you gonna call? Rosa’s Driving Service, at least in the world of Mike Ahern and Enda Loughman’s feature film debut, Extra Ordinary. Their first feature is a touching and hilarious tale about one woman trying to run from her paranormal gifts, one father trying to save his daughter and placate his dead wife, and one washed up rockstar who turns to the Devil for success.

Rosa (Maeve Higgins) is the daughter of a deceased ghost expert. She possesses gifts to commune with the dead, but chooses to avoid them, turning to her driving school instead. She passes her days educating people how to drive cars, her evenings eating yogurt, sitting on her exercise ball, and listening to messages of people begging for her ghost services. Yet, she has sworn off the paranormal ever since the death of father, bent on living a normal life sans ghosts. However, that all changes when she meets Martin Martin (Barry Ward), a father haunted by his dead wife who nags him even from beyond the grave.

While she initially refuses to help, she’s drawn back to Martin Martin after his daughter has been ensnared by former rockstar, Christian Winter (a pitch perfect Will Forte). After Winter’s hit, “Cosmic Woman,” he hits a musical slump and is haemorrhaging money. So, he turns to the dark arts to bring him success, which requires the sacrifice of a virgin. Using his dick stick (yes, it is a stick carved in the shape of a penis), he tracks down a virgin, Martin’s daughter, and readies his evil magic. Only Rosa can help save Martin’s daughter, but she must tap into her talents to be successful. 

Rosa can help Martin through the collection of ectoplasm, which unfortunately has an uncanny resemblance to semen. The only way to collect the white viscous substance is to let a ghost possess Martin, and have Rosa exorcise the spirit. As the spirit leaves Martin’s body, he vomits ectoplasm. This leads to a plethora of hilarious situations, such as a talking recycling bin inhabited by a deceased husband, a ghost chastising her granddaughter for stealing money, and a wolfman who is actually a fox. Ward’s performance involves playing multiple roles by embodying the personality of each ghost. He contorts his face and body to become another person while also remaining himself, leading to some of the film’s most effective moments of body comedy. 

Higgins is a charming Rosa, a woman who stifles her grief over her father’s death through self deprecating humor, kitchen dinners, and endless rounds of driving lessons. She is sweet and caring, but is scared of her powers. She is teased by her sister and could easily fall into tropes about lonely, frumpy women. However, she is painted as an extraordinary person who just wishes to be ordinary, until she eventually realizes what good she can do with her talents. The film does not dwell on her weight or looks but, rather, treats her a complex human being who is trying to figure out her place in a world full of spirits. 

Nevertheless, the scene stealers of Extra Ordinary are Forte as Winter and Claudia O’Doherty as his wife, Claudia. They form an eclectic pair who scramble for wealth however they can. Forte, with his quaffed hair and “posh” American accent, chews each scene with a kind of pretension that only comes from former stars. He is exorbitantly deplorable and a treat to watch. At one point, he says sheepishly, “I brought a seltzer and a snack.” While a simple line, Forte delivers it in an oh-so relatable manner. O’Doherty, on the other hand, absolutely kills it as the disgruntled wife who is sick and tired of being poor. She interrupts demonic rituals to order Chinese food, asks questions like “why don’t we just kill the bitch,” and begrudgingly follows Winter wherever he needs her. She is the epitome of a woman who has gone through too much to support her man, and is reaching the end of her rope. Her comedic timing is impeccable, her attitude is flawless, and she never fails to make the viewers laugh.

Extra Ordinary is a touching and hilarious story about ghosts and the humans they’ve left behind. While there is a larger story at hand about the evils of Christian Winter, the heart of the film lies with Rosa and Martin as each try to grapple with their own grief and its manifestations. Extra Ordinary shows us that grief can be heartbreaking, funny, difficult, and exhausting all at the same time. It is a phenomenal horror comedy that isn’t afraid to laugh at the dead. 

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