Writer/directors Mike Ahern and Enda Loughman come out swinging with Extra Ordinary, their first feature and a clever bit of horror-comedy that may recall the likes of Edgar Wright, but that carves out a dry identity all its own. Think Peter Jackson's The Frighteners meets Wright's Shaun of the Dead, but with a secret weapon—the delightful Maeve Higgins.
Higgins is Rose, a former medium grappling with the years-earlier death of her similarly supernaturally gifted father. With a ghostly television series in their past, the father was almost like a Robert Stack type, though rather than just hosting the unsolved mysteries, he lived and solved them; Maeve blames herself for his death and has since become a driving instructor. But with a bit of lingering celebrity in her town, she still fields the odd request for ghost-busting help. "I haven't done that stuff in years," her answering machine implores as the prank calls keep rolling in.
Meanwhile, a has-been 1970s rockstar (SNL's Will Forte) who moved to town for tax purposes has entered a pact with a demon on the lookout for virgin sacrifice. Rose thus finds herself swept up in a battle against the literal devil alongside a neighborhood father (Barry Ward) who might just be haunted in his own right. Hilarity ensues.
Higgins rules Extra Ordinary with a painfully relatable knack for playing shy kindness and tortured self-doubt, while Ward's dorky dad shtick hits all the right notes against Forte's over-the-top brand of devil worship. This is that UK humor you've heard so much about, shot and lit like a 1980s occult horror flick and with an obvious reverence for the genre's tropes. Yes, the filmmakers are riffing on any number of fright flick conceits, but it's good-natured ribbing solidified by Higgins' hysterical and spot-on delivery. Forte's cowardly devil worshipper is a treat as well, though Ward's range particularly enamors and surprises with lightning fast phasing between sheepishly adorable and caustic wit. Claudia O'Doherty sadly flails as Forte's dickish wife, however—perhaps because she's given too little to do or because her turn as the lovable Bertie in the Netflix series Love was a far more natural space for her.
And so, some place between the self-referential absurdity, a little bit of the old gross-out action and a studied, starry-eyed grasp of horror filmmaking, Ahern and Loughman find a unique story that maybe could have used a little more time in the incubator and gussying up, but still winds up one of the funnier and more interesting options streaming right now.
+Higgins; a fairly fresh horror take
-Some padding; some irritating performances
Directed by Ahern and Loughman
With Higgins, Ward, Forte and O'Doherty
jeancocteaucinema.com, R, 94 min.