Arts

Maeve Higgins stars in Extra Ordinary, an 'uneven but enjoyable blend of comic silliness and supernatural hi-jinx'

Comedian Maeve Higgins stars in supernatural-themed comedy Extra Ordinary. David Roy sampled this low budget Irish film from first time feature directors Mike Ahern and Enda Loughman

Rose (Maeve Higgins) is persuaded to deploy her supernatural talents when she meets haunted single dad Martin (Barry Ward)

THE Irish have traditionally done death well. When a loved one passes, we give them a proper send off: family, friends and neighbours gather to pay their respects, share favourite memories and consume their own body weights in tea and sandwiches.

However, what if your dearly departed hasn't actually departed? What if their presence decides to stick around for a while to observe how life goes on without them and occasionally communicate their views via good old fashioned and highly unsettling supernatural means?

It would probably get a bit annoying after a while – and, at that point, who you gonna call?

In the case of Extra Ordinary from first time feature directors Mike Ahern and Enda Loughman, you give reluctant ghostbuster Rose Dooley (Maeve Higgins) a bell. Having grown up with a celebrity spook wrangler for a father (played with hammy aplomb by Aprés Match man Risteard Cooper), Rose has also inherited his 'talent' for communicating with the recently deceased.

However, following a tragic exorcism-related incident, Rose has resolved to forgo the supernatural in favour of carving out a career as a driving instructor – though this doesn't stop haunted locals from ringing the lonely singleton's mobile and requesting special spectral assistance.

The tormented Martin (Barry Ward) is a case in point: his late missus is still aggressively sticking her oar in about what he can and cannot wear/eat/do months after becoming maggot fodder, and Martin's teenage daughter Sarah (Emma Coleman) demands that he get in touch with Rose and attempt to sort it.

Rose has traded ghost-hunting for driving instruction

Meanwhile, fading rock star Christian 'one hit' Winter (an impressively be-wigged and mustachioed Will Forte) is living in tax exile at the local creepy castle, where he has resorted to Satanic methods in order to kick start his stalled pop career and thus keep his Antipodean harpie of a wife Claudia (Claudia O'Doherty) in the manner she's become accustomed to.

The price of rekindled fame? A virgin sacrifice, of course.

This is the set-up for Extra Ordinary's uneven but mostly enjoyable blend of comic silliness and supernatural hi-jinx. The film is fuelled by appealing chemistry between professional comedian Higgins and Ward (The Capture, Maze), the latter making the most of a rare comedic role by gamely grappling with some fairly gross physical shtick involving repeated regurgitations.

Tone is mainly daft and gentle, save for a rather jarring moment of horror gore that may be a tad brutal for some tastes, depending on your tolerance for all-too casually disemboweled teens.

Horror fans will enjoy the many visual and verbal references to genre classics (a key plot point is even lifted wholesale from 80s cult fave The Monster Squad) and the supernatural special effects are excellently realised, belying the mimimal budget.

Attractive production design harnesses a nicely evocative non-era-specific blend of 1980s cars, fashions and 'any colour, so long as it's beige or brown' fitted kitchens and early 2000s relics like portable VHS/TV combos and pre-smartphone Nokias.

However, despite delivering regular chuckles throughout its fairly tight 93-minute running time, Extra Ordinary definitely loses steam (and audience goodwill) whenever Higgins and Ward are not on the screen: their charming storyline of comedically clumsy, ectoplasm-spattered romance almost feels like it belongs in a different film to the cartoonish, demon-summoning, virgin-sacrificing antics and scenery chewing of Forte and O'Doherty, and the climactic crossing of these two distinct streams is a tad clumsy.

The script is credited to the directors with 'additional writing' from Higgins and Demian Fox (Red Rock), so perhaps Extra Ordinary's flaws are down to a simple case of too many cooks.

That's a pity, because with a little extra something, this competent Irish comedy might well have proved literally extraordinary.

Rating: 6.5/10

EXTRA ORDINARY (15, 93mins), Comedy/Horror/Romance. Maeve Higgins, Barry Ward, Will Forte, Emma Coleman, Claudia O'Doherty, Terri Chandler, Jamie Beamish. Directors: Mike Ahern and Enda Loughman

:: Extra Ordinary is showing at QFT Belfast from Friday September 13, tickets and times via Queensfilmtheatre.com

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