Mike Ahern and Enda Loughman’s Extra Ordinary, which received its Pacific Northwest Premiere at North Bend Film Festival, is a comedy-horror set in a small, rural, Irish town where both the living and dead reside. Opening with a video playing on the television, where a voiceover asks the question: Why don’t we see ghosts every day? Straight away, Ahern and Loughman make it apparent that their film will be living up to its title by focusing on the paranormal world and their hauntings as they attempt to be dealt with.
The person asking this question introduces himself as Vincent Dooley (Risteard Cooper), as part of his television series ‘Vincent Dooley’s Investigating the Extraordinary’. But, this is not Vincent’s story. It is his daughter’s, Rose (Maeve Higgins), his former partner who helped him with his work due to her so-called ‘talents’ that allow her to communicate with this Irish towns ghosts as she can see their menacing activity. Vincent has since passed, and Rose and her sister, Sailor, (Terri Chandler) are seen stood over his grave discussing the details of his death, where it is revealed that Rose accidentally killed him. Rose has since hung up her paranormal career to dry due to the traumatic incident with her father and is now a driving instructor. Now, Rose appears lonely and off-track as she can no longer answer her calling. She wishes for nothing more than to put her past and talent to bed, ignoring the ghosts reaching out to her and potential clients who need help. While Rose is wanting to find satisfaction through living an ordinary life, the only one she will ever know is extraordinary.
What Extra Ordinary touches upon best are how isolation is a presence itself that makes us feel invisible to the world, like a ghost, however, this state of ordinary Rose has attempted to forge for herself can never be achieved due to her past and reputation. It especially comes to a halt when Martin (Barry Ward) gets in contact with Rose to see if she will exorcise his wife’s ghost from his house. As the two forge a connection and already have shared similarities due to the parallel narrative of their lives, as Rose and Martin are teachers, and Vincent and Martin have become known as crazy fathers who talk to ghosts, Rose and Martin are soon stitched together by one more act.
In an attempt to regain his former glory, one-hit-wonder Christian Winter (Will Forte) makes a pact with the devil (note the great use of irony and juxtaposition in the character’s name) for a comeback, but, requires a virgin for part of the sacrifice. He is led towards Martin’s daughter, Sarah, (Emma Coleman) and casts an incantation, placing her into a holding spell. These turn of events are what transition the film from appearing more like a paranormal rom-com, to horror, as the film highlights the horrifying acts that people will pursue all in the name of craving greed and success. But, in the middle of the incantation scene where Christian does possess Sarah, Extra Ordinary did feel like it had a shortcoming as it could have intensified this series of horror through a more series tone in oppose to comedy to create more malice.
Nonetheless, if Extra Ordinary were to stray away from its humorous approach, it would only be working against itself. It portrays a different side to exorcisms that have been seen in horror, and references the explicitness of The Exorcist itself, resulting in a film that is seen aware of conventions and tropes. It follows on from the paranormal occurrences that we cannot see when they blend in as unnoticed to portray the wrath of severity and panic surrounding possession and sacrifice.
Extra Ordinary is not afraid to stick to its deadpan, dry humor as it does not wish to take itself seriously. The humour might not be to everyone’s liking, and that is okay, as it does not compromise the overall substance of the film even when jokes regarding sexual activity fall short and can come across in bad taste. Its carefree approach makes it hard for any problems to surface, and in a film where a character is named Martin Martin, Extra Ordinary is persistent with attempting to spark up the mundane, within both its action and camerawork.
Aside from seeing an exploding body and a lot of thrown up ectoplasm, Ahern and Loughman do portray a lighter side to the tale. You can experience Rose dealing with her past, and very briefly, the world starts to lighten up for her as she no longer ignores what she cannot help but see. She engages with the world instead of shutting it out and this allows a moment where she can reconnect with her father. Nevertheless, there is still a price to pay. Rose also reflects on her bad experiences, as they are always hard to ignore. She grows fearful of establishing a partnership once more, causing her to debate between whether or not she is strong enough to save Sarah and help Martin as the threat of the blood moon rises which will see Christian’s plan complete.
With such an imminent threat, it is easy to see why Rose would shut down. Anybody who has experience with playing The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild will know how intense and fearful a blood moon is, and Extra Ordinary draws on this by illuminating the town in a red fluorescent light to draw on the same effect of panic. Luckily for Rose, she now has Martin on her side, who encourages her to not give up, as each would not be where they are without each other.