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‘Extra Ordinary’: Ghostly Irish horror story also produces big laughs

The cheeky movie pits a reluctant paranormal expert (likable Maeve Higgins) against a pop star (Will Forte) in cahoots with the devil.

A washed-up rocker (Will Forte) needs to get past a paranormal expert (Maeve Higgins) to sacrifice a virgin in “Extra Ordinary.”
Cranked Up Films

“Later in this episode: Do you ever have nightmares after eating cheese? You might have eaten a ghost. Even the weakest ghost can possess cheese easily, due to the living bacteria in the cheese.” – Clip from an old TV program about ghosts in “Extra Ordinary.”

Just in time for St. Patrick’s Day and Friday the 13th, how about a nice Irish comedy/horror half & half?*

The breezy and cheeky “Extra Ordinary” (that’s how they’re spelling it and you’ll find out why if you check out the movie) is a romcom/possession movie with some of the biggest laughs in any film this year — and some pretty nasty and cool special effects as well.

The Irish comedian-actress Maeve Higgins gets her first starring role as the sweet and deadpan and supernaturally gifted Rose Dooley, and she knocks it out of the park. Expect big things from Higgins in the years to come. (The subject matter couldn’t be more different, but Higgins reminded me of when we first saw Nia Vardalos in “My Big Fat Greek Wedding” and immediately thought: I like her.)

Rose is a driving instructor who lives in a small rural town in Ireland, in the house where she grew up. One of the rooms is sealed off with a padlock and hasn’t been entered in years; it’s the old office of Rose’s late father, Vincent, who died when she was a little girl.

Risteard Cooper delivers dry, witty, low-key work as Vincent, a semi-famous spiritualist seen in flashbacks and in clips from the fantastically cheesy TV show about the supernatural he once hosted — with the help of the extraordinarily gifted little Rose as his sidekick.

Ever since Vincent was killed in a ghost-related tragedy for which Rose blames herself, Rose has suppressed her paranormal talents. She ignores the apparitions waving to her as she drives to work, and mutters at the tree branch waving at her, trying to get her attention.

Enter one Martin Martin (Barry Ward), and yes, this movie is funny enough to get away with naming a character Martin Martin. He’s a widower who hires Rose for some driving lessons — but because Martin is such a good fella and he instantly likes Rose, he almost immediately confesses he really contacted her in the hopes she’ll help him and his teenage daughter, Sarah (Emma Coleman), rid their house of the spirit of Martin’s late wife, Bonnie, who has become even more of a nag and drag in death than she was in life.

It gets worse. And more ridiculous.

Will Forte is his usual laugh-factory self as Christian Winter, a one-hit wonder pop star (of course there’s a faux video of Christian singing his No. 1 single “Cosmic Woman”). Christian has moved to Ireland as a tax dodge and is now living in an enormous, spooky castle with his insanely greedy, cold-blooded and increasingly impatient wife Claudia (Claudia O’Doherty).

Desperate for another hit, Christian literally makes a deal with the devil and agrees to kidnap and sacrifice a virgin in exchange for a return to pop stardom.

Hold on now. Didn’t we say something about Martin Martin having a young teenage daughter? Uh-oh.

The writing-directing team of Mike Ahern and Enda Loughman has a deft touch for alternating between low-key, naturalistic dialogue and some R-rated bloodletting and pyrotechnics. Whereas Rose and Martin Martin are lovely, sweet people who deserve to find a quiet, lifelong happiness with one another, Christian and Claudia are serious contenders to be the worst two humans on the planet. When their worlds collide, comedy prevails even as the supernatural fireworks fly.

“Extra Ordinary” has fun referencing certain obvious influences, none of which have crossed Rose’s pop culture radar. When Martin Martin mentions “The Exorcist,” Rose says, “Haven’t met him.” When he talks about “Ghostbusters,” she replies, “Oh, I haven’t read that.”

For all the Blood Moon horror movie hijinks and unwelcome visitors from the beyond and from hell, “Extra Ordinary” is at heart a warm and inviting Comfort Food Movie, with Maeve Higgins’ Rose and Barry Ward’s Martin as one of the most endearing pairings of the year.

* A half & half is a Guinness with Harp. Drink responsibly. Wash your hands. Sláinte.