A driver’s ed. instructor, a hair stylist, a magpie and a rock star meet in a haunted mansion during a Satanic ritual. This sounds like a bad joke, right? Wrong. It’s “Extra Ordinary.”
In “Extra Ordinary,” everyday people encounter the spirit world. There is no professional exorcist, no medium with a tortured psyche, no photon blaster-touting Ghostbusters. There’s just Rose. She’s a driver’s ed. instructor by day, spiritual advisor by night. Maeve Higgins’ (“The Rainbow Bridge Motel”) performance as Rose is astounding. She can fill a single scene with more laughs than most A-list stars and you’re bound to love her character from the start.
Rose is a bit out of practice exorcism-wise, though, because of a disastrous accident with her father, her old partner on the ghost beat. She’s pulled out of retirement by Martin, played by Barry Ward (“The Fall”), whose daughter may or may not have been selected for a Satanic sacrifice.
This sounds like typical horror fare, but the story’s supernatural tropes are wrapped in deadpan comedy. During a Satanic prayer, Will Forte’s (“Booksmart”) Christian Winter, the aforementioned rock star, keeps getting interrupted by his wife talking about her Chinese food.
The spirits are ordinary, too. They haunt recycling bins, potholes: even a toaster. Unlike most hauntings, though, these shades aren’t out to get anybody. They’re just souls who have lost their way. “Extra Ordinary” is more realistic than most horror movies, in a way. What’s a dead person more likely to do: spend years coming up with sinister ways to frighten people, or try their best to right wrongs, look after loved ones or just be plain petty?
“Extra Ordinary” is horror combined with realistic, utterly dry humor — “The Conjuring” meets “Curb Your Enthusiasm.” It shouldn’t work, but it does. The writing is stupendous, and always has a punchline or a plot twist up its sleeve, right up until the last line. When all is said and done, though, what will be remembered are these characters. It’s a shame when the credits roll, because you’ll wants to keep watching these people and their hilarious, ghost-filled lives. Higgens and Forte are scene stealers, and their absurd characters sing with authenticity, which makes their hijinks all the funnier.
Usually, horror movies are only funny when they’re quite bad: think 2006’s “The Wicker Man,” the recent “Color Out of Space” or pretty much any time, come to think of it, that Nicholas Cage is involved. Not in this case, though. In “Extra Ordinary,” the two genres complement one another. The comedy is funnier when juxtaposed with terror, and the horror is scarier when it interrupts a comedic moment that lets your guard down. The movie is also unafraid to get brutal, which keeps things edgy and adds some insane, gore-filled slapstick.
“Extra Ordinary” seamlessly blends two of the best genres for escaping reality. Watching this movie is a great way to distract oneself from the terrifying, comedy-starved real world. If you don’t like horror movies, or thumb your nose at comedies, you should give this a try. There’s something in it for everyone.
There’s even a scene where Will Forte sings “Satan … Satannnnn,” while twirling around in a kimono and playing an organ. It’s fantastic.