Saturday, October 19, 2019

"Buff-O-Ween": Extra Ordinary

As I've been saying when IFFBoston does their Fall Focus every year, local film festivals doing "and-a-half" series to screen the movies that would play their main event except for how films don't stay on the festival circuit for that long anymore is a downright fantastic idea, and the Boston Underground Film Festival having this horror-centric one in October is especially great. Many of these things are not going to hit the big screen otherwise, and they deserve a chance to be seen.

(Selfishly, it's really convenient for me, being able to pick off a couple that I couldn't make work for my schedule at Fantasia like this one, while also including others that I did see so that I can not have this one event eat my entire weekend like IFFBoston's Fall Focus will in a couple of weeks.)

Speaking of scheduling and other festivals, this one was co-presented by the Irish Film Festival of Boston, and while introducing the movie, representatives for both fests talked about how the various organizers are trying to coordinate and work together better, which means that next year the Irish and Underground festivals will not be held the same weekend, but one after the other. As someone who has regretted missing some of the Irish movies, I find this to be genuinely great (and long-overdue) news.


* * * (out of four)
Seen 17 October 2019 in Somerville Theatre #3 (Buff-O-Ween, digital)

I remember John Cleese once saying that the secret of Monty Python was that they eliminated punchlines, so they never had to reset and it was harder for a sketch to become retroactively disappointing because someone didn't like how it ended. I don't know if that's what David Guerrera was thinking while making "Raspberries", but it seems to be a necessary part of the plan. I can't think of an ending that would actually work here, but there are a couple minutes of laughs to be mined from the odd situation he chose.

It's one that most viewers will recognize - the odd family tradition that makes a newcomer uncomfortable - and Guerrera mines just the right amount of confusion and exaggerated eccentricity out of it before quickly cutting bait and forcing the audience to have an opinion on who was being unreasonable. It means that there's kind of not much here, but I suspect that when you consider it in its natural environment (as a YouTube video for a channel that delivers quick off-kilter hits), it's going to work pretty well.

Extra Ordinary

* * * ½ (out of four)
Seen 17 October 2019 in Somerville Theatre #3 (Buff-O-Ween, digital)

I suppose movies like Extra Ordinary are the domain of the streaming services now, but there should be theaters in every city that show movies like Extra Ordinary for relatively cheap, making it easier to experience them with an audience. It is built to be a cheap and memorable date, with plenty to make the audience smile, and even if someone somehow doesn't like it, it's just off-kilter enough to let you talk about how screwy it was.

Rose Dooley (Maeve Higgins) can talk to ghosts, but chooses instead to work as a driving instructor in her small Irish town, ever since the death of her father (Risteard Cooper) in an exorcism-related incident when she was younger, though they were just the level of locally famous that people still call her with their strange noises. Martin Martin (Barry Ward) has rather more than strange noises; his dead wife has been haunting him for eight years and is as pushy and, really, kind of abusive as ever; daughter Sarah (Emma Coleman) says she's moving out unless he does something about it. And Christian Warner (Will Forte), an American one-hit wonder who moved to town for tax reasons years ago, is looking to make a deal with the devil to jump-start his career, but after an unfortunate incident with his wife Claudia (Claudia O'Doherty) and their planned sacrifice, he's going to need another virgin, and the omens lead him directly to the hardware store where Sarah works after school.

One of the clever things filmmakers Mike Ahern & Enda Loughman do right in the VHS-tape-exposition drop that opens the movie is to establish that, compared to a lot of supernatural comedies, the stakes are likely to be fairly low; most ghosts, we are told, can't really establish enough of a toehold in our world to be more than extremely minor nuisances. Controlling ambition can be useful for this sort of movie - it keeps the visual effects budget under control and means you don't have to work too hard to sell that all this supernatural stuff can be happening in a world we find familiar. The next step is maybe even more impressive - deciding that small doesn't necessarily mean petty. Heroes and villains alike have modest enough goals that it feels like a situation the audience can fall into.

Full review on EFilmCritic

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