Directors: Mike Ahern and Enda Loughman
Talent: Maeve Higgins, Barry Ward, Will Forte
Released: 13 September
Rose (Higgins), is a small town driving instructor, who is also blessed (or cursed, as she would see it) with the ability to speak to the dead. Her father had these abilities, known as “The Talents”, and, since he met a sticky end using his gifts, she has discontinued the family business of ghost whispering. Nevertheless, supernatural requests that are hilariously small scale keep coming in — haunted frying pans, tractors, rubbish bins, children’s bikes etc. The film opens with a cheesy video presentation about ghosts that evokes RTE of yesteryear, presented by Rose’s father (a note-perfect Risteard Cooper). Contrary to popular belief, he argues that ghosts are rather meek and ineffectual, although “even the weakest ghosts can possess cheese quite easily”. Rose’s resolve to stay retired gets tested by Martin (Ward), with whom she sympathises. Poor Martin is constantly getting henpecked by his deceased wife, who tells him what to wear and what to eat, essentially abusing him, her dominion a mainstay even beyond the grave.
Meanwhile, in a nearby castle, Christian Winter, a washed up rockstar, plans to make a comeback by making a deal with the devil. In order to achieve this, he must sacrifice a virgin, and he has his sights on Martin’s daughter Sarah. Rose and Martin have to work together to save the girl, who is in captivity in a catatonic state.
Visually striking, this film is properly cinematic, avoiding the usual laziness that can come with mainstream comedy. Certain scenes are reminiscent of Edgar Wright’s visual flair – indeed, small town provincialism and big scale thrills are mixed in a similar way to that of Hot Fuzz. Also, the film is not afraid to go gory at times – a throat is slit, someone is disemboweled.
That said, the abiding tone is one of sweetness and quotidian charm. Higgins and Ward are insanely likeable. Bringing much pathos, Higgins is like that that best friend you have whose both comforting and raucously funny. You may remember her asking out random male members of the population in Naked Camera in the noughties. She plays a less desperate version of this persona bereft in love, but plucky, keeping her eyes peeled for an eligible man. Ward is similarly likeable, but he’s also a gladhand at doing characters – in order to help Rose exorcise certain objects, he is inhabited by spirits, even being possessed by his own chain-smoking wife later on. He can play a range of characters with great aplomb (not unlike James McAvoy in Split).
What doesn’t quite work is Christian Winter, the villain played by Will Forte, who has been wonderful elsewhere. It feels like he’s been drafted in from another film. It’s like a SNL performance playing to the gallery, and sticks out all the more for how charming and low-key Higgins and Ward are. Also, there’s so much thrown at us and, of course, not all of it sticks. Some jokes are a bit flat and don’t really land, but many do, and so many other things work besides – likeable characters, great set-pieces, a comical eeriness that is reminiscent of What We Do In The Shadows. By the end, the film will have generated enough good-will for you to withstand a few howlers, and pleasingly, all the threads are brought together skilfully in the outrageous climactic scene, involving a very slow-speed chase and some public coitus.
It’s edifying to watch a film that, for all its focus on the everyday, never feels small.
Words: Rory Kiberd
Illustration: Rob Torrans