Dir. Wesley Taylor & Alex Wyse (2023)
At a gay bachelor party, a playful séance accidentally summons vengeful spirits.
CAUTION: MAY CONTAIN SPOILERS
Is there anything gayer than summoning an evil spirit by delivering a four-part harmony of Smash Mouth’s All Star as an offering to the dead? Wesley Taylor and Alex Wyse’s Summoning Sylvia finds four friends at a bachelor party in a haunted house, where they dance, sing, twerk, and invoke malevolent specters that used to live in the house by remembering all that they’ve learned from Wicked on Broadway. The comedic points are almost all hits, and the film plays almost more like a romantic comedy than it does horror, though there are absolutely elements of that as well. Rather than a standard horror comedy, Summoning Sylvia is filled with heart, transitioning from a tale of potential demonic possession to a movie about what it means to fit in, societal pressures that are common to us all, and the miscommunications inherent to people who aren’t always speaking the same language.
I gotta admit, I honestly didn’t expect this one to be as funny as it was. The laughs are pretty consistent throughout the film, evenly paced so that there are not too many moments without at least a chuckle and a few that are funny all the way through. The cast is fantastic, with the four friends played by Travis Coles, Frankie Grande, Troy Iwata, and Noah J. Ricketts, and the groom’s brother Nicholas Logan as the lone straight man (which is a double entendre in this instance). The direction is excellent, an indie film that feels much more like a AAA feature. The plot is the true star of the show here, an Abbot-and-Costello-esque story that feels as old Hollywood as it does new horror. The film is filled with surprises, and to say I liked it way more than I expected would be an understatement.
The ”gayness” of the film is on full display throughout, which may be a turnoff for some viewers, even in 2023. It is, to be fair, a little over the top at times, though it is 100% purposeful in every instance that it feels a bit much. It’s difficult to really even give a full-throated critique of the overbearingness of the humor, because it is very much intended, and even the more ridiculous parts of the premise are very well-founded in the plot. The current cultural relevance drips off of the screen, and it’s a film that would’ve been very much unwelcome even perhaps as recently as five years in the past. In a world where drag queens are being banned and gayness is seen in parts of society to be even more dangerous than it perhaps used to be, it’s refreshing to see a film that fully embraces what it is the way that Mama Rue has been telling queer society to do for decades.
It's not always hard to guess where the film is going, especially once you begin to suspect that not everything is as it seems. It is a credit to the writing and the performances within that this in no way ruins them movie, and once the characters begin to learn what the audience already suspects, everything manages to wrap with a tidy bow in a way that feels perfect for the perspective from which the film is coming. There’s a certain kind of self-aware acceptance that is on display, and I am absolutely here for it. While there are certain to be people who won’t even give the film a chance, that’s a shame, because this one is way better than it has any right to be.
Who this movie is for: Horror comedy lovers, Queer horror fans, Pizza lovers
Bottom line: Full of heart and equally full of gayness, Summoning Sylvia is far more comedy than horror despite having elements of the latter sprinkled throughout. The story is phenomenal, the writing and direction is stellar, and the performances within are far better than you usually get from this grade of film. I would highly recommend checking this one out if your viewing habits vary more than just Fox News, because this one just may surprise you with how watchable and entertaining it actually is. Funny all the way through, I really enjoyed the film far more than I thought I would