Where to stream it? Available for purchase from iTunes, Amazon, Vudu, Comcast, and Verizon beginning April 7, 2023 (go here for more details)
Starring: Travis Coles, Frankie Grande, Troy Iwata, Noah J. Ricketts, Nicholas Logan, Michael Urie, Veanne Cox
Written and Directed by: Wesley Taylor and Alex Wyse
Intro: Summoning Sylvia Review
There’s a film that I kept thinking of when watching this movie and it might come as a bit of a surprise. That is The Muppet Christmas Carol. Now hear me out.
Similar to how the Muppet Dickens adaptation drew humor from the contrast between its muppet characters and its 1800s era human players, some of Summoning Sylvia’s best moments come with a similar juxtaposition. Just swap out “felt hand puppets” with “gay men being extra.”
The glorious Veanne Cox delivers her performance as Sylvia, an old timey ghost with a seemingly dark history, as if she’s in the middle of a psychological thriller from A24. The quartet of boys on their gaycation in Sylvia’s former home, however, feel like they’ve just stepped out of The Werk Room on RuPaul’s Drag Race.
This LGBTQ horror comedy delivers an entertaining mashup of all things creepy and queer that's heavy on wit but light on scares.
Guess Who's Conjuring to Dinner?
When we first meet our ensemble, they have kidnapped and blindfolded Larry (Travis Coles), so they can surprise their friend with a bachelor party weekend at a swanky old home. At first, our eye makeup-wearing Larry is delighted by the opulence of the manor, sashaying down the fancy staircase.
Then he remembers that he’s supposed to spend the day with his future brother-in-law, Harrison (Nicholas Logan), at the request of his fiancé (Michael Urie). Unbeknownst to his fellow queer friends, Larry tells his fiancé over the phone to go ahead and let the straight, military-serving Harrison spend the weekend together with them. Larry wipes the makeup off his face and prepares his best macho voice in preparation for their new visitor.
Before Harrison arrives, Reggie (Troy Iwata), the bookish organizer of the bachelor’s weekend, researches the legend of the house they’re staying in. They find out that one hundred years prior, Sylvia is thought to have killed her only son and buried him on the grounds of the property before the townsfolk executed her in her own home. As the legend goes, Sylvia continues to haunt the grounds.
Nico (Frankie Grande), an alleged expert in the dark arts whose expertise stems only from watching the musical Wicked, decides to perform a seance in order to, you know, summon Sylvia.
As spooky events unfold in the house, the boys then must deal with the arrival of Harrison who feels like a fish out of water surrounded by gay guys.
That Sylvia, Though
Summoning Sylvia’s wit soars thanks to its snappy dialogue and charming cast. Some of my favorite lines were from Kevin (Noah J. Ricketts) as he describes the angst of getting out of a “relationship” with a catfish that has a hilarious true persona.
It should be said that this is not a particularly horrifying film, any more than perhaps Scooby-Doo. Whenever the plot veers towards something truly freaky with Sylvia, it whooshes back to the present day with some lighter material.
Perhaps that’s my one regret- I loved seeing Veanne Cox as Sylvia and wish she had more screen time. The way Cox whispered “how must it feel to puncture flesh” left me GAGGING.
Beyond that, it’s great to see LGBTQ representation in all corners of the horror genre and the movie does a fine job at expanding the growing niche of queer horror. But with a runtime at less than an hour and twenty minutes, I have to wonder: is there a cut of the film with more Sylvia? #ReleaseTheSylviaCut
Final Thoughts: Summoning Sylvia Review
This movie didn’t do a lot to scare me, but it didn’t have to. Anchored by a talented cast, Summoning Sylvia conjures up a spooky good time.
In case you missed its theatrical run, be sure to check out this movie on streaming platforms for some queer-centric laughs.