Starring: Travis Coles, Michael Urie and Frankie Grande
Directed by: Wesley Taylor and Alex Wyse
Running Time: 74 minutes
The Horror Collective
Our Score: 3 out of 5 stars
You’d think after writing for years and years I would have figured this out by now, but how exactly do genres get their assignment? Like, how does one decide if a film is a horror comedy or comedy horror? Does it make a difference? I always thought the first descriptor was ultimately what the film is while the second descriptor was the underlying genre. Regardless, for this review, let’s say that’s what is actually happening. While “Summoning Sylvia” is listed as a LGBTQ+ horror comedy, I would say it’s way more of a LGBTQ+ comedy horror.
Larry’s (Coles) three best friends have jokingly kidnapped him and taken him to a haunted Victorian home for his bachelor party, or, as the synopsis says, a gaycation, which is a fantastic word choice. I assume these actors are all and actually all know each other because the camaraderie oozes off the screen. However, Larry is put in a weird predicament because instead of having fun with his adorkable buds, he actually promised his hubby-to-be that he was going to hang out with his awkward, extremely hetero future brother-in-law, Harrison (Nicholas Logan). In a poor attempt to kill two birds with one stone, Larry, unbeknownst to his friends, invites Harrison to the party which gets stranger when one of Larry’s friends performs a seance in an effort to awaken the ghost of the home, Sylvia.
As not to spoil some of the twists and comedy of the film, “Summoning Sylvia” excels as a comedy, and mildly fine as a horror. The jump scares aren’t scary and almost feel a bit shoehorned in as if they were viewed as legitimate scares more so than a parody of jump scares, which would have worked better. The comedic moments are baked into the premise of friends having their house party weekend ruined, almost like a gay version of “Rough Night.” In fact, the best part of the film is one of Larry’s friends, Nico, played by Frankie Grande. Grande gnaws on scenery as much as he spits out comebacks and quips to his friends and Harrison’s homophobic remarks.
Not to be outdone, Coles shows his comedic timing as he plays negotiator between Harrison’s off-kilter persona and his flamboyantly gay friends. He also manages to be the emotional core of the film, handling the duty with nuance. A lot of the characters get their own moments to provide laughs and emotion, all working even when the acting isn’t up to par. That’s mostly because the characters feel genuine and real. Even when the paranormal activity amplifies, the actors never detach themselves from the reality of the situation unless it’s for belly laughs. While the ending doesn’t necessarily come together as well as the film probably thinks it does, the journey was worth it for the laughs. While the comedy is quite refreshing, it’s also very refreshing to see a predominantly LGBTQ+ cast, especially since the community has been a part of horror for decades. “Summoning Sylvia” is a quick, breezy, funny comedy dripping with horror cheese and cringe-inducing laughter.