Film Review: “Summoning Sylvia

Starring: Travis Coles, Michael Urie and Frankie Grande
Directed by: Wesley Taylor and Alex Wyse
Rated: R
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.

Film Review: “Attachment”

Starring: Sofie Grabol, Josephine Park and Ellie Kendrick
Directed by: Gabriel Bier Gislason
Rated: NR
Running Time: 105 minutes

Our Score: 3 out of 5 stars

On paper, “Attachment” reads like a meet-cute sitcom episode. Maya (Park) is a washed up Danish actress making ends meet as a children’s entertainer at a library when she bumps into Leah (Kendrick), a youthful Jewish student who is exploring the world in her studies. The two immediately connect as they go back to Maya’s place for some cute glances and steamy sex. Things are off to an incredibly fast and amazing start when Leah suffers a bizarre seizure at night which results in a leg injury. So Maya goes with Leah back to her home in London where Maya meets Leah’s overbearing mother, Chana (Grabol). Definitely a meet-cute formula that’s about to get gobsmacked by something evil.

Without spoiling anything, “Attachment” is a movie we’ve seen before, utilizing several clichés to move the plot along, but what elevates the story is the unique qualities it brings to the table. Very rarely do we see these kinds of films with LGBTQ+ characters and Judaism as the subtext. That’s not to say the film intentionally includes these elements to be unique. Matter of fact, the film interweaves the nuances of these elements with clichés so that the clichés don’t feel nearly as prevalent. They’re still there, and at times give away what’s happening in Chana’s home.

The biggest thing I enjoyed about “Attachment” is how deep, even with how brief it sometimes is, we go in-depth with these characters. We learn more about Maya to where we understand why she feels the way she does about Leah. We also begin to recognize the toxic codependency between Leah and her mother. It’s difficult at first to tell which one is the most toxic and which one is potentially responsible for the increasingly paranormal things happening in the house. But like I stated before, if you’re a horror aficionado, you might be able to figure out what’ll happen in the final act because of the clichés.

Thankfully the film focuses more on mood than jump scares for its horror so that the film never feels cheap. Even when the runtime begins to feel a bit too long, the story continues to chug thanks to an effective atmosphere and believable performances. For me, it was difficult at times to figure out if this film works better as a horror with romance elements or a romance with horror elements because at times the film does both effectively and sometimes poorly. For the sake of the genre argument, I’ll say that this is a fine addition to the growing LGBTQ+ and Judaism horror collection. Maybe it’s because we haven’t seen these kinds of people in these stories, but “Attachment” feels fresh, even when it’s doing a juggling act we’ve seen dozens of times before.