A glamboyant gaycation getaway to celebrate the pending marriage between Larry (Travis Coles, Aftermath) and Jamie (Michael Urie, Ugly Betty) is at the festive heart of The Horror Collective's indie-horror comedy Summoning Sylvia. Written and directed by Broadway stalwarts Wesley Taylor and Alex Wyse, Summoning Sylvia puts Larry, Nico (Frankie Grande, Spree), Kevin (Noah J. Ricketts, The Fiji Incentive), and Reggie (Troy Iwata, What Lies Below) in a not so festive creepy old house with a horror story of its own involving a certain not so maternal Sylvia (Veanne Cox, You've Got Mail) who murdered her son and buried him in the baseboards of this very house.
Seems like the perfect place for a séance, don't ya think?
This indie horror-comedy is decidedly light on the actual horror yet abundant in its over-the-top humor, fabulousness, heightened histrionics, and all out fun. Things get weird when Larry realizes he was supposed to have spent the weekend with his future brother-in-law, a heightened hetero named Harrison (Nicholas Logan, I Care a Lot) and tries to fix the situation by inviting Harrison to the weekend getaway without consulting with the others.
That seems misguided.
Summoning Sylvia is no Hellbent, the 2004 LGBTQ slasher from writer/director Paul Etheredge-Ouzts that went fairly heavy on the horror but relatively light everywhere else. Instead, Summoning Sylvia takes off kaleidoscopic tapestry of campfest meets fish-out-of-water meets gay musical meets haunted house comedy.
It's really hard to explain Summoning Sylvia and do it justice. If you get the chance to see it during its limited nationwide theatrical run, do it. If you have to wait until the film's 4/7 Cable VOD and Digital HD release then make sure you put it on your gay cinematic agenda.
Summoning Sylvia is charmingly queer and filled with nearly non-stop grins and giggles. The entire ensemble seems to be having a blast here and there's a cohesion that helps the film sparkle from beginning to end. For the most part, Summoning Sylvia is a predictable effort but it's just so energized and fun you won't regret a moment of the film's slight yet nicely paced 74-minute running time.
If you're watching it for Michael Urie, it's worth noting that Urie's appearance here is more of a glorified, fully spotlighted cameo. However, while he's here he's awesome and his presence is felt throughout. Frankie Grande is an absolute edgy gem here as Nico, though truthfully everyone here has moments to shine with both Travis Coles and Troy Iwata also turning in top-notch work. As the iconic Sylvia, Veanne Cox won't quickly be forgotten.
Max Mueller's original score is a movie highlight that amplifies the film's horror hilarity. Matthew Roveto's lensing nails the tone that Taylor and Wyse seem to be going for and achieve with stiletto precision.
There are moments when Summoning Sylvia shows its low-budget roots, however, this is a film where an abundance of talent both on and off-screen helps to turn what could have easily gone so wrong into a film that goes incredibly right.
While hardcore horror hounds won't find much to enjoy here, for those who go into Summoning Sylvia ready to be outrageously entertained this little indie gem offers up a good time for all.
Written by Richard Propes
The Independent Critic