Summoning Sylvia is a lighthearted, fun, horror comedy highlighting some important themes. One of which is the relationships between queer and hetero folk. Tend to stay away from films that “beat you over the head” with messages? I mean, every film you watch has themes and messages. Some just have finesse and aren’t so on the nose. Summoning Sylvia falls into that category. It is just absolute fun with some great suspense!
‘Horror is Queer’, But Not Exclusive
For creators and moviegoers alike, horror has always been the best way to work out traumas. There’s a longstanding history of queer coding in the origins of horror. Frankenstein, Dracula, Wolfman, and The Picture of Dorian Gray, each of these stories were created by queer authors who, in their time, remained closeted due to social stigma and actual laws. Oscar Wilde even fell victim to this. But that’s a whole other article altogether. I say this to say if you have ever heard anyone say “horror is queer,” that’s why. Although, Summoning Sylvia is beautifully bold.
Summoning Sylvia Synopsis
Three friends, Reggie (Troy Iwata, What Lies Below (2020), Nico (Frankie Grande, Spree (2020), and Kevin (Noah J. Ricketts, American Gods (2021) sneak their bestie Larry (Travis Coles, Superstore (2020) away for a surprise bachelor party getaway. The surprise? The getaway is at an allegedly haunted house in upstate New York, where a prior owner Sylvia Lawrence (Veanne Cox, The Mandalorian (2023) was said to have butchered her son Phillip (Camden Garcia, Station 19 (2020) in cold blood.
There’s a kink in the plan when Larry calls to update fiance Jamie (Michael Urie, The Bite (2021) on his whereabouts for the weekend. Jamie reminds Larry that he was supposed to go tux and shoe shopping with his soon-to-be-brother-in-law Harrison (Nicholas Logan, Creepshow (2021). But Larry, being a people-pleaser, tells Jamie to just send Harrison up to spend the weekend with them, despite not consulting with his friends.
Jamie’s hesitation suggests that there may be discomfort all-around with Harrison because he’s a straight, Marine veteran who’s just returned home from Iraq. But Larry insists it’ll be fine and neglects to tell his friends. So there’s heavy awkwardness when Harrison arrives later that night interrupting a seance. Wackiness ensues as the group tries to adjust to one another, and spooky and mysterious things begin happening around the house.
Summoning Sylvia Has Lots to Love
I have to share my technical appreciation of the film. The music composed by Max Muller (Girls Trip (2017) was fantastic; whimsical, fun, and suspenseful at all the right moments. And Sara Corrigan’s (Here After (2020) editing was just perfect. Of course I can’t neglect to mention the wonderful lighting, set design, and cinematography; it takes a team. But for me, the stand-outs were music and editing.
At the start of Summoning Sylvia, I was uncertain. Because sometimes writers/directors receive pressure to make trope-y characters. But I was relieved to find that wasn’t the case here. As the film progressed, and the characters move through their arcs, they start to feel more like people you know in real life. Definite kudos to the cast and directors.
There are biases about how gay men are, and who they should be. Not just how hetero people perceive them, but how our own community perceives them too. Same with lesbians, to be honest. Even when you look at Harrison’s character, some of the friends in their group have their biases about who he is as a straight, white, Marine veteran. Some great things are done with the characters that I can’t get into because I don’t want to spoil anything.
All Is Not What It Seems
Writers/directors Wesley Taylor (It Could Be Worse (2013) and Alex Wyse (Iron Fist (2017) did such an incredible job dropping situation after situation on you so that you’re basically sitting there saying “Oh shit… what’s next…” and they wrap it all up in such a wonderfully sweet and beautiful way. I got a little teary. Usually, my writer’s brain is automatically figuring out what will happen next. Watching each beat, and following the acts as they unfold. It’s not often that I get wrapped up in a film. So thanks for that guys!
All in all, if you’re a fan of horror comedies, I’d say put Summoning Sylvia on your list and maybe make it a group watch. The more laughs the merrier. It’s delightfully clever and masterfully suspenseful. Also, if you have friends that are not into horror for whatever reason, Summoning Sylvia is a safe watch.
Going back to what I was saying “Horror is queer”, I know there will be some that will look at the synopsis for Summoning Slyvia and say “Oh, that’s not for me”, and honestly? As mentioned in my thoughts on The Blackening trailer, it may not be for everyone. But there’s a well-rounded enough story that you can find humor in the situations and likely find things about the characters that you may have some level of relatability. If they’re not like you, you may know someone like any one of them.
And if none of that applies… they each have their charm, and you’ll be left wishing you had them in your life. In a world where people constantly misunderstand each other, sometimes art is what can unify us. Or in the case of Summoning Sylvia, a horrific tale of a murderous ghost set on getting revenge is the tie that binds.