Synopsis: A gay bachelor party turns spooky when sinister spirits are suddenly summoned.
Stars: Travis Coles, Michael Urie, Frankie Grande, Nicholas Logan, Troy Iwata, Noah Ricketts, Sean Grandillo, Camden Garcia, Veanne Cox
Director: Wesley Taylor, Alex Wyse
Running Length: 74 minutes
TMMM Score: (7/10)
Review: Do you want to know what I did after finishing Summoning Sylvia? I ate a big ‘ole slice of humble pie with a side serving of my words. Yep, it was a dish I deserved too, because I had committed a foolish sin that all critics must always strive to avoid. I looked at the poster and thought I knew precisely what kind of movie was about to stream my way. Not that there was anything disastrous about the poster, mind you, but a film about a gay bachelor party that goes off the rails thanks to an unwelcome haunting felt like it needed something better than what I could cook up quickly on a layout app.
To be fair, Summoning Sylvia is thin on originality and low on budget, but writer/directors Wesley Taylor and Alex Wyse have managed to fill in whatever gaps are present by finding the right cast to keep viewers more than sufficiently entertained. Add in a script that is quick with quips and rapid-fire inside (Broadway/drag) baseball dialogue used to amp up your standard ghost story mystery, and you have a surprisingly effective comedy that works far better than it should.
Before Larry (Travis Coles, Together Together) ties the knot with Jamie (Michael Urie, Single All the Way), his friends have surprised him with a weekend away at a stately house with a spooky past. According to Reggie (Troy Iwata, Dash & Lily), the original owner was Syliva (Veanne Cox, Miss Firecracker), a woman executed for murdering her son, supposedly doing the deed and hiding his body in the house. Always up for tricks, Nico (Frankie Grande, Spree) decides to get a rise out of his friends by holding a séance to see if Sylvia is up for a conversation. Of course, this dark ceremony doesn’t go as planned, and soon, all sorts of unexplained events are happening.
Around the same time, Jamie’s older (straight) brother Harrison (Nicholas Logan, I Care A Lot) arrives on Larry’s invite. A veteran and recovering alcoholic, he’s unprepared for the wave of LGBTQ+ energy that greets him, the offer of a variety of cocktails, or the possibility that a ghost has been let loose in the house and may be trying to trim the wedding party. As the boys attempt to make it through the night, some get closer while inevitable tea is spilled involving loyalties. There’s also that pesky Scooby-Doo-ish mystery to be solved.
Taylor and Wyse have a good ear for comedy (a running joke is Noah J. Ricketts’ Kevin still pining over an ex-texting-boyfriend that turned out to be an algorithm) and have cast the film well with actors that have an undeniable aura of watchablity. At 74 minutes, the movie is over in a flash, and despite a bit of sag in the middle when Harrison gets added into the mix, and there’s a natural adjustment period, it moves at an amicable pace.
These fun finds are rare, sadly, often because their limited marketing budgets make them so easy to pass up. This is one not to let slip by. The performances are solid, led by Coles and nearly stolen by Grande’s well-timed line readings. I also enjoyed Iwata as the tightly wound, organized one of the bunch. Always just at his breaking point, Iwata laid it on thick but not heavy. Summoning Sylvia may not be destined to be a cult classic, but it’s going to be one that will (and should) succeed on word-of-mouth buzz. What’s more, I think there’s room for more films with this cast and crew if Taylor and Wyse can develop another scenario that would fit.