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Diablo Joe Reviews Summoning Sylvia

Posted in Diablo Joe Reviews by Neal at 18:01, Apr 22 2023

"Summoning Sylvia"
review by Diablo Joe

"Summoning Sylvia"

Horror has come a long way from so many films that were either tone-deaf or outright homophobic and incorporated LGBTQ characters or tropes in a way that showed little respect or sensitivity for the community or its culture. Thankfully, lately, LGBTQ filmmakers have made some of the more interesting horror films over the past few years, with themes and characters uniquely part of their vision and experiences. And many have tapped into the culture’s often cheeky sensibility to make some of the most fun fright films in recent memory.

“Summoning Sylvia” is a campy, sassy horror comedy that also manages to toss in quite a few effective scares and a ton of heart alongside its frequent laughs. Take a group of fabulous friends gathered in a haunted murder house for a one-of-a-kind bachelor party for their dear buddy Larry. Then add an uncomfortable visit from Larry’s soon-to-be-brother-in-law, an Army soldier who couldn’t be straighter if he were in formation. Finally, toss in a spooky séance to raise the spirit of killer Sylvia, and you have a winning little picture.

The writing/directing team Wesley Taylor and Alex Wyse come to “Summoning Sylvia,” their first feature, with a long line of varied credits both behind and in front of the camera. This schooling experience has taught them well, as “Sylvia” is a confident gem on all levels. Their script is brisk, clever, suitably tense, emotionally honest, and funny as hell. Their filmic sense is equally adept. It’s a great-looking picture, with energetic camerawork and a great visual style. Taylor and Wyse frequently take us back and forth between our partiers and the 19th Century events surrounding the hatchet murder of Sylvia’s son. They accomplish these transitions with a wonderfully seamless transition technique that keeps everything moving swiftly and energetically. And as equally skillful is the pair’s use of audio, with dynamic sound effects and a great score by Max Mueller.

But it’s Taylor and Wyse’s characters and the actors who give them life that is truly “Summoning Sylvia’s” strongest feature. As bride-to-be Larry, Travis Coles is simply outstanding, with a great acumen for when to modulate his character’s humor and heart. As Nico, Reggie, and Kevin, Larry’s trio of friends, Frankie Grande, Troy Iwata, and Noah J. Ricketts are perfectly cast. They may often be campy, outrageous, and fun, but never at the expense of making their roles believable and likable. Grande, in particular, is often allowed to steal the show. Nico’s “ghostly” encounter with a pizza delivery fellow is nothing short of comedy gold. But Taylor and Wyse never have his character’s penchant for attention-grabbing behavior overshadow Grande’s castmates. In possibly the most challenging role in the picture, Nicholas Logan navigates the part of Harrison, the groom’s brother, with a brusquely butch callousness and ignorance that avoids outright homophobia.

“Summoning Sylvia” is definitely more comedy than horror, but it pays delightful homage to the classic haunted house films of cinema, many of which were equally campy. It also drives home some positive and heartwarming messages, along with its laughs and jumps. While the film's outrageous ending may seem a little too pat and stretch credulity, it’s a joyous catharsis that the movie has duly earned. Nowadays, anything that can make us feel good and worthwhile is plus. And “Summoning Sylvia” is both.

This devil of a reviewer gives “Summoning Sylvia” 3.5 out of 5 imps

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