Troy Iwata talks queer joy and hilarious haunts in new LGBTQ+ horror-comedy film ‘Summoning Sylvia’

The seance scene from Summoning Sylvia
“Summoning Sylvia” is available for rent or purchase on select websites.
Photo courtesy of The Horror Collective

A new horror-comedy film is telling the story of queer friendship amid a spooky adventure dealing with a self-proclaimed witch.

Written and directed by Wesley Taylor and Alex Wyse and distributed by The Horror Collective, “Summoning Sylvia” tells the story of Larry, played by Travis Coles, a gay man who is destined to get married but is thrown for a loop when his three best friends, Reggie (Troy Iwata), Nico (Frankie Grande) and Kevin (Noah J. Ricketts), “kidnap” him for a bachelor party weekend in a haunted house. When Larry remembers that he was supposed to spend the weekend bonding with his future straight brother-in-law Harrison, Larry invites him to come along on the adventure.

While they are in the haunted house, the crew recounts the tale of Sylvia, who murdered her son and buried him beneath the house’s floorboards. After summoning the ghost of Sylvia, played by Veanne Cox, during a séance, the group finds out that they are in for more than they bargained for.

Troy Iwata (Reggie), Noah Ricketts (Kevin), Travis Coles (Larry), and Frankie Grande (Nico) in “Summoning Sylvia”Photo courtesy of The Horror Collective

“It definitely leans more comedy than horror. A few friends of mine have reached out and said, ‘Is it scary? I don’t like scary movies.’ and I’m like, it’s not scary,” said Iwata. “It’s more spooky, and it’s mostly a comedy. There’s some shenanigans ensue and in my opinion, it’s a really wonderful movie about queer friendship and queer joy.”

Iwata’s character Reggie is Larry’s best man and has everything planned to a T until Harrison comes along. 

“He’s the one who’s trying to keep everything in line. I think that there’s a great dynamic between the four best friends,” said Iwata. “I think you can kind of assign a different ‘Golden Girl’ to each of the characters. I think our dynamic is super fun.”

Iwata says that, though it is a queer story, “Summoning Sylvia” sort of flips the genre on its head in terms of the film’s content. Though the four main characters are gay, they aren’t the outsiders in this story.

“The queer community kind of has always been attracted to horror movies and the horror genre, and I think that’s because a lot of those stories are usually about some form of an outsider, whether that be the hero or the villain and that’s usually stories that we can relate to those emotions and feelings,” said Iwata. “I think what’s great about this movie is it kind of flips it on its head. In this movie, the straight guy is the outsider and he’s going into a very, very gay environment and there are a lot of misunderstandings. But what’s beautiful about the movie is there’s not necessarily hate woven into the movie. It’s very reflective of what I believe is really what’s happening in our society today, which is just misunderstanding, a little bit of ignorance and just a lack of knowing and a lack of exposure to different people.”

Troy Iwata in “Summoning Sylvia”Photo courtesy of The Horror Collective

When further asked what sets “Summoning Sylvia” apart from other queer stories, Iwata noted that this movie doesn’t lean on the coming out process as a pillar of the story.

 “I think most queer stories that we see on TV and in movies, it’s about the coming out process, it’s about our history and where we came from. I think what our movie does is still have a connection to that, but shows the life after coming out. It literally just shows four best friends who happen to be gay, loving each other and having fun and showing that there is a life after coming out and it is a beautiful life,” said Iwata. “We of course should acknowledge where we came from and we should acknowledge all of the obstacles that we’ve overcome. But it’s also really beautiful to focus on life in general, not necessarily with such a chokehold on our sexual orientation, and shows what gay friendship is and what gay joy is.”

“Summoning Sylvia” had a limited theatrical run and has garnered a lot of positive feedback, scoring a 100% on the Rotten Tomatoes Tomatometer as well as a 96% audience score. 

“Every time I watch it, I get so excited and I’m smiling and laughing throughout the entire thing,” said Iwata. “It’s a short-ish movie, it’s 75 minutes long, but because of that, it moves so fast and you’re just kind of along for the ride.”

Travis Coles (Larry), Frankie Grande (Nico), Noah J. Ricketts (Kevin), Troy Iwata (Reggie) in “Summoning Sylvia”Photo courtesy of The Horror Collective

Iwata hopes that those who watch “Summoning Sylvia” feel happy by the end of the film, having enjoyed the story and the hilarity that ensues.

“I’ve never been one as an artist or a storyteller to be like, ‘My objective here is to teach you a lesson.’ I would love for people to feel good because I think feeling good, feeling fulfilled, encourages people to be better on their own. I think what our movie does is, offer a really beautiful escape, just a happy story that has twists and turns throughout it,” said Iwata. “I think it’s a really beautiful and happy feeling that we’re trying to evoke and I hope people just walk away, feeling happy and perhaps a little more open-minded, seeing that, oh, gay people can be f—ing hilarious and it’s, it’s okay to laugh with them and have a good time.”

“Summoning Sylvia” is available anywhere you can rent or buy movies, including iTunes, Apple TV, Amazon, Vudu, Spectrum on Demand, and Verizon.

Photo courtesy of The Horror Collective