Making a movie that takes place in a single location is deceptively simple. Rare is it that the constraints of walls make for a humble premise. Greats of the method use the location’s limitations to spin yarns overflowing with horror, philosophy, and science. Glorious, a film seemingly named for a glory hole in a rest stop bathroom, chooses philosophy. You read that right, it’s the trolley problem by way of Futurama.
Wes (Ryan Kwanten) has hit the road after some sort of spat with his significant other. He pulls over and into a rest stop where he spends the night enveloped in flashbacks while burning possessions in a whiskey-soaked stupor. When he wakes up, a little rumble in his tummy sends him into the filthy bathroom on the side of the road where he’s confronted by the booming voice of the visitor one stall over. Gath (J.K. Simmons), the unseen bathroom neighbor, needs a favor. And, of course, Gath is a god, which he proves by knowing the unknowable about Wes’s life. And of course, this favor is required in order to save the known universe. The unsuspecting and somewhat airheaded Wes is then thrust into a nasty game of trying to escape the disgusting line of stalls in order to avoid succumbing to Gath’s horrific requests.
This single-location horror flick, as they do, maroons the leads to a single spot and drops story on top of it. Glorious doesn’t just drop an impossible riddle, but also a fleshy, leggy blob out of Lovecraft canon. Fans of the expanded lore of Cthulhu will have fun easter egg hunting, but the version of the beast is immediately accessible to anyone as simply a celestial blob who cannot be gazed upon by human eyes. It’s a fun surprise for those expecting to see Wes foiled by a man on the business end of a glory hole that Wes is really balls deep in a cosmic horrorland from which there’s literally no escape. In that vein, despite the cosmic elements and philosophical meditations, this story never shies away from the gags. Using the spacey name and gnarly appearance for jokes and dressing Wes in gigantic boxers are all signs that this is a serious film that’s not taking itself too seriously, and that’s where it thrives. Dopey edits are mixed with horrific tableaus early on which immediately sets the ongoing tone.
Rebekah McKendry directed the feature from a script penned by her familiar collaborator, David Ian McKendry, joined by Josh Hull and Todd Rigney. Their love and taste for philosophy, mythology, and classic film are present here in how they stuff so much into a movie that is centered around some toilet graffiti. It’s that balance that makes it all effective. McKendry’s movie is playful, making her loveable lead the butt of jokes, and showering him in blood while we can barely shake knowing that he’s covered in shit.
J.K. Simmons’s resounding voice and acting chops make him perfect for the god in the stall next door. It’s through his commanding nature and varying tenor that he holds Gath together as both a threat, a sympathetic ear, and a manipulator. Kwanten brings his natural doe eyes to the party, which adds a genuine levity only he can bring. It works to increase the impact of later reveals, whether they land steadily or not. The finale brings a bit of an unearned twist that didn’t totally pay off enough to be worth it, but it’s effective by serving to upend the relationship forged with Wes whom we’ve had to latch onto for the entire journey.
Glorious is the kind of movie you hope to stumble across when perusing an unending list of streaming titles. It looks simple, has an eye-catching image of a recognizable actor drenched in magenta lighting and dripping blood, and comes promising beloved film elements. On the other side of the flashy poster is a delicious cosmic nightmare scented with human refuse and inhuman sludge. If this group invites you to a no-pants party, say “yes.”
Glorious premiered at the Fantasia International Film Festival and lands on Shudder August 18, 2022