Director: Rebekah McKendry
Writer: Joshua Hull, David Ian McKendry, and Todd Rigney
Cast: Ryan Kwanten, J.K. Simmons, Sylvia Grace Crim, Tordy Clark, and André Lamar
Premise: After a breakup, Wes ends up at a remote rest stop. He finds himself locked inside the bathroom with a mysterious figure speaking from an adjacent stall. Soon Wes realizes he is involved in a situation more terrible than he could imagine.
Cosmic horror in a rest stop bathroom sounds like a bizarrely twisted country song.
It’s the elevator pitch for Glorious, a bizarrely twisted Lovecraftian horror film premiering this week on Shudder. Glorious pits the heartbroken Wes (Ryan Kwanten) against the disembodied voice of a demigod of unimaginable power named Ghat (J.K. Simmons) with the fate of the universe hanging in the balance. It’s not a battle of wills that brings these two together. It’s a request to lend a helping hand so that the universe may continue on its merry way existing and fostering life.
There’s an unrepentant edge to Glorious that works wonders when combined with the slick humor of the script. The film never shies away from the supernatural universe-shattering horror at its center. Yet, it doesn’t take itself too seriously either, despite the massive implications of Wes’s encounter with Ghat in the bathroom. The script wisely does the hard work of letting the comedy and horror coexist wonderfully and independent of each other. Instead of going the easy route by calling attention to the bizarre circumstance in which Wes finds himself, Ryan Kwanten’s excellent performance brings that horror-comedy balance to life as his entrapment in the bathroom gives way to a much bigger plan for him.
Of course, the omnipresent and booming voice work of Academy Award winner J.K. Simmons is an absolute asset to Glorious‘ eerie and wild premise. Simmons’ Ghat relishes in the all-knowing nature of his being and isn’t afraid to flex his power to get his way (or keep his subjects in line). However, there’s another, more subtle layer to Simmons’ performance, that of a snake oil salesman. Throughout the film, Ghat is working hard to sell his potential customer on something that no one in their right mind would be willing to buy into. It’s here where Simmons shines and his work in the audio booth helps elevate Glorious above shock horror and spectacle.
Likewise, the film’s utilization of flashbacks through Wes’ memory to develop the relationship from which Wes is presently dealing with the fallout provides key insight into his character. Not to be outdone by flashes of memories, Ghat often summons his cosmic energy to reel Wes’ conscious back to the land of gloryholes and bacteria. This is where the battle of wills resides and its where the pressure of both Wes and Ghat is employed. They each have their own needs and desires and, for Ghat, it’s simply a matter of explaining what he needs from Wes.
To say what Ghat (and, by extension, the universe) asks of Wes in this review would be a betrayal to the reader. Suffice it to say, the favor itself is significant and brings about a vibrant display of color and shocking imagery while also delivering us and Wes to a wholly unexpected catharsis. The way the visual effects are realized in this sequence is simply jaw-dropping and trippy in a way that caps off the dreamlike quality of the visual effects that are used to great effect throughout the film’s entire runtime. The jolting scares tied to quick tug-of-war conscience wrangling are the icing on the preverbal cake of fun shock horror imagery.
Glorious is a lean beast of an experience that never lets up on the momentum from the word go. At only 79 minutes, it feels maybe a bit too lean, leaving room for more character scenes and scary imagery. But that is a minor quibble as we don’t want too much of a good thing. And, as it stands, the desire for more in Glorious is greatly overshadowed by the glee of an energetic and trippy cosmic horror feature.
Glorious premieres on Shudder on August 18th.
About the Writer: Matt Hurt is the creator of ObsessiveViewer.com. He also created, hosts, and produces The Obsessive Viewer, Anthology, and Tower Junkies podcasts. He is a member of the Indiana Film Journalists Association and lives in Indianapolis with his cat Pizza Roll.