Glorious (2022) Lovecraftian Indie Horror Makes a Splash on Shudder
First Non-Festival Release: August 18, 2022 (Digital/Streaming Platforms)
Director: Rebekah McKendry
Writer: Joshua Hull, David Ian McKendry, Todd Rigney
Runtime: 79 Minutes
Starring: Ryan Kwanten, J.K. Simmons, Sylvia Grace Crim
Where to Watch: Check out where to find it here
Distraught and acting on pure instinct to put distance between him and his problems, Wes (Ryan Kwanten) finds his way to a secluded rest stop after driving for hours. He decides the best way to forget about Brenda (Sylvia Grace Crim) is to drink his woes away. His debauchery leads to him burning many of his possessions and waking up the next morning needing to vomit in the disgusting roadside bathroom. Once inside and emptied of his stomach, he is greeted by a disembodied voice (J.K. Simmons) from the stall next-door. Their strange but polite conversation turns sinister when Wes learns there is now no way out of the restroom until he acquiesces to the voice’s demands.
A delightful mix of camp and Lovecraftian horror, Glorious succeeds in its stripped bare production and tonal acrobatics.
Pared down to mostly a single location, Glorious lives and dies by its smart use of its roadside bathroom to tell its quirky cosmic horror story. Horror that relies heavily on one setting, can get stale quickly. Thankfully, between its short runtime and clever usage of space, Glorious strategically escalates the rising action in ways that raise the stakes and make sense within the storyline. Escape routes, calls for help, and final showdowns allow for Wes to accept the truth behind his detainment without being unrealistic.
An underrated aspect to Glorious is its commitment to peeling back the layers of Wes as a character without feeling the need to redeem him. Throughout the film, Wes must come to terms with who he really is and what must be done. The god in the glory hole has plans for him and promises that he is being sought out for a reason. Maybe deep-down Wes knows this reason to be due to his past misdeeds, but he lets himself believe he can be a hero and save the world, despite his turmoil at working against his nature.
His character arc serves as a nice response to the real phenomenon of men believing they can do amazing things to cancel out their terrible pasts and expect to come out of a situation unscathed. There’s something poetic to the idea that one good deed, however great, cannot reverse the summation of harm one has done throughout their life.
This story would not work without the great performances of Ryan Kwanten and J.K. Simmons. Kwanten sells Wes as a downtrodden and hopeless cynic who is aching with his recent loss. Nihilistic, doubting, and self-centered, Kwanten vacillates accordingly to highlight whatever point of Wes’s journey needs emphasis. Opposite to Kwanten, Simmons stands out without ever stepping foot on stage. His booming voice commands the screen in ways that are downright frightening, much befitting an elder god, despite his current entrapment in a restroom stall.
Independent horror films tend to have grandiose ideas without the budget to truly nail them. Fortunately for Glorious, clever directorial decisions and a kickass creative team minimize this to the point where it’s hard to tell. While it only runs for a scant hour and twenty minutes, this wacky indie oddity flexes its creative muscles in sound, lighting, color, and set design. Awash in neon lights and disembodied visceral sounds, plenty goes on in this film to keep Wes on his feet and concerned for his safety, or mental health, depending on his current theory as to why he cannot leave his newfound prison. Above all, clever cinematography allows the film to toe the line in scale by making the bathroom just claustrophobic enough to increase the tension while moving about to ensure there is enough breathing room for Kwanten to shine.
The charm of Glorious breaks down to its attention grabbing premise and its strong central performance. Never overstaying its welcome, Glorious gets straight to the point while giving genre fans plenty of fun on its limited production. Kwanten’s portrayal elevates the feature even further as he simultaneously engenders the audience to Wes while giving them plenty of reasons to re-think that feeling. At the end of the day, this glory hole is likely the only one that will get so much positive reception from the public and this reviewer’s glowing endorsement to check out.
Overall Score? 7/10