Reading through the descriptions of the films being screened at this year’s edition of the Fantasia Festival, I found that the write-up for Glorious was incredibly vague. Then a 15-second teaser dropped a couple of weeks later, and I was even more confused about what this movie could possibly be about. Nevertheless, I still attended the World Premiere and understood why things were kept under wraps. And now, I must inform you, dear reader, that I too, must be secretive in my review so as to not give away a major plot point that would ruin the mystique surrounding this upcoming Shudder Original. But here’s what I can tell you…
Glorious is directed by Rebekah McKendry, who you might know as the co-host of the Fangoria podcast Colors of the Dark. She also directed the Lifetime thriller Psycho Grandma, and co-directed the Christmas horror anthology All the Creatures Were Stirring along with her husband David Ian McKendry, who wrote the script for Glorious along with Joshua Hall (Chopping Block) and Todd Rigney (Found).
“In the subgenre of cosmic horror, Glorious has got to be the goofiest one I’ve experienced thus far.”
And now for a super vague summary! Wes (Ryan Kwanten, True Blood) has hit rock bottom after a bad breakup. His solution is to get piss drunk in a park and burn everything that reminds him of his ex Brenda (Sylvia Grace Crim, The Hunt). The next day, he wakes up with an awful hangover, no pants, and an urgent need to vomit. He runs into the nearest rest stop bathroom to rid himself of his demons but as Wes is driving the porcelain bus, so to speak, a friendly yet ominous voice (courtesy of Academy Award-winning actor J.K. Simmons, Whiplash) pipes up from the stall next to his.
The Stranger on the other side of the stall’s gloryhole attempts to engage in casual conversation with Wes. Although a bit put off by the situation, Wes goes along with the chit-chat, figuring it’s best to lay low in the bathroom for a while instead of strolling around outside without any pants.
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But the conversation takes a bizarre turn when the mysterious figure reveals that this is not a chance encounter. He needs a favor from Wes and that the fabric of the entire universe depends on it. Denying the stranger proves difficult when Wes is unable to leave the bathroom. What follows is the unraveling of Wes’ mind as he is trapped in this strange place with this strange person until he grants them this strange request.
Filmmakers had to be incredibly creative during the pandemic, making the most with a small cast in a single location and a skeleton crew behind the camera. Glorious is probably the best thing to come out of these minimalist films. Most of the action takes place inside a dingy bathroom, with the exception of a few scenes fleshing out Wes’s backstory. I imagine J.K. Simmons recorded his side of the dialogue in a sound booth miles away from the set, but his voice has such a commanding presence that it still felt like he was hidden behind that bathroom stall as Ryan Kwanten paced back and forth, arguing at the psychedelic graffiti scribbled on the wall between him and The Stranger.
“Glorious doesn’t feel small, thanks to a script that builds an expansive and terrifying universe beyond our own.”
Glorious doesn’t feel small, thanks to a script that builds an expansive and terrifying universe beyond our own. I found myself getting lost in the hypnotic sequences, but every so often the wild roller coaster ride would pause for Simmons’ to deliver a gut-busting punchline. A reminder to the audience just how unusual and ridiculous the scenario is.
The term “Lovecraftian” has come up a lot in headlines promoting this film. I honestly haven’t read enough H.P. Lovecraft to either confirm or deny, but another possible inspiration for Glorious comes from a filmmaker known for adapting the works of Lovecraft– the great Stuart Gordon. The same pinkish-purple glow from Gordon’s From Beyond illuminates the dank restroom. The special effects are otherworldly, and you’re not quite sure what exactly you’re looking at as talons and tentacles slicked with KY jelly poke out from the shadows (which isn’t giving too much away since they’re included in the teaser and poster).
In the subgenre of cosmic horror, Glorious has got to be the goofiest one I’ve experienced thus far. It also gets brownie points for the sound design of the squelching and the low-rumbling bass emanating from other dimensions, as well as for the use of a blistering fast song from chaotic hardcore band Deaf Club during Wes’ bender.
A filthy public bathroom is probably the last place anyone would want to spend 80 minutes of their life, but there’s enough action packed into Glorious to keep even the most skeptical of viewers engaged. Mercifully, its humor never gets reduced to the scatological, which is saying a lot for a movie mostly centered around a toilet. Although the premise sounds profoundly weird, the hype surrounding Glorious is definitely worth believing.
“Although the premise sounds profoundly weird, the hype surrounding Glorious is definitely worth believing.”
Rebekah McKendry’s Glorious had its World Premiere at the 26th edition of the Fantasia Film Festival and will be dropping on Shudder on August 18th. What would you do is JK Simmons started talking to you from the other side of a gloryhole? Let us know over on Twitter, Reddit, Facebook, and in the official Nightmare on Film Street Discord. Heck, follow Nightmare on Film Street on TikTok for more horror movie recommendations while you’re at it.
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