Fresh off its world premiere at Fantasia and coming exclusively to Shudder this week, director Rebekah McKendry’s new film Glorious is a mildly amusing slice of cosmic horror that does not quite live up to its name.
Wes (Ryan Kwanten) is fleeing what looks like a bad breakup with little else but the clothes on his back and a photo of Brenda (Sylvia Grace Crim) the woman who broke his heart. He pulls into a rest stop in the middle of nowhere, gets stinkin’ drunk, and sets fire to the relics of his dead relationship. When a very hungover Wes slinks into the rest stop’s filthy bathroom the next morning, he finds he is not alone. In the next stall over, and on the other side of a vividly decorated glory hole, there is a presence. A voice.
At first, Wes assumes the voice belongs to a guy who’d like to take that glory hole for a spin, but the entity isn’t a man, a woman, or even a human being. Wes is talking to Ghat, an ancient Lovecraftian demigod voiced by J.K Simmons. Ghat is friendly, chatty, and insistent on one point: that all of humankind is in grave danger, and only Wes can help him set things right. To save the universe, Wes just needs to do Ghat one little favor.
There is some fun to be bad with Glorious, especially if you have a weakness for stories about Old Ones spilling out of the void. Still, it’s hard to imagine Glorious getting an exclusive spot on Shudder were it not for the considerable talents of J.K. Simmons. Over the years, Simmons has gone from “that guy who was in that thing” status to Oscar-winner to bona fide movie star, and his performance carries the movie over the finish line. He plays this universe-destroying demigod as an affable visitor who just wants a moment of Wes’s time, and while it is the only joke the movie has to offer, it’s a pretty good one.
Rebekah McKendry directs this clearly lower-budget movie with admirable flair (I especially loved the animated sequence where Ghat tells his origin story), but Joshua Hull and David Ian McKendry’s screenplay is simply not adequate material to support a whole feature film. Even with its slender runtime, this is not a briskly placed movie, and the script lacks the wit or verve that a two-hander like Glorious needs. J.K. Simmons can only do so much.
For nearly the duration, Glorious teases out two key mysteries: What happened between Wes and Brenda, and what exactly does Wes need to do to save the universe? It takes far too long to learn the answers, and Glorious would be a better movie if it were less withholding about the truth behind Wes’s failed relationship. As it is, the big reveal carries little impact. Wes would be a more interesting character if we knew more about who he really is a lot sooner, and if Glorious is supposed to be a story about a person getting their cosmic comeuppance. As a result, the consequences end up feeling a little flat.
Glorious is set in a gross public bathroom, and there is plenty of gore and arterial spray to be found, but underneath all the blood and skid marks, this is a surprisingly inoffensive piece of work. Of course, not every movie needs to throw down a confrontational gauntlet for its audience, and this will divert anyone who likes their horror Lovecraftian and their tentacles slimy. Glorious premieres on Shudder on August 18th.
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