Shudder’s latest release, Glorious, comes with quite a bit of fanfare for a smaller horror movie. Starring J.K. Simmons and True Blood alumni Ryan Kwanten, the cast is impressive for a small budgeted movie. And its premise of a supernatural force talking to a doomed man through a bathroom ‘glory hole’ promises something fresh. To date, critics have heaped praise on this little cosmic horror outing. Courtesy of academic and former Fangoria staffer Rebekah McKendry, Glorious promises fun absurdist Lovecraftian horror at the tail end of the summer.
Following a breakup, Wes pulls over at a remote rest stop to drown his sorrows. But when he wakes up the next morning, We discovers he’s locked in the bathroom. but he’s not alone. In the adjacent bathroom stall, an unseen person begins speaking to him through a ‘glory hole’ in the stall wall. Though the voice is initially friendly and sympathetic, it soon promises an apocalyptic catastrophe that it claims only Wes can prevent.
Glorious Finds Big Cosmic Horror From Its Simple and Strange Premise
Even though it barely clocks in at an hour and 20 minutes, it’s initially hard to imagine how director Rebekah McKendry (All the Creatures Were Stirring) will make that premise stretch. Guess what, McKendry has no problems making Glorious a compelling, fun, and rousing little horror movie. From the moment a heartbroken Wes drives onto the screen with old-time music playing in the background, Glorious slowly reels you in to its offbeat story. While most of the story confines itself to the roadside reststop, McKendry embraces the cosmic horror roots with edits to what may be Wes’ own memories or otherworldly images. If this is a micro-budgeted horror movie, McKendry cleverly uses neon lighting, shadows, and more editing to ensure the effects aren’t overexposed. What follows feels like a well-crafted roller coaster that steadily builds to a cathartic finale.
Guess what, McKendry has no problems making Glorious a compelling, fun, and rousing little horror movie.
Glorious also benefits from clever and confident story-telling. Three writers – Joshua Hull, David Ian McKendry, and Todd Rigney – share writing credits. Though too many cooks in the kitchen is normally a harbinger of contrived narratives, Glorious takes its simple premise and does something too many ‘big’ movies avoid – it trusts the audience. Rather than spoon feed viewers with exposition dumps, Glorious adopts a naturalistic approach to everything that unfolds. The writers trust us to pay attention – and you will have to pay attention – and pick up on little visuals and comments. As a result, the movie’s final moments, particularly Wes’ character arc, are a well-earned twist. That is, Glorious offers enough information to piece together and trust its conclusion.
Glorious Proves to be a Showcase for its Two Lead Performers
After finding success on the HBO vampire series True Blood, Ryan Kwanten kind of fell off the radar. However, in Glorious, the Aussie actor reminds audiences why they found him so charming for several seasons as Jason Stackhouse. As brokenhearted Wes, Kwanten runs the emotional gauntlet one might expect from someone facing similar otherworldly circumstances. From melancholy to desperate to crazed, Kwanten makes sure ‘Wes’ feels like a real person in spite of the movie’s bizarre premise. That he invests the characters with so much charisma – especially since it’s not entirely clear that Wes deserves any sympathy – is a testament to the actor’s skills.
Regardless it’s hard to imagine many other performers doing what he does with no physical screen presence.
Not surprisingly, J.K. Simmons (Spider-Man: No Way Home, Justice League) nearly steals the whole movie even when he’s just playing a voice in bathroom stall. One has to wonder how the movie was pitched to Simmons in the first place. Regardless it’s hard to imagine many other performers doing what he does with no physical screen presence. Aside from a couple of of brief onscreen appearances from a handful of actors, Glorious relies entirely on what Kwanten and Simmons do with the material. And the actors ensure that there’s no lull even as the movie takes its time ratcheting things up.
Glorious a Reminder That Horror Doesn’t Need Massive CGI and Scale to Succeed
Huge props to McKendry as well as the cast and crew of Glorious. Despite a small budget and scale, this little horror movie delivers cosmic horror well beyond its own borders. Courtesy of inventive storytelling and a compelling narrative, the tiny single setting never constrains Glorious. Both lead performances are absolute fun while also striking an emotional chord by the finale. All the potential McKendry showed i her previous directorial effort is realized here. If you’re worried that the horror genre may be getting stale, Glorious is a reminder that there’s plenty of fun and invention even with a small budget.