Glorious is a horror-comedy of apocalyptic proportions

The universe has a favor to ask. Well, it’s the would-be destroyer of the universe asking in his name. After an eternity hidden in the ether watching life evolve that sprang from a wound inflicted by his siblings, this ancient titan (JK Simmons’ Ghat) realizes his role as his father’s reset button ( the creator of existence) is not something he is eager to accomplish. Unfortunately, he doesn’t have much to say on the matter. If Dad escapes from prison and finds his son, nothing will stop the prophecy from running its course. The only hope of humanity is therefore the sacrifice of one of its own. Fate has chosen Wes (Ryan Kwanten) to be that savior, but only if he’s willing to willingly comply. Let the conviction begin.

It’s going to take a long time too – Wes is barely in the right mental space to carry all of existence on his shoulders. He’s barely been holding on with only his own head up there since breaking up with girlfriend Brenda (Sylvia Grace Crim). A long car ride in self-pity brings him to a secluded rest area. her grief causing him to throw everything that still reminds him of her into a grill so he can exorcise the demons from her memory with fire and alcohol. The ensuing hangover forces him to vomit his guts out in the bathroom and, as a result, encounter Ghat in the next cabin. Wondering if he’s still dreaming doesn’t make the brimstone story of his new acquaintance any less absurd.

However, director Rebekah McKendry and screenwriters Joshua Hull and David Ian McKendry aren’t done. They titled the film Glorious for a reason: the wall separating Wes and Ghat. It features an elaborate drawing of a Lovecraftian cosmic beast with multiple eyes and tentacles escaping from a human’s body. One of these appendages stretches out, its tip ending in a mouth carved into a glory hole. So once Wes gets past the disorientation, shock, fear, and laughter for Ghat to finally come to the point, things go from crazy to crazy. The offering that must be made before this destroyer of worlds unwittingly resumes its bodily form is an organ. Cue Meatloaf because Wes won’t this.

The premise is crazy, and Kwanten (presenting a virtual one-man show) and Simmons (providing a voiceover; his character is stuck in a closed stall so as not to melt his victim’s brain by revealing his true form) are ready for the task. Wes is drunk, heartbroken, and enraged because Ghat sealed off that restroom until he got what he asked for. This leads to half-baked escape plans, disbelieving non-compliance, and a few short trips into his mind where Ghat is waiting to bring him back to reality. At some point, however, Wes will have to make a choice. Suck him up and do as asked or know he is the reason all life on Earth perished, including Brenda.

McKendry does a great job of keeping things interesting despite being confined to one location. Teasing the shape of Ghat like a bag of glowing fluid pulsing beneath the cabin walls keeps the horror alive, Simmons’ voice alternating between a formidable bellow and frustrated impatience. Wes’ attempts to leave cause him to withdraw into himself until he has no choice but to believe that this isn’t a nightmare after all. That doesn’t mean he won’t relapse at the slightest sign of hope, though. Unfortunately for the bearer of this hope (Gary of André Lamar), entering this very exclusive evening will not be good for his health. Eventually, the already soiled tiles and china find their feces and vomit coated in another bodily fluid with blood raining down from the ceiling.

But there is more to Glorious than his superficial comic surrealism. Beyond the idea that Wes’ penis might be the only thing that can save the world, there’s the unspoken question of why it has to be Wes in the first place. Is it because of his anxiety? Does his raw emotion at losing Brenda allow him to do whatever it takes to make sure she stays alive and happy with or without him? Or is there more to his maniacal laughter and uncontrolled temper? We see so many glimpses of their life together that it’s easy to believe their breakup stemmed from something cliched, like an affair. What if it was worse? What if Wes is so bad he was chosen as penance?

This is the narrative thread in which we have invested. Not if Wes complies with Ghat’s request, but if we’ll learn the full picture of what happened before he arrived in this interstate cesspool. The answers are much darker than expected given the lighter, manic tone of the whole thing (despite the apocalypse). There’s an exchange halfway through where Wes tries to educate Ghat about humanity’s inability to be selfless, which proves the linchpin of the whole thing. Because although it lands like a scared man’s cynical excuse, it really is a profound truth. If every selfless act is done only through the revisionist history of its witnesses rather than the motivations of its actor, what fate ultimately awaits Wes’ inevitable atonement? The promise of redemption? Or a painful reminder of his own violence?

Glorious world premiere at the Fantasia International Film Festival and hits Shudder on August 18.

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