Single-setting films with a limited cast have become quite the rage in the aftermath of 2020’s pandemic. Glorious joins the pack with its small-scale rest stop location, yet thrives by making the repercussions of its terrors to be universe-reaching. With Aussie actor, True Blood’s Ryan Kwanten, in the lead role, director Rebekah McKendry carries his charisma all the way across the finish line with gleeful abandon. As the film progresses further into chaos, Kwanten’s manic performance opposite a mysterious figure voiced by J.K. Simmons becomes a visual feast for the senses.
Fresh off a rocky breakup, Wes (Kwanten) takes a mental health detour and ends up spending the night at a rest stop. His phone dies in the midst of leaving yet another message to his ex, so he tosses it and it smashes; Wes immediately regrets this decision. He parties alone, starting a bonfire there and waking up in his boxers the next morning. A long stretch of barfing in the bathroom later leads to a mysterious voice reaching out to him through the glory hole of the next stall.
At first, the voice (unmistakably the deep tenor of J.K. Simmons, Whiplash, Spider-Man) seems almost comforting, but inquisitive. Despite definitely not a “bathroom talker,” Wes continues to keep the conversation going. An intricate drawing of a horrifying, tentacle-like beast adorns the glory hole, and seeing through to the other side is virtually forbidden. Around the point when Wes realizes he is trapped in the bathroom with no hope of escaping, the voice becomes more stern and practically commanding. It could be the only key to getting out of here alive—unless, of course, someone else were to discover him at the rest stop.
A sharply, dialogue heavy screenplay from Todd Rigney, Joshua Hull, and David Ian McKendry keep the vibe between Wes and this voice paramount to the bizarre goings-on. Both Kwaten and Simmons are clearly having fun, and it shows fully in the end product. In terms of the horrors displayed, one’s imagination is in charge of most heavy lifting. Once blood rains down in glorious slow motion, we have arrived at the film’s sensational peak.
Dark comedy vibes do not reverberate through every moment, but the gags that do work—including a pee-related one that brought Austin Powers to mind—they are deliciously funny. Ultimately, I did wish that the conclusion had come together in a way worthy of the setup. Wes’s relationship with his ex is sort of important, but not fully. The grander strokes are not executed in a bold enough manner to leave a lasting impression. However, Glorious does manage to accomplish a lot with the limited setting. At times, it swings nearly Lovecraftian, and Kwanten’s performance brought a smile to my face.
Glorious screened at 2022’s Fantasia International Film Festival, and comes to Shudder later this year.