Wes (Ryan Kwanten), spiralling out after a bad breakup, ends up at a remote rest stop miles away from civilization. His situation worsens after he finds himself locked inside the bathroom with a mysterious figure (J.K. Simmons) speaking to him from an adjacent stall. As Wes tries to escape, he finds himself an unwilling player in a situation bigger and more terrible than he could possibly imagine…
What do you get if you take a heartbroken, angry young man, Wes (Ryan Kwanten) and lock him in a bathroom with a mysterious, mostly-unseen figure (J.K. Simmons)? You get director Rebekah McKendry’s absurdly brilliant Glorious.
The film is the latest in Shudder’s masterful expansion of its vast catalogue. When I first worked with the streamer the focus was on mainstream horror content. But as its popularity has grown, the platform has begun to branch out in to much more experimental and existential aspects of the genre.
Glorious represents a hugely though provoking side of horror which is rarely seen and often misunderstood by the general audience. Writers Joshua Hull, David Ian McKendry and Todd Rigney have an important story to tell but they’re doing it on exactly their own terms. The premise is delightfully simple: Wes has recently broken up with his girlfriend Brenda (Sylvia Grace Crim). After driving around for hours he pulls up at a roadside truck stop to use the restroom. When he enters a mysterious figure begins speaking to him through a glory hole in the adjacent stall. Wes quickly realises he’s trapped and that the disembodied voice has plans for him.
How many films can you think of which have taken place almost entirely in a bathroom? More so, how many hugely successful films can you think of which are set in a bathroom? Exactly, none. Glorious succeeds not in spite of its disparate and strange elements, but because of them.
It’s difficult to fully explain all the elements of Glorious without veering in to spoiler territory. This is absolutely a film the audience should discover whilst watching and not from simply reading a review. Throughout its brisk 80 minute runtime the film teases serious consequences for the world outside the bathroom. The mysterious voice manipulates Wes with a growing series of threats and the two spar over some incredible dialogue.
The film punctuates the tight location with some brilliantly execute set pieces. Despite a relatively low budget, Glorious is able to pull off some impressive sequences which visualise its existential subject matter perfectly. The film also manages to punctuate some of its most dark and grim moments with relatively pure humour.
As context goes, Glorious needs to spend a little more time on the flashback sequences of Wes and Brenda together. We’re exposed to several key moments from their history, all of which are used to help bring weight to the film’s conclusion. It lands thanks to the exceptional performance from Kwanten. But adding a little more context could have brought more emotion to the film’s final moments.
Glorious is utterly outrageous in all the best ways. Lovecraftian to the core, the two -hander between Kwaten and Simmons is a joy to behold.