Glorious: A Neon, Cosmic Horror Nightmare

Photo Credit: Shudder

Glorious is a one-man, one-Lovecraftian-demon horror show. Wes (Ryan Kwanten) is reeling from a breakup with his girlfriend (Sylvia Grace Crim). He has packed everything he owns into his car, including a few mementos from his relationship, and hit the road. Wes ends up locked in the bathroom at a deserted rest stop far from civilization, and he quickly finds out he’s not alone. His mysterious companion is a voice (J.K. Simmons) that’s talking to him from the other stall. As he and the voice talk, Wes realizes that being trapped in a bathroom is the least of his problems. He’s become an integral part of a terrifying, world-ending conspiracy.

Most of Glorious relies on Kwanten’s performance as Wes. While Simmons provides a conversation partner, Kwanten is physically alone in the bathroom. He’s acting against his own fear, sadness, and anxiety. It’s a heavy weight that he, and he alone, must bear. And bear it he does. Kwanten’s performance manages to balance the pain of going through a breakup with the effort it takes to fight back against the circumstances fate has dealt him. Thanks to Kwanten, Wes is a compelling character to spend the film with. He never succumbs to any of the foolish mistakes that plague the main characters in other horror movies. It’s easy for the audience to see themselves as Wes in that dirty rest stop bathroom fighting for his life.

Wes on the ground screaming
Photo Credit: Shudder

The film’s singular location and limited cast of characters effortlessly create a feeling of claustrophobia. The walls of the restroom are grimy, graffitied, and closing in on both the audience and Wes. The brief glimpses of the outside world through flashbacks are a chance for the audience to exhale. A breath of fresh air to relieve some of the tension that’s brewing. A few short-lived moments of comedy that blend in naturally with the plot keep the movie from feeling stagnant or as stuck as Wes. 

More than a story about one man’s accidental involvement with an ancient god’s plan to annihilate humanity, Glorious is a love story. The film follows in the grand footsteps of movies like Invasion of the Body Snatchers or The Day the Earth Stood Still. Glorious is an examination of the messiness of humanity. How easy it is to lose faith in kindness when love is used as a weapon to control. How simple it is to succumb to loneliness, depression, and nothingness.

Brenda embraces Wes
Photo Credit: Shudder

While there are some moments of bloody mayhem and a jumpscare or two, the horror of Glorious is in loss. Wes doesn’t take the threats from the mysterious voice about a world-ending crisis seriously, at least at first. He’s convinced he’s still drunk from the night before, or that he’s dreaming. Being told by a disembodied voice in a sketchy bathroom stall that the world is on the brink of annihilation is simply too incredible to believe. However, when Wes is robbed of his most precious memories, his situation becomes real. It’s painful to forget, but more excruciating to be aware that an important memory is gone. What is humanity without memories?

At 78 minutes, Glorious is expertly paced. The film spends the right amount of time giving the audience an introduction to the mental state Wes is in and telling them how he ended up at this particular rest stop. And then, from the moment Wes realizes he’s stuck to the film’s bloody ending, it’s a nonstop ride. Viewers shouldn’t be scared off by the film’s grand concepts and small scale. Glorious understands that to tell a magnificent story, the focus must be understated. Even then, when the audience thinks it has grasped what the film is trying to get at, it sharply turns in a brand new direction. Everything the audience thought they understood is now inverted to make way for a truly impeccable ending. This final twist takes the film’s themes, warps them into something far more sinister, and makes the audience reevaluate everything they have just seen. It’s an unnerving, rip-the-carpet-out-from-under-you ending that is completely deserved.

Graffiti on the bathroom stall of the ancient god
Photo Credit: Shudder

Glorious is one of the best examples of pandemic-era filmmaking. It plays upon society’s reckoning with the concept of humanity and what it means to be a collective group. The film also, perhaps by necessity of Covid protocols, shows how much isolation can affect a person’s mental wellbeing. Ultimately, Glorious is a neon, cosmic horror nightmare that manages to make desolate rest stops in the middle of nowhere feel even more unsettling.

Written by Tina Kakadelis

News Editor for Film Obsessive. Movie and pop culture writer. Seen a lot of movies, got a lot of opinions. Let's get Carey Mulligan her Oscar.

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