Directed by: Rebekah McKendry
Distributed by: Shudder
Written by Anna Harrison
Rest stop bathrooms are, historically, very frightening, very gross places, and no more so than in “Glorious,” Rebekah McKendry’s second feature: here, the humble rest stop bathroom is transformed into a claustrophobic layer of hell, taking all your worst fears about what might happen in those liminal spaces and making them come true. Well, maybe not your worst fears—hopefully you don’t think about casually running into an omnipotent eldritch being as you hurl.
That’s what happens to Wes (Ryan Kwanten), though. Mourning a breakup, he goes on a bit of a bender at a rest stop and finds himself vomiting last night’s drinks into the men’s toilet the next day, only he’s not alone: the stall next to him, with a childish Lovecraftian monster painted on the shared wall, has an occupant, one voiced by J.K. Simmons.
From here, things get slightly out of hand, and to say anything more would ruin the fun of watching it unfurl. Todd Rigney, Joshua Hull, and David Ian McKendry turn in a script that zigs when you expect it to zag, and what starts off simple ends up strange, but even as things take a turn for the Lovecraftian, the writing trio and Rebekah McKendry manage to inject everything with a dark humor which offsets the gore and the creep factor—in fact, for a horror movie, it’s not that frightening; it’s more concerned with the weird factor than the scare factor, and it certainly delivers on that front. What’s most impressive about “Glorious,” however, isn’t the trippy bathroom art or creepy void threatening to devour all of humanity, it’s how well McKendry makes use of her one location. Never before has a rest stop bathroom been this versatile: it goes from mundane and gross in one way to cosmic and gross in another way, it goes from bland to neon, from claustrophobic to horrifyingly vast thanks to David Matthews’s inspired cinematography.
Kwanten and Simmons deliver fine performances, and Kwanten in particular impresses as his is the sole face on screen for most of the movie; however, the one-two punch of Wes’s backstory comes far too late to make a difference, though it should have been the type of earth-shattering revelation to reframe how we think about the entire movie. This singular reveal makes the entire last act of the movie feel hurried and Wes feel like a hollow shell of a character, so while “Glorious” certainly has its fun, innovative moments, it doesn’t quite live up to its title.