The universe has a favor to ask. Well, it’s the universe’s would-be destroyer asking on its behalf. After an eternity hidden in the ether watching the life that sprang from a wound inflicted by his brothers and sisters evolve, this ancient titan (J.K. Simmons’ Ghat) realizes his role as his father’s (the creator of existence) reset button isn’t something he looks forward to fulfilling. Unfortunately, he doesn’t have much say in the matter. If Dad escapes his prison and finds his son, there’s nothing to stop prophecy from running its course. Humanity’s only hope is therefore a sacrifice from one of its own. Fate has chosen Wes (Ryan Kwanten) to be that savior, but only if he’s willing to comply voluntarily. Let the convincing commence.
It’s going to take a lot, too—Wes is hardly in the correct mind space to carry all of existence on his shoulders. He’s barely keeping it together with only his own head up there since breaking up with his girlfriend Brenda (Sylvia Grace Crim). A long car ride wallowing in self-pity takes him to a secluded rest stop; his sorrow causing him to dispose of everything that still reminds him of her into a grill so he can exorcise the demons of his memory with fire and alcohol. The ensuing hangover forces him to puke his guts out in the bathroom and, consequently, meet Ghat in the next stall. Wondering whether he’s still dreaming doesn’t render his new acquaintance’s tale of brimstone less absurd.
Director Rebekah McKendry and screenwriters Joshua Hull and David Ian McKendry aren’t done, though. They’ve titled the film Glorious for a reason: the wall separating Wes and Ghat. On it is an elaborate drawing of a cosmic Lovecraftian beast with multiple eyes and tentacles escaping the body of a human. One of those appendages is stretching out, its tip ending in a mouth that has been carved out into a glory hole. So once Wes moves past disorientation, shock, fear, and laughter for Ghat to finally get to the point, the situation goes from crazy to insane. The offering that must be given before this destroyer of worlds unwittingly reclaims his corporeal form is an organ. Cue Meatloaf because Wes won’t do that.
The premise is wild, and both Kwanten (performing a virtual one-man show) and Simmons (providing voiceover; his character is stuck in a closed stall so as not to melt his victim’s brain by revealing his true form) are up for the task. Wes is drunk, heartbroken, and enraged because Ghat has sealed this restroom shut tight until he gets what he has demanded. It leads to half-baked escape schemes, incredulous non-compliance, and a couple short trips into his mind where Ghat lies in wait to pull him back to reality. At a certain point, however, Wes will have to make a choice. Suck it up and do what’s been asked or know he’s the reason all life on Earth has perished—including Brenda.
McKendry does a great job keeping things interesting despite being confined to a single location. Teasing Ghat’s form as a glowing sack of fluid pulsating beneath the stall walls keeps the horror alive, Simmons’ voice alternating between formidable bellowing and frustrated impatience. Wes’ attempts to leave cause him to fold back in on himself until he has no choice but to believe this isn’t a nightmare after all. That doesn’t mean he won’t relapse at any sign of hope, though. Unfortunately for the bringer of that hope (André Lamar’s Gary), entering this very exclusive party isn’t going to be good for his health. Eventually the already soiled tile and porcelain finds its excrement and vomit covered by another bodily fluid with blood raining from the ceiling.
But there’s more to Glorious than its surface-level comical surrealism. Beyond the out-there notion that Wes’ penis might be the only thing that can save the world is the unspoken question concerning why it must be Wes in the first place. Is it because of his anguish? Does his raw emotion from losing Brenda allow for the capacity to do whatever’s necessary to make certain she remains alive and happy with or without him? Or is there more to his maniacal laughter and unchecked temper? We get to see so many glimpses of their lives together that it’s easy to believe their break-up stemmed from something clichéd, like an affair. But what if it was worse? What if Wes is so bad that he’s been selected as penance?
That’s the narrative thread we’ve invested in. Not whether Wes complies with Ghat’s request, but whether we’ll learn the full picture of what happened before his arrival to this interstate cesspool. The answers are much darker than expected considering the lighter, manic tone of the whole (apocalypse notwithstanding). There’s an exchange about midway through where Wes tries educating Ghat about mankind’s inability to be selfless that proves the whole’s linchpin. Because while it lands as the cynical excuse of a scared man, it’s really a deep-seated truth. If every selfless act is only made so through the revisionist history of its witnesses rather than the motives of its actor, what fate ultimately awaits Wes’ inevitable atonement? The promise of redemption? Or a painful reminder of his own violence?
Glorious world premiered at the Fantasia International Film Festival and hits Shudder on August 18.