Glorious is a one man horror show, a Lovecraftian demon. Wes (Ryan Kwanten) is reeling from a breakup with his girlfriend (Sylvia Grace Crim). He packed everything he owns in his car, including some memorabilia from his relationship, and drove off. Wes finds himself locked in the bathroom of a deserted rest area far from civilization, and he quickly discovers that he is not alone. His mysterious companion is a voice (JK Simmons) speaking to him from the other cabin. As he and the voice talk, Wes realizes that being trapped in a bathroom is the least of his problems. He has become part of a terrifying plot that is ending the world.
The most of Glorious builds on Kwanten’s performance as Wes. While Simmons provides a conversation partner, Kwanten is physically alone in the bathroom. He acts against his own fear, sadness and anxiety. It is a heavy weight that he, and he alone, must carry. And bear it, it does. Kwanten’s performance manages to balance the pain of going through a breakup with the effort it takes to fight the circumstances that fate has inflicted on her. Thanks to Kwanten, Wes is a compelling character to spend the movie with. He never succumbs to any of the silly mistakes that plague main characters in other horror films. It’s easy for audiences to see themselves as Wes in that dirty bathroom fighting for his life.
The film’s singular location and limited cast of characters effortlessly creates a sense of claustrophobia. The restroom walls are grimy, graffitied, and close to both the audience and Wes. The brief glimpses of the outside world through flashbacks are a chance for audiences to breathe. A breath of fresh air to relieve some of the smoldering tension. A few short-lived comedy moments that flow naturally into the plot keep the movie from feeling stagnant or as stuck as Wes.
More than a story about one man’s accidental involvement in an ancient god’s plan to wipe out mankind, Glorious is a love story. The film follows in the grand footsteps of movies like Invasion of the Body Thieves Where The day the earth stood still. Glorious is an examination of the disorder of humanity. How easy it is to lose faith in kindness when love is used as a weapon for control. How easy it is to succumb to loneliness, depression and nothingness.
Although there are moments of bloody mayhem and a jumpscare or two, the horror of Glorious is at a loss. Wes doesn’t take the mysterious voice’s threats of a global crisis seriously, at least at first. He is convinced that he is still drunk from the day before or that he is dreaming. To be told by a disembodied voice in a sketchy bathroom stall that the world is on the brink of annihilation is just too amazing to believe. However, when Wes is robbed of his most treasured memories, his situation becomes real. It’s painful to forget, but more excruciating to realize that an important memory is gone. What is humanity without memories?
At 78 minutes, Glorious is cleverly paced. The film spends the right amount of time giving the audience an introduction to the mental state Wes finds himself in and telling them how he ended up at this particular stopover. And then, from the moment Wes realizes he’s stuck with the film’s gory ending, it’s a nonstop journey. Viewers shouldn’t be put off by the film’s grand concepts and small scale. Glorious understands that to tell a great story, the accent has to be understated. Even then, when audiences think they’ve figured out what the movie is trying to do, they suddenly turn in a whole new direction. Everything the audience thought they had figured out is now reversed to make way for a truly flawless ending. This latest twist takes the film’s themes, turns them into something far more sinister, and forces audiences to re-evaluate everything they’ve just seen. It’s a nerve-wracking, mat-ripping ending that’s completely deserved.
Glorious is one of the best examples of cinematic achievement in the age of the pandemic. It plays on society’s account with the concept of humanity and what it means to be a collective group. The film also shows, perhaps out of necessity for Covid protocols, how isolation can affect a person’s mental well-being. At the end of the day, Glorious is a neon, cosmic horror nightmare that manages to make the desolate rest stops in the middle of nowhere even more unsettling.