For a very long time there were only two really good Lovecraft movies. You had Re-Animator and From Beyond, both directed by Stuart Gordon. That was it. Oh, people tried to make Lovecraft movies, but they failed to grasp what makes H.P. Lovecraft’s cosmic horror compelling. It’s more than just tentacles and viscera. Recently, a small collection of Lovecraftian horror movies have come out that finally manage to understand the bleak nihilistic weirdness. The Void, The Empty Man, and Underwater each get at aspects of cosmic horror and I love them in their own way. Certainly Annihilation too. Now, thanks to Fantasia Fest 2022, I’ve seen the next great Lovecraftian horror, Rebekah McKendry’s aptly named Glorious.
Glorious is a brilliant little chamber piece (which is a pun that will make sense in a moment) in which effectively one character in one location can contend with everything from nervous urination to impending universal damnation. It manages to contend with enormous, unknowable cosmic entities and personal guilt and recompense without ever spending much time outside of its main setting. And it’s all about a glory hole! I should also note one of the movie’s exec producers is none other Barbara Crampton, the star of Re-Animator and From Beyond.
Ryan Kwanten stars as Wes, a guy reeling from a bad breakup who finds himself on a windy mountain road. He spends the night at a rest stop where he gets way too drunk where he inexplicably lights his trousers on fire and wakes up on the ground. We’ve all been there. He finds his way into the men’s room and enters a stall. On the wall of the stall is a crude drawing of a weird tentacled monstrosity with a glory hole for a mouth. The man in the next stall (J.K. Simmons) starts up a conversation with Wes which quickly turns very weird. He’s not a man at all, he says, but a cosmic god from beyond human perception who needs Wes’ help to avert the total destruction of everything. Typical men’s room stuff.
McKendry and her writers Todd Rigney, Joshua Hull, and David Ian McKendry, understand a fundamental thing about Lovecraftian cosmic horror: it’s enormous and mind-melting, but it’s also very silly. Giant floating masses of sludge with a million eyes that can wake up and destroy the very idea of our reality…that’s just kinda silly! Part of the wonder and horror of Glorious is the premise. It shouldn’t work, it shouldn’t elicit anything more than derisive laughter, but because the movie centers the horror on the very relatable (at least for a bit), we buy it.
Kwanten’s performance is excellent, conveying the building confusion, anger, and ultimately brain-bleeding fear of the situation. Lovecraft’s heroes always go mad at the revelations they make, but Wes is almost too self-centered for that. It creates a fascinating dichotomy. Having a voice as reassuring and yet menacing as Simmons’ to relay the outlandish information helps too. They play off each other exceedingly well, even though they surely were not in the same room for their performances.
As the movie goes along, we learn a bit more about both the nature of Wes’ breakup and what will happen if he refuses to assist the god. Wes’ backstory runs the risk of pushing the movie a bit too far into tropey horror territory. However, it doesn’t and manages to stay firmly planted in the horror of weirdness camp. At only 78 minutes, the movie never overstays its welcome nor pushes the premise too far. It’s beyond impressive what McKendry is able to do with limited space and resources. I was really knocked out by it, and will happily add it to the “Good Cosmic Horror Movies” list where it belongs.
All Glory to the Glory Hole!