Whenever a movie decides to riff heavily on the works of literary genius/bigoted weirdo H.P. Lovecraft, the filmmakers usually tend to ramp up the dread as the cosmic horrors spill out from screen into our world on a mass of slime and tentacles (there’s always tentacles). However, Rebekah McKendry’s Glorious, while certainly touching on a fair few plot points that will be incredibly familiar to fans of Old Gods with unpronounceable names, takes something of novel approach, not only in execution, but in location.
A minimalist horror comedy that deals with big themes, heartbreak and sacrifice that sees essentially a two hander with one of the leads merely being a disembodied voice, may sound like a tough pill to swallow, but thanks to some smartly economical direction and some solid performances, Glorious comes dangerously close to being exactly what its title describes.
A very disheveled Wes is aimlessly driving his car while wracked with grief over the collapse of his relationship with Brenda. When the broiling emotions prove to be too much for him to bear, he pulls up at roadside rest stop to handle things in possibly the least mature way possible, by getting grandiosely wasted and incinerating all his worldly possessions – including his wallet, every photo he has of Brenda and most curiously, his trousers – and then passing out drunk.
The next morning he drags himself to his feet and tries to shake off the night before tottering into the grimy public restroom in order to throw up, but as he does so, he’s startled by the fact that there’s someone already in the other cubicle, someone who has been yearning for a chat for a very long time.
After the ice has been awkwardly broken, Wes starts to realise that there’s something decidedly off about his toilet dwelling companion and not least because he claims that his name is Ghatanothoa. No, as a hangover riddled Wes tries to comprehend what he is being told, it seems that lurking within the graffiti tattooed cubicle is an honest to Christ demigod who was created by its father whose very primordial existence accidently created life across the universe as we know it.
“Ghat’s” request is simple, if Wes doesn’t offer up a particular sacrifice before the demigod’s dad finds him, then Ghatanothoa will be forced to live up to the purpose he was created for and destroy all life. However, Wes wasn’t exactly a non-cynical, people person before his split with Brenda and so a frenzied debate ensues as an elder God desperately attempts to convince this rumpled pessimist to mutilate himself for the greater good through the narrow opening of a glory hole.
Seemingly devoid of even the budget of Richard Stanley’s magnificently freaky adaptation of The Color Out Of Space, Glorious has to think of ways outside the box in order to bring those Lovecraftian, cosmic ideas to fruition and interestingly enough, the way it chooses to do it is placing its characters and concepts inside the box. Literally. That’s right, if you can’t go big and you’re unwilling to go home – then think smart and the screenplay contracts things as tighter than a cosmic god’s butthole as it takes its huge stakes and dumps them almost exclusively within a public bathroom that even Jigaw would balk at using. Essentially taking the form of a two-man play, long stretches of the movie are literally just True Blood’s Ryan Kwanten ranting at a sealed toilet stall as his life and mental state collapses quicker than Johnny Knoxville taking a groin shot on Jackass.
There’s a very real danger when a horror movie decides to simply talk it’s way through life-ending threats as the majority of fans have something of locked expectations when it comes to things influenced by Lovecraft’s work (I told you, it all comes back to tentacles – always tentacles), but director McKendry obviously not only knows her history when it comes to portraying indescribable creatures on film, but she’s also Lovecraft movie literate as well, choosing a masterstroke by using the same, eerie, pink glow previously employed not only by Richard Stanley, but in Stuart Gordon’s From Beyond before him. This visual “Lovecraft continuity” strongly keeps the feeling of constant, otherworldly shit occuring even when the scene is just two guys talking and Kwanten (looking more and more like a cheaper Ryan Reynolds alternative every day) mostly has the chops to sustain the chatty premise. It helps that the voice he’s reacting to is the gravelly tones of J. Jonah Jameson himself, J.K. Simmons whose calm, measured cadence proves to be a tremendous foil to this lump of emotional wreckage, even when he’s demanding outlandish things in order to save the world.
Visually, the film does remarkably well considering its locked within a dingy shitter in the middle of nowhere and aside from the aforementioned use of pink lighting, the movie picks other striking looks such as the graffiti that circles the ominous glory hole and the fact that Wes can see the squishy underside of Ghatanothoa whenever he looks underneath the cubicle’s partition.
Sadly, it’s not perfect, with the already-tight concept stretched by the brief, barely 80 minute runtime and some of the blocking being a bit confusing. Also the movie’s choice to show Ghatanothoa and his father at the end of the movie doesn’t exactly warrant an earlier warning to Wes that to gaze upon him is to go insane – he looks like a fleshy potato with teeth sticking out of it, no to mention * yes * tentacles – but filming the unfilmable was always going to be a challenge. Finally, an extra twist concerning the truth behind Wes’ failed relationship may thematically tie the story together, but it still seems like unnecessary baggage for a movie that didn’t actually require such a dark twist.
However, whenever Glorious manages to nail that glory hole full on, it provides some great comedy, mostly stemming from Ghatanothoa’s stoic confusion whenever Wes misunderstands the mission – be it Ghat proving itself by naming all the people responsible for the dotted fecal matter that stains Wes’ clothing is adequate proof of his godhood or – in the movie’s funniest moment – when Ghat buries his companion with a terse “Your genitals are of no significance.” after a toe curling misunderstanding.
Fans of Lovecraft or high concept oddities with low tech approaches will most likely lap this up (I certainly did) and while the laughs don’t quite come as thick and fast as you’d expect, it’s still original enough to be totally worth a visit – after all… the universe has a favor to ask…