Plenty of movies have memorable scenes set in bathrooms (The Warriors, 1979; The Shining, 1980; The World’s End, 2013), but how many movies can you think of set almost entirely in a bathroom? It’s a pretty small list that probably starts with Stalled (2013) and ends with We Need to Do Something (2021), but now a third contender has entered the tiled thunderdome — and it is glorious. No, really, Glorious pits a troubled young man against the cosmic horrors unleashed through a rest stop glory hole, and the result is a wildly entertaining descent into comedy, horror, and public bathroom etiquette.
Wes (Ryan Kwanten) is having a bad couple of days, and the road trip he’s on doesn’t seem to be helping. He misses his girlfriend, and while the details of their breakup aren’t initially clear, it’s obvious that he’s in distress. A rest stop break sees him burn his belongings — his pants go up in flames, but a teddy bear doll is spared — and get blackout drunk, but he’s surprised the next morning when a visit to the bathroom reveals someone else (J.K. Simmons) in the stall beside him. The mysterious and unseen man appears to be no man at all, and soon Wes finds himself caught up in a conversation that brings him to the brink of cosmic horror.
Glorious sets up a simple but absurd concept and then pretty much nails the execution with only the smallest of bumps along the way. The film delivers big laughs throughout stemming equally from the banter between Wes and the voice and the physical antics that unfold within the bathroom’s walls. More serious beats are afforded the impact they deserve, but it’s the wild entertainment of it all that powers the movie through to its satisfying conclusion.
Director Rebekah McKendry‘s third film (after a middling Christmas horror movie and a made-for-television thriller) is an absolute banger of an existential comedy exploring everything from toilet seat bacteria to humankind’s ultimate insignificance in the universe. Brief portions of the film unfold outside the restroom, but most of the magic happens inside with McKendry, cinematographer David Matthews, and art director Peter Kelly doing wonders with the confined space. Its appearance never grows tiresome or dull as the film keeps it all feeling fresh, whether we’re awash in blood, gazing through a glory hole, or glimpsing some kind of impending Lovecraftian nightmare.
That unexpected scale, both of visuals and ideas, is part of what lifts Glorious well beyond its designation as merely a “bathroom-set horror/comedy.” There are grand ideas at play here as the voice’s intentions slowly come clear, and Wes’ realization that he might just be all that stands between humanity’s continued existence or extinction raises the stakes on what’s asked of him. And yes, of course it involves that glory hole.
The script (by Joshua Hull and David Ian McKendry, from a story by Todd Rigney) doles out information on both Wes and the supposed god in the second stall with precision. Each new detail adds to the story and the fun, and while the second act teases minor redundancies here and there, the next laugh, reveal, or glimpse of a monstrous being is always right around the corner. Half of the fun of the film is in seeing where it goes next from the confines of that bathroom, and even when you think you have a firm grasp on things, Glorious still manages to pull something unexpected out of one hole or another.
Kwanten and Simmons never meet in person — the latter never appears at all — but the two performers find a compelling rhythm in their conversations. What starts as mild chatter between strangers in an uncomfortable setting quickly turns into observations on life, love, responsibility, and more. It can be serious, but the pair also deliver barbs and jokes that earn laughs while still feeling a part of their natural flow. Simmons’ dry delivery is perfection with some of the bigger laughs. A few other faces appear on screen throughout, all fine, but this is ultimately Kwanten’s show, and he delivers from start to finish. His journey is a wild one covering all the emotional gamuts, and he takes viewers along with him the entire way. Just be sure to wash your hands afterward…
Glorious is a wonderfully deceptive film. It’s funny, but it’s also thoughtful, surprising, and unapologetically weird. Yes, it delivers the laughs that eventual trailers will promise (trailers that I can guarantee you’ll want to avoid), but there’s a lot more hiding just beneath the surface — and on the other side of that glory hole.
Related Topics: Fantasia Film Festival