Rest-Stop Destiny – Glorious (2022)

This is the glory-hole horror film you never knew you needed! Completely outrageous and over-the-top, Glorious has fun with the Lovecraftian nature of its premise but still stays true to its gory horror elements and upends its established character dynamic on its way out the door. 

Wes is a sad boy in a sad place

Fresh off a painful breakup, a visibly distressed young man pulls over at a rest stop for a brief respite but winds up locked in the bathroom with a mysterious entity that’s looking to make a deal. 

It’s as crazy as it sounds but in the best way! Director Rebekah McKendry has been knee-deep in the horror industry for quite some time and she doesn’t waste time waxing poetic about the lovesick nature of her lead. Instead, she gives the audience just enough to get on board and plants a few context-rich seeds that start to germinate for later on. I appreciate the less is more approach to the storytelling because it respected me enough to pick up on those subtleties myself without needing to be spoonfed. When the audience is treated like they can handle the material, it frees up the filmmakers to have more freedom in their approach to storytelling as well. 

Rebekah McKendry working with her lead Ryan Kwanten (Photo: Shudder)

McKendry’s husband David was one of the writers on this project, along with Joshua Hull and Todd Rigney and they clearly had fun coming up with the dialogue for this one because…what do a shadowy figure in a rest stop bathroom stall with a glory hole and a recently single and still devastated young man talk about? I don’t want to spoil anything, but I will say the writing takes full advantage of J.K. Simmons’ voice acting, boasts some good moments of stage direction, and slowly scratches away at some questions you don’t even know you want the answers to. 

Kwanten had some great freakout moments in the neon

I watched Ryan Kwanten a lot back in his True Blood days and also enjoyed him in the little-seen sci-fi film 2067, so I was glad to see him get a chance to run with this character. He’s fairly unassuming here considering he often plays the hunky love interest but it’s all by design. Mary Czech costumed him in an oversized button-down dress shirt and then left him exposed in his boxers, naming Kwanten a lot less physically comfortable than we see from him on screen most of the time. That kind of decision along with the character introduction allows him the freedom to play a man who’s beginning to unravel at a quicker pace and you can see he had a good time doing it. 

Simmons’ bellowing vocals are disarming in the same way that commercials use celebrity voices to subliminally make you more comfortable with their certain products. That familiarity goes a long way here, especially after Simmons’ stretch voicing Omni-Man on Invincible because this isn’t VO for a character we see communicating. The voice acting happens from the shadows and I doubt it has the same impactfulness if it’s not J.K. at the wheel. 

Sylvia Grace Crim and Ryan Kwanten, share a stage-like moment

It’s a tiny cast beyond those two with Sylvia Grace Crim playing Kwanten’s love interest, Tordy Clark playing a strange rest-stop attendee with only a few lines, and André Lamar who plays another rest-stop patron who’s in the wrong place at the wrong time. 

Having a small group doesn’t make it lesser though. The special effects by Oliver Poser and the visual effects work by Jason Richard Miller complement this story very well. You sometimes see VFX being used as a crutch but that wasn’t the case here. It’s also difficult to take a setting like this and keep it engaging, but this is something the filmmakers were aware of. David Matthews’ camera work and lighting techniques, punched up by colorist Joel Ides, kept things pretty fresh over the course of the 79min runtime so the pacing never stalls.

This is a horror film made by some folks who are very clearly fans too, and they had fun bringing a pretty ridiculous idea to the screen. This isn’t the kind of genre movie that’s built to scare but it’s a fun and enjoyable piece of horror filmmaking. 

Recommendation: If you’re a fan of the genre for genre’s sake, this is a good example of creative horror storytelling that’s more fun than it is frightening and you should see it for how that execution is handled. If the words “glory-hole” and/or “horror” are non-starters, then you should skip this one. 

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