“Horror comedy” is a phrase that gets thrown around too often, often just including a horror film that has a joke or two in it. Or it’ll be applied to a try-hard piece of shit movie fails completely at everything it set out to do. Rebekah McKendry’s psychedelic neo-Lovecraftian breakup movie Glorious does neither of those things but instead achieves the “comedy” part of the sub-genre not with jokes but rather a deadpanned approach to the absolutely absurd. And it succeeds by a wide margin at doing so.
Glorious is the story of Wes (Ryan Kwanten), a classic shmuck who finds himself at a rest stop somewhere in the depths of Appalachia with a bottle of booze and not much else. Wes is going through a cataclysmic break up, one that’s revealed as the movie goes on to be due his own inadequacies and shortcomings far more than his partners. Early on, Wes finds himself locked in the bathroom, and soon realizes he has company: a disembodied voice, friendly enough but still unsettling, coming from an adjacent stall. As the film unfolds Wes finds himself trapped in a cosmic struggle with the fate of all life in the universe at stake. See, Wes’s faceless company isn’t a fellow lonely traveler. Instead, it’s a benevolent demi-god sent to earth by its creator to annihilate all life but is hesitant to do so and needs Wes’s help in averting cataclysm. Predictably, mayhem ensues.
You can see how this film rests on the absurd to achieve a humorous outcome. There are jokes here and there, but much of the comedy comes simply from the premise. The demigod (voiced by the legendary J.K. Simmons) is nothing but polite. Firm, but always polite. And there’s something that is hilarious about a disembodied voice from a bathroom stall gravely intoning the horrid fate that awaits mankind lest Wes assist in the ritual needed to avert said fate. You can’t help but be charmed by such a premise. There’s a unique dynamic in this film, in that both characters are the straight man AND the funny man at the same time, although neither of them really intends to be the latter. It’s a ridiculous set up that by all rights should fail completely but instead is an utter joy to watch. Both Kwanten and Simmons are adept at getting across an exasperation at the other for being unable to understand their own plight and this exasperation further fuels the unorthodox hilarity of the film.
The film is not without its shortcomings. At times it attempts to be something of a morality tale, which feels like it’s only adding baggage to a streamlined story that is cruising along quite nicely. And, despite being utterly magnificent in this movie, J.K. Simmons unfortunately has an instantly recognizable voice, so whenever his character speaks of how to lay eyes upon him would instantly drive a human insane (I told you it was Lovecraftian) hearing Simmons say those words just makes you instantly picture Simmons saying them instead of, I dunno, Yog-Sothoth. It’s not a shortcoming on Simmons fault, and again he really does imbue this movie with a boatload of charm through his delivery, but every time he spoke in the back of my head I was like ‘yeah okay Schillinger/J. Jonah Jameson/that dickhead from Whiplash.’
Glorious is a fun little horror movie that is sure to please any fan of the cosmic and the weird. It’s the perfect blend of strange and hilarious with enough gore and goo to rest comfortably amongst films of its ilk, and at just under 80 minutes doesn’t overstay its welcome. It knows exactly what it wants to do and how it wants to make you feel and does exactly that
Glorious will be available on Shudder August 15th.