Glorious (USA, 2022)
When I first came across an article about Glorious, I knew it had to go onto my list for this year. While the combination of Lovecraftian horror and a glory hole in a highway rest stop sounded like it could be awful, it is also terribly on-brand for the podcast. And I have been pleasantly surprised by crasser approaches to cosmic horror in the past. Call Girl of Cthulhu is far more fun than it has any right to be, and you could argue that Stuart Gordon’s Lovecraft adaptations are in bad enough taste to be in the same loose genre. So how does this latest entry fare?
Glorious is currently streaming on Shudder in the UK.
We meet Wes as he is driving along the highway, although his only destination seems to be a nervous breakdown. Things have ended badly with his girlfriend, Brenda, and he is not coping at all well. When he takes a break at a highway rest stop, he decides to get blackout drunk and burn everything that reminds him of Brenda. This apparently includes his trousers.
Coming around the following morning, Wes dashes into the men’s room to vomit. There, he sees some weird graffiti surrounding what appears to be a glory hole in the cubicle wall. A voice from the other side introduces itself as a god — Ghatanothoa — who wants something from Wes. Something intimate.
Wes’s natural scepticism is eroded by the eldritch phenomena and manifestations that follow. He is trapped within the restroom, his attempts at escape foiled by brute force and non-Euclidean architecture. Throughout, Ghatanothoa (or Ghat, as he prefers to be called), explains that unless Wes offers what is demanded of him, the universe itself will cease to exist.
Will Wes manage to escape? What precisely does Ghat want from him? And why was Wes, in particular, chosen to make this sacrifice?
I did a double-take at the mention of Ghatanathoa. The God of the Volcano seems to have come down in the world since the fall of Mu. I had to rewind the scene to make sure I’d heard the name correctly. It’s not exactly clear at first, because of the wonderful way he teaches Wes to pronounce his name, workign around the limits of human physiology.
I wondered if the use of Ghatanathoa was a sly dirty joke. In “Out of the Aeons”, Lovecraft’s collaboration with Hazel Heald, exposure to Ghatanathoa is literally petrifying, turning people into living statues. Placing a god known for making men hard on the other side of a glory hole can’t be a coincidence…
Ghatanathoa is not the only reference to the Mythos. Although he is never mentioned by name, Ghat talks about his brother, trapped under the sea — an obvious reference to Cthulhu. Despite such name drops, however, the cosmology behind these gods is quite different from their use in any Mythos fiction I’ve encountered. They are presented as cosmic entities, with powers of creation and destruction that encompass the universe. But, at the same time, they hang around in rest stops, picking up strange acolytes.
Pretty much everything about Glorious was a pleasant surprise. While I was expecting little, the premise did sound like it could be amusing. That proved an understatement — when Glorious is funny, it provokes laughs in all sorts of unexpected ways, and not just the gross-out humour I was anticipating. Sure, there is plenty of slapstick and gore, but there is some genuine wit here too. At times, it took me back to the Lovecraftian absurdities of William Browning Spencer’s excellent comic novel, Résumé With Monsters.
At the same time, Glorious goes to much darker places than I expected. It shifts from absurd comedy to nihilistic horror effortlessly, taking us on a wild emotional ride. The revelations about why Ghat chose Wes to serve him were genuinely shocking. I felt quite punch-drunk by the end of the film.
For what is clearly not a big-budget production, Glorious works, well, gloriously within is limitations. Clearly the money saved by sticking largely to a single location helped elsewhere. Having JK Simmons voice Ghat adds a degree of gravitas that nicely contrasts with the ludicrousness of the situation. And the special effects are far better than you might expect for a film like this. When things get nasty, there is so much gore that you’ll want a shower after watching.
I’m not sure if Glorious benefited from my low expectations or if it really is as good as it first seems. I shall have to revisit it some day to see if it still has the same impact. For now, however, Glorious is the film to beat this month.
The October Horror Movie Challenge
Please do join in and share your own thoughts with us about this or any other films as the month goes on. You can usually find us on Twitter, Facebook, Reddit, Discord, or lurking in the dark corners of your home.
If you would like to play along at home, my provisional selections are:
- Werewolves Within (USA, 2021)
- Crystal Eyes (Argentina, 2018)
- Super Dark Times (USA, 2017)
- Thirst (Australia, 1979)
- A Ghost Waits (USA, 2020)
- Cemetery of Terror (Mexico, 1985)
- I Came By (UK, 2022)
- 100 Monsters (Japan, 1968)
- Sea Fever (Ireland, 2020)
- Mill of the Stone Women (Italy, 1960)
- Glorious (USA, 2022)
- All the Moons (Spain, 2021)
- Broadcast Signal Intrusion (USA, 2021)
- Incantation (Taiwan, 2022)
- The Gore Gore Girls (USA, 1972)
- Luz: The Flower of Evil (Colombia, 2019)
- Butterfly Kisses (USA, 2018)
- The Night Evelyn Came Out of the Grave (Italy, 1971)
- Saloum (Senegal, 2021)
- The Addiction (USA, 1995)
- Good Madam (South Africa, 2021)
- The Freakmaker (UK, 1974)
- The Long Walk (Laos, 2019)
- Eyes of Fire (USA, 1983)
- Errors of the Human Body (Germany, 2013)
- Caveat (Ireland, 2020)
- The White Reindeer (Finland, 1952)
- His House (UK, 2020)
- Tourist Trap (USA, 1979)
- Häxan: Witchcraft Through the Ages (Sweden, 1922)
- Flux Gourmet (UK, 2022)
A Final Note
If you have been enticed here by these posts, please do look around at some of our other film reviews. We also have a podcast, called The Good Friends of Jackson Elias, which occasionally covers horror films. If this appeals, you might want to check out some of the following episodes.
- The Night House
- The Changeling
- The Endless
- Our favourite Cthulhu Mythos media
- The Fly
- A Dark Song
- The Thing
- The Ritual
- The Wicker Man
- The Stone Tape
- Event Horizon
- The Witch
- INLAND EMPIRE
- Nightbreed and Lord of Illusions
- Maléfique and The Ninth Gate
- Re-Animator and From Beyond
- Repulsion and The Babdook
- Man Bites Dog, Behind the Mask: The Rise of Leslie Vernon and S&man
- A selection of weird films
- David Cronenberg
- The films that scared us most
If you dig through the archives, you will also find episodes about a wide variety of horror stories and games. Happy nightmares!