With being locked away from each other throughout the quarantine, many people lost out on the art of conversation. Sitting down with old friends, new friends, acquaintances, family, love interests, etc, and constructing an actual discussion. And not just get-to-know-you topics or small talk, but honest to God meaningful dialogue which touches on everything from heart-wrenching regrets to enthusiastic philosophical debates. Whether meeting in a restaurant, a bar, (or in the case of our movie) a public men’s restroom, these interactions often leave the participants refreshed and hopefully everyone walks away with a little bit more insight into their lives. Having its world premiere at Fantasia Fest, director Rebekah McKendry’s GLORIOUS (All the Creatures were Stirring) presents a film that revolves around two people holding a conversation, but she includes Lovecraftian horror and a very unlikely location
Driving on lonely roads, Wes (Ryan Kwanten True Blood) pilots a car filled with all his worldly possessions. And based on his overly full carload and living off of candy from vending machines, the audience can gather this man left a life behind and the exit came about pretty quickly. Obviously, the relocation is not his decision, and we gather this when he decides to park at a rest stop and have an angry shouting match with his dead phone and teddy bear. But nothing a little whisky and fire can’t fix. So, goodbye to Wes’s box of sentimental mementos and hello to Wes’s nightmares. Drinking all night leaves Wes very hung-over the next morning and, for some drunk reason, also pants-less. Honestly, not the best way to start the day. Having spent the night at a secluded rest stop, he decides to empty his stomach in the bathroom and hopefully approach the day with a clearer head.
Now I don’t spend a lot of time in men’s restrooms, but I assume proper etiquette requires men to not talk to each other through the stalls. After relieving his body of all its alcoholic contents, Wes starts talking with someone (or something) in the adjoining stall (J.K. Simmons, Whiplash). However, this chance occurrence turns out to not actually be so serendipitous, and now the story switches from casual conversation between two strangers to a narrative about a horrifying bathroom monster in a diseased-filled dreamland. With the doors and windows all sealed shut, Wes cannot escape until the monster considers the conversation finished. However, when a man’s grief decides to go toe-to-toe with an Old God, surprisingly the pair comes off as evenly matched. The whole discussion plays out in front of us, and even though most of the movie shows Wes talking to the mysterious presence behind the bathroom door, we never experience a moment in which the story panders away.
With the commanding voice of Simmons, claustrophobic and isolated feelings, and the inclusion of an old God, GLORIOUS brings a lot of horror to the screen. But the specific location also requires quite a bit of bathroom humor, which might get a chuckle or two out of the audience. I mean, there is a glory hole, so expect a bit of crudeness. And despite the unusual situation, the space between Wes and the Old God does create a level of comfort as both vent their frustrations and display an honesty that would be relationship-ending outside the walls of their intimate bathroom setting. The movie’s entire focus remains directed not toward the plot points summarized earlier, but instead revolves around what the two characters discuss during their short time together. But even if I were to tell you what the conversation is about, the film would still intrigue you. McKendry goes beyond just making us observers of the discussion. Instead, she invites us to take part and inspires us to contemplate our own roles within the dialogue. Do we sympathize with the everyman who is fleeing from his past mistakes? Or do we connect with the Old God who holds unfathomable power, but still struggles with daddy issues?
And as much as the film fills up our thoughts with contemplations of issues ranging from the mundane to earthly destruction, the minimalistic style in certain scenes shows how McKendry does not want the world-ending threats to outweigh the conversation at hand. Most of the movie might involve a guy and a disembodied voice talking in a bathroom, but the ending lets everything get bloody and offers a couple of surprises as well. And within the psychedelic swirls, often unsophisticated humor, and gore-splattered bathroom stalls, GLORIOUS creates an emotional connection that aligns with our own existential dread.