In a world where franchises and IP dominate Hollywood, Glorious is about to inject some much-needed originality into the community. Directed by Rebekah McKendry, Glorious is a Lovecraftian horror film that predominantly takes place in a public restroom. When Wes (Ryan Kwanten), a depressed and heartbroken individual, finds himself inside a bathroom after a night of drinking, a godlike voice (J.K. Simmons) in the other stall begins to converse with him about his mistakes and regrets. The voice traps Wes inside the bathroom and demands a sacrifice through the glory hole in the stall or else he will face cataclysmic consequences.
As McKendry states, a horror about a glory hole may not be for everyone, but she can proudly say that it’s “something you have never seen before.” Glorious is a philosophical exploration of an imperfect man grappling with the mistakes in his life. In an interview with Digital Trends, McKendry reveals the advice her mother gave her about filmmaking, why “weird” is a good thing, and how she convinced Kwanten and Simmons to join the project.
Note: This interview has been edited for length and clarity.
Digital Trends: Glorious is as original a story as you can get. As a filmmaker, is originality a driving force behind why you choose a project?
Rebekah McKendry: Yeah, it is. Well, I will say a majority of the time, or more thinking like, “What can I do with it that is me? How can I bring my own personality or my own experiences into it?” For myself, personally, the weirder, the better. The more absurdist, the better. If you’ve seen my very first film, All the Creatures Were Stirring, it has that same level of absurdity, and that was my biggest takeaway.
If nothing else, I wanted to create something that was different from everything else out there, and that has been the biggest compliment on Glorious so far. We get that Lovecraftian glory holes may not be everybody’s bag, but we can say we have made something you have never seen before. [Laughs]
I think the word “weird” gets a negative connotation. Weird doesn’t mean bad. It’s OK for people to not know what’s going on. Do you appreciate that type of reaction?
Yeah. From a distributor level, there were questions of, “Who are we making this movie for?” On set, I kept saying, “We’re making it for friends I haven’t met yet.” Like people who get my sense of humor, who have a similar predilection towards finding transgressiveness and irreverence hilarious, and finding art in kind of this mix of highbrow and lowbrow is definitely what I was pushing for.
I’ve heard my mom always used to tell me that you’re only weird if you’re not confident about it. That’s a division line, and so that’s where I kind of approached this. It’s going to be a weird film, but I know where I want it to go and I’m going to be confident about it, and therefore, it gets to a different level.
Moms always give the best advice.
Right? So I took her to the premiere of this, and she is always there no matter [what]. When I’m making Gwar videos back years ago, no matter what it was, she was always right there like, “Do you need help on set? I’ll come pass out donuts.” No matter how weird my career gets, she’s always there for it.
This movie doesn’t work unless Ryan buys into the story and goes for it. When he first read the script, what was the pitch to get him on board?
With casting Wes, in general, it was the big discussion beforehand because we knew that Wes had to be kind of the lovable loser. He had to be this completely down-on-his-luck guy that you’re like, “Oh my God. He’s totally pathetic.” I like him enough to follow him through a movie, but at the same time, it had to have this ridiculous twist. So I had seen Ryan in Joe Lynch’s Creepshow and in a couple of contemporary things as well like True Blood.
But I reached out to Barbara Crampton, who was one of our producers and was like, “I know you’ve worked with him before. What about Ryan?” She was like, “Oh, he’s going to love this.” And as soon as I started talking with him, it was immediately clear that he got the humor, he got the concept, [and] he got how it had to be played straight. It had to be played not completely as a comedic performance. It could not be silly because the script is silly. The absurdity is going to come out in this situation more than anything.
And so he immediately got it, and he also got the duality of the character. And the biggest thing is he got it was a chamber piece and that it was going to have to be a rather theatrical presentation because it is him by himself for like 90% of the movie. He was willing to go along with me on my kind of zany way of filming it. So that was a big thing, knowing that we’re in a bathroom for the solid chunk of the movie.
I was very aware that if we were just using locked shots like I’m pointing the camera here and pointing the camera here, it was going to feel really blocky and claustrophobic and repetitive within minutes. So my idea was, okay, I’m just going to keep the camera on steady the entire film. I’m never going to come off steady. And with that, I wanted to spend a lot of time blocking Ryan so that the blocking was done. He knew it. It was kind of like a rehearsal that we could run like a theatrical production. And that way I could also block the camera, and how to dance with him on these massive takes.
So we would do like 10-minute takes with this, where it was a rehearsal between Ryan’s movements and the camera dancing around him. Ryan was really into that as well, which was amazing because it was an interesting way of filming and one that I actually prefer now. After I started doing 10-minute takes, I was like, “This gets great performances because he can really dig in and submerse himself very much like a more theatrical experience.”
That was the biggest thing. We started shopping this project around in the middle of the pandemic, and we immediately got interest from a couple of different companies. That was always one of my tells. When I would talk with the company, if they were immediately like, “Oh, you know, who would be great,” and they would throw some actor at me that had this scary voice, I would be like, “They don’t get it.” That was the biggest thing. It had to be somebody who sounded approachable and cordial.
There’s a social construct built into the entire script. [At] the start of it, Wes is in this bathroom, a voice next to him says like, “Hey, how are you doing over there?” It has to be polite enough and unassuming enough that Wes feels the social responsibility to respond even if it’s awkward. If that voice sounds scary, he’s just gonna bolt. My biggest thing with casting is that it has to be somebody who, through the bulk of the movie, is going to sound endearing and compassionate and make you want to make these decisions that Wes has to make until he has to be a commanding, scary God. I’ve always looked at Whiplash as a horror film with him playing the monster.
I would agree with that.
We kind of started with, “Okay, he [J.K.] can go dark.” But at the same time, he’s on half the cartoons my kids watch as well so we were like, “Okay. Well, he’s got all these other sides to him and this amazing dynamicness.” And he really likes weird movies. He loves Lovecraft and loves philosophy so it was just a fantastic kismet.
Glorious is a horror film, but there is a lot of philosophy sprinkled in throughout this story. It’s going to require multiple viewing in order to really pick up on all the Easter eggs. Was your approach to sneak in as many Easter eggs as you can?
That was my husband [David Ian McKendry]. I’ll give him full credit for that. My husband was a philosophy minor in college. He loves mythology and studying other religions. And so when he did his pass on the script, that was the biggest thing he wanted to bring in. It’s Lovecraftian mythology, but we did not want to lean on that solely. We really wanted to bring in a bigger mythos, and so we brought it. There’s a lot of Greek mythology. There [are] Sartre references with No Exit. There’s Kronos mythology, which is Greek as well. And even like one of the last lines of the movie is “It’s finished,” which is straight from Jesus on the cross.
We brought in as much as we possibly could and put it in there. A lot of it is breadcrumbs like the candy bar at the beginning is a Choco Sticks, and the woman who he hands the coins to is named Sharon so it’s supposed to be kind of his entrance into hell. It’s just subtle stuff that we didn’t want to call a lot of attention to, but there’s a lot of it in there.
Glorious streams exclusively on Shudder starting August 18.
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