We have a new Shudder Original to cover this month with the release of Glorious (2022). Does the film live up to the name? Find out in our review below how the sticky restroom-set horror comedy lands.
Glorious, directed by Rebekah McKendry and written by Josuha Hull, David Ian McKendry, and Todd Rigney, follows a man named Wes after a particularly nasty breakup. After a series of drunken mishaps, he arrives at a rest stop. Soon he finds himself trapped in a men’s room with a mysterious stranger engaging him in conversation through a gloryhole. However, the conversation has cosmic consequences.
The film’s stars are Ryan Kwanten, J.K. Simmons, Tordy Clark, Sylvia Grace Crim, and André Lamar.
What worked with Glorious
The film is an excellent example of the fun that can be hand with Shudder’s Originals and Exclusives. This film wouldn’t have set box offices ablaze, but as a streaming offering, it works pretty well. The overall story is a neat blend of comedy, mystery, and Lovecraftian cosmic horror. It is a movie that can pivot from disturbing to funny several times within the same scene. The film’s two leads, Wes (Ryan Kwanten) and Ghat (J.K. Simmons), who spend most of the movie talking, carry it. A very dialogue-heavy film, moments of gore and surreal cosmic imagery punctuate Glorious. However, it balances the shocks with the dialogue well.
One of the great things about J.K. Simmons is that the man could read a phonebook, which everyone would hail as a stunning performance. Through Simmons’ voice acting, Ghat appears simultaneously charming and intimidating. Almost like a stern but loving uncle trying to guide Wes to do something significant. The balance of power switches periodically, but not significantly enough to give Wes any real agency in the story. This can be good or bad, depending on your interpretation.
The other performances, brief though they are, are compelling. André Lamar gets the most to do as Gary, the unfortunate property manager of the rest stop. He delivers some fleeting fun moments. Sylvia Grace Crim, who plays Brenda, Wes’s object of affection, plays the haunting lover well enough. However, her role doesn’t offer much beyond that. She becomes the trope of the development of a traumatized male in horror. Tordy Clark’s mysterious Sharon has a brief scene full of mystery. Yet, it doesn’t seem overly important to the story. She just more or less shows that other people have been to the rest stop.
Visually, the movie does a great job of taking a rest-stop bathroom and giving it enough visual interest not to grow monotonous. David Matthews’ cinematography is admirable given the unusual scale of the film. Cramped when needed, imposingly open otherwise, and the strange, out-of-time paintings within the restroom give it a sense of the uncanny, especially where the cosmic gloryhole is concerned. The film has a lot of visual similarities to the Color Out of Space. Glorious is drenched in cosmic purple lighting from time to time.
The audio engineering was solid, giving Ghat an otherworldly quality, but the music didn’t stand out that much, generally leaning into weird, cosmic synth without doing anything notable.
What didn’t work with Glorious
The film’s structure does have some weak spots, and even at a meager runtime of 89 minutes (a rarity for movies these days), the film does feel longer than it needs to be. Glorious does drag as the single location features similar beats across different scenes; Ghat asks Wes to do something, Wes attempts to escape or refuses, and Wes gets punished. This loop makes up most of the film, and only with the introduction of property manager Gary for a single scene do we get a natural break in that loop until the end.
Glorious is a story that the team could have trimmed by 20 minutes. The film doesn’t quite overstay its welcome, but I often questioned when the story would progress after a certain point.
The film’s attempted shocking revelation about Wes does not really land. Hints to Wes’ true nature show up but end up too obscured or subtle for the “aha!” moment. Most of Wes’s character’s depth stems from Kwanten’s performance instead of the writing.
While I think the cinematography overall was excellent, I did find two scenes featuring a space-level zoom-out to be a bit ridiculous and unnecessary. In a film that could benefit more from the subtext, the transparent nature of showing ‘cosmic implications’ felt downright silly.
Final Thoughts on Glorious (2022)
Glorious hits that sweet spot of Shudder Originals and Exclusives where interesting, fun horror films are given a chance to shine on an enthusiast’s platform. It is one of those films where horror fans can appreciate them for what they are as opposed to struggling at the box office. Glorious is not the best of Shudder’s offerings, but it is a lot of fun with two solid performances and a nice pairing of gore and comedy wrapped up in a Lovecraftian shell.(3.5 / 5)
She Will, a Film Review
She Will is a 2021 supernatural horror film directed by Charlotte Colbert. This R-rated film includes Alice Krige and Kota Eberhardt.
She Will is a 2021 supernatural horror film directed by Charlotte Colbert. This R-rated film boasts a cast that includes Alice Krige, Kota Eberhardt, and Malcolm McDowell. This movie is currently only available on Shudder.
Veronica (Alice Krige) is an actress recovering from a double mastectomy at a spiritual retreat in Scotland. With the help of her nurse, Desi (Kota Eberhardt), she slowly connects with the land and its dark legacy. However, the remake of her breakout role and the director who haunts her bring back troubling memories. But the land seeks to make her whole, no matter the cost.
What I Like
This film is beautiful, giving the setting a character all its own. While not every frame delivers expert detail, the majority of She Will certainly evokes the viewer. This only adds to the horror, turning the supernatural into a force of nature itself.
The relationship between Desi and Veronica, changing throughout the film, brings a lot for the actresses to utilize. It should go without saying that Malcolm McDowell amplifies every scene he’s in.
I wouldn’t call this an arthouse film, but it centers itself on womanhood interestingly and artfully. This includes darker subjects of exploitation, specifically in the film industry, through Veronica’s personal journey.
What I Dislike, or Food for Thought
She Will deals with heavy subject matter. As alluded to earlier, Veronica’s journey implies many things that will be hard for some viewers. There is also an attempted assault.
Malcolm McDowell plays an eccentric director, but I would have liked to see him without the public persona. For the most part, the viewer hears rumors but only see the friendly facade.
While the subject matter and visuals can be intense, I wouldn’t exactly call the film frightening.
Where She Will might lack in horror, it makes up for in the stunning visuals and execution. Alice Krige plays a dynamic character who brings to life Veronica’s struggles. If one fancies a journey of self-discovery and empowerment like Midsommar, She Will might fill that niche.
(4 / 5)
The Last of Us: Episode 3: Long, Long Time
One of the first mentions of Bill and Frank in HBO’s The Last of Us is in episode one, when Ellie discovers that Joel and Tess communicate with men over the radio via 60’s-80’s pop songs. Rewind to the end of the episode, when Depeche Mode’s 80’s hit “Never Let Me Down Again” plays. Bill and Frank are in some sort of trouble. In the third episode of this series, “Long, Long Time,” we find out what that trouble was.
*WARNING: THIS POST CONTAINS HEAVY SPOILERS*
The Dead Can’t Get Infected
Let me preface by saying that however you think this episode is going to be, you’re most likely very, very wrong.
“Long, Long Time,” begins shortly after Joel and Ellie are forced to leave Tess and escape the Boston capitol building. They are in the forest, prepping for another long journey ahead of them. As they walk, we learn more backstory on the origin of the Cordyceps pandemic. “Who was the first to bite? Was it monkeys? I bet it was monkeys,” Ellie says. But Joel explains no, it wasn’t monkeys. Rather, the disease spread through basic food products, like flour or sugar. Then the cordyceps mutated as flour, sugar, biscuit and pancake batter hit the store shelves that Thursday before the outbreak, infecting everyone who purchased those products. “That makes more sense,” Ellie somberly admits.
Eventually, they find a picked-over abandoned grocery store, where Joel hides his assault rifle and green toolbox underneath the floorboards. While Joel is looking around the store for supplies, Ellie heads to a room in the back and finds a hidden basement. Unbeknownst to Joel, she crawls inside and comes face to face with an infected. Luckily, Ellie has the advantage; the infected is crushed by a pile of rocks and has no chance of escaping. Ellie walks over to it, cuts her knife across its face, then stabs it to death. Her first kill.
Once the two are done with the store, they continue on their journey to Bill and Frank’s, whom we finally get to meet.
It’s September 30, 2003, four days after the outbreak. Bill (Nick Offerman), a burly survivalist, is hiding in his bunker, watching the cameras planted outside his house. FEDRA is taking survivors to a Quarantine Zone (QZ). Once Bill confirms he is alone, he makes the town his own.
Four years of isolation pass and we witness all the work Bill has put in to protect his home from infected and raiders alike. He is a hardened man who is afraid of nothing. He has safe-proofed his home with trip wires, high voltage electric fences and trap holes. When an uninfected man on his way to Boston suddenly falls into one of the holes, Bill’s entire world changes. The man is named Frank (Murray Bartlett), and he and Bill quickly become infatuated with one another. Before we know it, another three years have passed and Frank is still living with Bill. Their contrasting personalities compliment each other as they protect the neighborhood together. And Frank’s desire to meet knew people overcomes Bill’s tenacity for seclusion. Thus, the origin of their partnership with Joel and Tess.
PlayStation vs. HBO
“Long, Long Ride” is brutal in the most unexpected ways. In the playstation game, we meet Bill after he saves Joel and Ellie from a swarm of infected after Joel gets caught in one of Bill’s traps. He takes them back to a hideout, where Joel picks up ammo, can update his weapons at a workbench, and receives a shotgun and nail bomb recipe. Meanwhile, Bill and Ellie, being the stubborn characters that they are, are at odds with each other throughout their entire journey together.
It is in this saga with Bill that we come across a Bloater, the most aggressive infected character in the first Last of Us game. Finally, the trio make it to Bill’s home, where they find Frank’s lifeless body hanging from a ceiling. He became infected and chose to end his life before turning into an unrecognizable monster.
None of this happens in “Long, Long Time.” While the game hints at Bill being gay through Frank’s suicide note and a male porn magazine that Ellie stole from Bill’s hideout, there is not any other mention of it. He refers to Frank as his “partner” and nothing else. While it is clear that Frank and Bill were in a relationship, it was not a very loving one judging by the hatefulness toward Bill in Frank’s suicide note.
However, in the HBO show, Bill and Frank’s relationship is healthy and loving, including their fights. “Long, Long Time” presents a refreshing depiction of healthy masculinity and sexuality that stays authentic to the characters and their stories.
Another difference from the game is that the only interaction between Bill and Joel in episode three is when they meet for the first time, almost ten years after the outbreak, at a small dinner party at Bill and Frank’s house. While it would have been fun to see more interaction between Bill and Joel in the show, their lack of shared screen-time doesn’t downplay the importance they have in each other’s lives. This is pertinent to a decision Joel makes about whether to keep traveling with Ellie, and it happens in the end of the episode, when Bill and Frank are both dead.
“I hope he never lets me down again.”
Bill is a character who means business and doesn’t care much for the people with whom he shares this world. Nick Offerman took this characterization and ran with it, transforming into the most believable performance of Bill any Last of Us fan could ask for. He is a delightful live-action version of this bitter, coldhearted character.
And yet, there is so much to Bill we don’t know about that HBO was determined to show us. Yes, Bill is an angry reclusive survivalist who was “happy when the world ended.” He is not afraid to shoot down trespassers, infected or not, and exhibits a “Don’t Tread On Me” flag in his bunker that is filled floor to ceiling with an array of guns and other weaponry. But after he meets Frank, it turns out that Bill is also sensitive, sweet and filled with unwavering protective love.
Offerman and Bartlett’s chemistry with one another is beautiful. Bartlett brings Frank to life as more than just a man who hated Bill. He has a rich, cultured personality, is full of love and hope. Perhaps the most heartwarming part of the episode is when Frank surprises Bill with a garden of strawberries in their backyard. After a decade of rations and frozen meals, one can only imagine the bliss of eating freshly picked fruit for the first time since the world’s end. With the sun’s rays beaming through the trees and small bugs floating around them, Offerman and Bartlett performed this scene with such sincerity and love that it felt like we, the audience, were right there with them.
“Long, Long Time” ends with Joel and Ellie finally making it to Bill and Frank’s home. Here, all the flowers are dead, an unfinished dinner is caked with mold and a note to Joel is left on the kitchen table. Bill left all his belongings to Joel, including his beloved truck.
“Long, Long Time” is devastating. Offerman and Bartlett’s performances, coupled with the heartbreaking score and thoughtful film editing, create an unexpected love story in a gruesome, ruthless world. All the while, the world-building continues, the story progresses and Joel and Ellie’s bond slowly grows stronger. While there are moments of dialogue identical to the game, this episode is ultimately original. In other words: it is tv filmmaking at its finest. It asks audiences to trust the writers with any creative liberties they’ll take with the show. I would say this request for trust is justified.(5 / 5)
It is in this part in the game where Joel and Ellie meet Sam and Henry. Will we meet them in the next episode? We won’t find out until next week. So until then, make sure you check out the other shows and games we’re consuming at HauntedMTL.
Marionette, a Film Review
Marionette is a 2020 psychological thriller directed by Elbert Van Strien. This R-rated film stars Thekla Reuten and Elijah Wolf.
Marionette is a 2020 psychological thriller directed by Elbert Van Strien. The film stars Thekla Reuten, Elijah Wolf, and Emun Elliott. As of this review, this R-rated film is available on Amazon Prime, Shudder, and AMC+.
Dr. Marianne Winter (Thekla Reuten) moves to Scotland, having found an opening for her practice. As a therapist, she begins to meet with her clients and adjust to her new life. However, one of her clients, a troubled boy named Manny (Elijah Wolf), has the whole institution frightened. As she soon learns, the boy knows too much and has a wicked temper.
What I Like
Few films make me feel the spiraling madness of the protagonist. Marionette sits as one such example. The growing evidence facing her leaves the audience as uncertain as the protagonist. And as she becomes more extreme, we fear if she’s right or wrong.
While not too exceptional, lovely visuals throughout the film reflect the mood and situations nicely. From white rooms to stormy nights, many scenes bring life a character’s inner state. Some might find this “on the nose,” but the premise and execution highlight these moments.
What I Dislike
Taking the premise at face value, I find it strange that Dr. Marianne Winter would be the main character. Without spoiling anything, the end makes me reflect a little harder against some potential interpretations.
This leads to a somewhat ambiguous element of the film. When a film has ambiguity, all parts should be possible. However, this doesn’t feel true for Marionette.
Marionette is an interesting and rewarding experience. While some elements don’t tie perfectly with the conclusion, it will have you questioning what is and isn’t real. For a psychological thriller, it’s hard to ask for more. While the film won’t be ideal for everyone, those interested should certainly give it a watch.(3.5 / 5)
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