Glorious (2022)

Directed by Rebekah McKendry and co-written by Joshua Hull, David Ian McKendry, and Todd Rigney, Glorious is a wickedly clever cosmic horror film with a penchant for genre-bending; think truck-stop Lovecraft by way of Vonnegut.

When Wes (Ryan Kwanten) spends a destructively drunken night at a highway rest-stop working through his heartbreak regarding his former girlfriend Brenda (a winsome Sylvia Grace Crim), he winds up dealing with a lot more than just a bad hangover and wistful memories the next morning. Wes is driven into the roadside bathroom facility by an uncontrollable urge to vomit—and there he will remain for pretty much the rest of the film’s run-time. What starts out as a benign, if odd, conversation with a mysterious stranger in the next stall (an exquisitely charming performance by J.K. Simmons) quickly turns downright bizarre as they introduce themselves as an ancient god…one with a very important, fateful, and not very pleasant mission for Wes.

Cue some philosophical discussions, snazzy special effects, and a surprising amount of blood.

Ricocheting gleefully between deliciously snarky comedy, intrigue, horror, and a dash of drama, Glorious maintains a brisk and energetic pace, occasionally pulling away from its focus on dialogue to introduce new plot wrinkles through flashbacks. Kwanten and Simmons deliver outstanding performances, easily carrying a film that depends almost entirely on their chemistry. Glorious is definitely one of the stand-outs of my 2022 Fantasia experience, and I urge you to check it out on Shudder when it premieres on August 18th.

The Harbinger (2022)

Set during the early days of the Covid pandemic, The Harbinger centres on Monique (Gabby Beans), a young woman who is isolating at home to protect the health of her elderly father (Myles Walker). When her former college roommate Mavis (Emily Davis) reaches out to request a visit, Monique faces firm resistance from both her father and her brother Ronald (Raymond Anthony Thomas), who fear that she may become infected with the virus. Under other circumstances, Monique may have relented and stayed safely in their bubble (remember when bubbles were a thing?), but Mavis is in a very bad place—terrified and tormented, she seems to be trapped in a living nightmare from which she cannot always wake up. Undeterred by the refusal of her family, and driven forward by a promise she’d made Mavis years ago, Monique ventures out into the risky unknown—only to discover that there are far worse contagions than Covid waiting for her.

Writer-director Andy Mitton’s bleak pandemic horror captures the atmosphere of fear, paranoia, and uncertainty that characterized the first months of the year 2020 with jarring accuracy…then ratchets up the tension by adding a supernatural threat that is gradually revealed to be more heartbreakingly tragic than I could have anticipated. The visual presentation of the film’s ultimate antagonist is all too fitting, a convenient but effective shorthand that perfectly embodies both the sentiment and setting of its cruel misdeeds.