Fried Barry is an absolute trip. The local sci-fi horror thriller is a blast of visceral energy from the get-go, thrusting you into the world of a take-it-to-the-streets bastard who gets abducted and possessed by an alien. This is a “Ryan Kruger Thing”, a visually-captivating cinematic experience from a director who was blooded on rock music videos. Having a knack for the anti-establishment and dark energy that is all things sex, drugs and rock ‘n roll… Fried Barry is a natural fit for Kruger who dives headlong into this wild grindhouse-style misadventure.
The Fried Barry short film served as an experimental voyage into Barry’s world as the inimitable Gary Green went full tilt into a heroine addict’s violent and darkly comic convulsive fit. This brave short set the platform for the feature film, which is a brilliant extrapolation of this original vision. Most would struggle to think of a way to turn that intense experimental short into a 99 minute feature film, but not Ryan Kruger. Accessing his audience’s sensory perception, he compels us in what is ultimately a slippery fish-out-of-water story with an eye-popping audio-visual extravaganza. Taken from an alien’s point-of-view, we tour Barry’s waking hours as the non-threatening being inhabiting his body experiences life in a rather bleak and dark world. This extra layer of story adds meaning and tension to this brave, loud, sensual and stylish film.
Gary Green reprises his role as Barry. Often cast as bad guys, Green gets a chance to redefine his type with something more nuanced in this iconic leading role. Being alien, he has to be uncomfortable in his body, contorting his arms and face to anchor the central conceit and suspend disbelief. He does this masterfully, inspiring artworks and channeling an out-of-body experience for the character and his curious possessor. Green is supported wholeheartedly by Chanelle de Jager as his wife Suz with a long list of local stars in small supporting acts, including: Sean Cameron Michael, Hakeem Kae-Kazim, Jonathan Pienaar, Colin Moss, Tamer Burjaq and Deon Lotz. Playing his neglected wife, de Jager offers a few tones of home to help ground the film in real while Barry becomes the roving kingpin.
Kruger’s movie is compelled by experiential storytelling, offering a few shreds of character to get the ball rolling and then adopting the alien’s non-judgmental perspective. Conjuring up pure insanity from hedonistic Long Street nightlife binges to criminal acts involving incarceration and torture, Fried Barry lives up to its hype. The neon glow of the poster is a throwback to retro grindhouse films of its ilk and while self-indulgent, this “Thing” honours its indie spirit by being bold and courageous. Leaning into its sleazy shock value, innate dark comedy and swathing the wild-eyed misadventure in lashings of freaky horror, Fried Barry kicks and bites.
“I love what you’ve done with your hair!”
It’s definitely not for sensitive viewers, something that’s abundantly clear from all marketing with a self-made censorship broadcast message featuring Deon Lotz. For those who like to flirt on the dark side, Kruger does everything he can to sate your appetite for destruction with this debauched, nutty and visceral escapade. Attempting to be the very definition of “intense”, this becomes resoundingly clear as one crazy scene supersedes another moving at a slick pace. Fried Barry is so jam-packed with visual storytelling that it feels like you’ve watched an entire film by the time the playful retro “intermission” sequence reverberates. A few moments to catch your breath, you’re lassoed back into the mayhem as Barry’s nightmarish whirlwind continues.
Fried Barry has a sensual undertone, which is expressed from the H.R. Giger inspired alien abduction and continued throughout the horror thriller. As an innocent in a series of exploitative environments, it’s amazing how many sexual engagements Barry becomes engrossed in without actively seeking these intimate encounters. Not shying away from these representations that cover a variety of relational scenarios, Barry becomes entangled with pleasure only to find the extreme opposite. Moving from the ecstasy of sexual exploits to the duress of torture, the poor alien uses Barry’s physical body like a cheap rental car. As much as he may deserve the harsh treatment, this gives the creature a full expression of the physical aspects of being human.
This mesmerising, lurid and skin deep tone is carried throughout the film, keeping things visually and aurally stimulating from an experiential standpoint. It works as pure peril, capturing the character’s outside-looking-in view and curiousity without over-thinking things. The expansive ensemble pop up at regular intervals with a stream of crazy characters to keep one perpetually entertained and distracted from the overall lack of depth and characterisation. What’s quite miraculous is just how effective this high energy intensity freak show is at keeping you transfixed and engaged without peeling away character or delving into motivations beyond primal needs and urges. Perhaps a longer stay with pre-fried Barry would’ve helped offer greater depth and nuance, but since he’s ultimately hijacked, the extreme “makeover” only gives context to his immediate “friends” and family.
Fried Barry is a rollercoaster of a horror thriller that reaches some dizzying heights as the audio-visual experience kicks into overdrive. While this stylish and psychedelic trip offers a full-blown cinematic experience that takes audiences to some dark, exciting and challenging places, it’s constrained by its style-over-substance tendencies. Journeying with Fried Barry is always at an arm’s length, entertaining with its eye-popping visuals and driving soundtrack but struggling to connect on an emotional or human level beyond pleasure and pain in spite of some fascinating crossovers. Somewhat excused by the alien vantage point, this lack of emotional resonance still reduces the film’s connectivity, distanced even further by its ribald appetite.
A brave film with a sharp edge and plenty of attitude, Fried Barry can be celebrated for its independent spirit and ugly/beautiful aesthetic but doesn’t do much to endear itself beyond being admirable for its true originality of vision and unfettered flair when it comes to technical execution. Charging into his nightmarish creativity and music video origins, Kruger flexs his directorial ability with some death-defying feats. A wonderful and accomplished showcase of his artistic merit, cult appeal and resourcefulness, Fried Barry should serve as a strong calling card for Ryan Kruger and a welcome platform for Gary Green.
The bottom line: Intense