Writer and director Ryan Kruger expands his 2017 short film Fried Barry into a full-length feature. The short film didn’t give much background to the titular Barry, but within the broader confines of a feature film, we get much more context. The film opens with drug addict, Barry (Gary Green), prowling the South African streets of his home. He’s in trouble with his girlfriend and so retreats to the bar where he meets one of his fellow addict friends whose just managed to score. Never one to turn down the opportunity for a hit, Barry joins his friend, but on his way back home finds himself the victim of an alien abduction. Not content with merely probing Barry, one the aliens chooses to hitch a ride in his body and goes on a drug-fuelled trip around the seedier side of Barry’s hometown. Cue multiple encounters with sex-workers, drugs, murder, mayhem, and strangest of all, love.
I’ll be honest, about thirty or so minutes into Fried Barry, I was struggling with it. It seemed to be endless random sexual encounters, which were all borderline abuse in some way or another, over and over. The repetition was getting a tad irritating and there’s only so many times that you can see an alien-possessed man being taken advantage of sexually before you hit your limit. Then suddenly, as the film started branching away from this cycle of events, something clicked, and I was invested. So invested in fact, that as we reached the climax of the film, I found myself oddly emotional, having connected more to the alien man than I had realised.
With Fried Barry, Kruger captures that disorienting feeling of being on a night out. The visuals are bold, bright, and at times almost invasive as they assault the eyes. Kruger manages to distil the grime of the environment into the film, with it having a sickly, sweaty, feel that starts to ooze out of the screen. Editor Stephen Du Plessis assists both of those sensations as the cuts are frenetically fast and disorientating. All of these elements are bathed in Haezer’s pumping score, further adding to that feeling of being on a bender. You may find yourself suffering with mild hangover symptoms post screening.
You can’t talk about Fried Barry without mentioning the phenomenal performance by actor Gary Green. Barry is a very tough role, and it takes a certain type of actor to pull it off in a believable manner; Green manages it almost effortlessly. It’s a performance that is extremely physical, with barely any lines of dialogue, and he’s clearly worked hard to convincingly convey a man whom doesn’t look or feel human. He plays Barry as jerky, wide-eyed, and in a perpetual state of shock and awe. This is perfect considering that he’s supposed to be playing an alien experiencing human life for the first time. Green relies on expressions over words, and with just a flicker of his face, you can go from being afraid of Barry (he is technically an alien after all) to falling in love with his innocence.
At the hundred minute mark, Fried Barry does begin to struggle to properly fill out each moment. This is no surprise considering that the idea began as a short film, and it feels that Kruger may have tried to stretch the concept a little too far in places. There’s the repetitive cycle towards the start, but there are also a few other encounters that could have potentially been cut to improve the film’s pace.
A visual juggernaut that takes the viewer on one of the wildest cinematic journeys this century, Fried Barry is that special type of kooky film that challenges and entertains in equal measure.
Fried Barry was reviewed at Fanatasia 2020.
Persevere with Fried Barry and you’ll get an unexpectedly emotional movie, making it feel very much like ET (literally) on acid.