03rd May2021

‘Fried Barry’ Review (Shudder)

by Chris Cummings

Stars: Chanelle De Jager, Gary Green, Bianka Hartenstein, Sean Cameron Michael, Jonathan Pienaar | Written and Directed by Ryan Kruger

I know of Ryan Kruger from some of his short film work things, such as 2014’s The Golden Rule and, of course, his 2017 short thing, Fried Barry. I was pleased as punch, you could say, when I heard about the feature length motion picture thing named, well… Fried Barry that would be hitting the screens in 2020. Kruger certainly has an eye for the absurd, but he is also able to adapt and write emotional view-points and tell stories with more than just skin. He can give some real flesh, muscle and blood to what he creates, so I was on board for this peculiar flick.

The first thing that hit me, right in the jaw, about Fried Barry is just how damned creative it is. I love when a weird oddball premise lives up to the words in the synopsis, so I was really pleased to see that the brash, funny and flat-out weirdness that I expected and hoped to find here, was given to me in heaps, like a big ole bunch of really fucking strange flowers.

So, we are introduced to Barry (played by Gary Green), an aggressive, violent, drug-addled scum-bag who, after meeting his mate at the pub, going back to his place and shooting up heroin, is abducted by aliens. So far, so good. Following his penile-related abduction experience, Barry is back on the streets, but there’s an alien in control of him now. The people he encounters assume, as you would, that Barry is merely “tripping balls”, and we enter the meat of the tale, with Barry wandering the streets and getting deeper into the seedy underbelly of the city. It’s one of those films that gives the viewer plenty of options. Was Barry abducted, or is this whole thing just a bombastic out-of-mind drug fueled trip down nightmare avenue? Does it even matter? We witness characters popping in and out of the story, with Barry, a complete fuck-up of a human, also coming off in many ways as somewhat charming in his own way, bringing a relatability that isn’t really relatable along with him. It’s hard to explain. Shut up.

Fried Barry looks great, with really nice editing work and a slick and polished cinematography from Gareth Place. I was also pleased with the casting here. I’m not overly familiar with many South African actors, or movies in general, but I thought most of the actors, many of whom have little in their resume, did a top notch job. There’s a constant discomfort here, an atmosphere that edges on comedic at times, but always maintains a foreboding tone of dread or angst. It helped push this into a fresh genre, not merely playing the typical horror/sci-fi comedy, but instead merging a bunch of styles with this curious and strange cloud hanging above it all. Green, especially, does a terrific and believable job in the role of Barry, playing an emaciated, sickly, demented drug-addict with an edge of creepiness and madness. The character isn’t likeable, but it’s one that insists on being watched and followed through the movie. You want to know what this doped up lost soul is going to experience next. I was impressed with him, for sure.

The score is as abnormal as the film itself, and it works perfectly. It’s a confrontational score, with the sound design in general acting as a background noise to what’s happening to Barry. An echo to his psychosis and his mind-altering alien escapades. I was initially concerned that Fried Barry would verge on the tonal absurdity of The Greasy Strangler and the like, a film I wasn’t a fan of, so I was pleased to find a much more horror-boiled science-nightmare, with flashes of hellish visions and dream-like snaps and slashes. It’s a loose premise, really, yet has a depth to it, especially in the creativity, that works. It doesn’t go out to just be as stupidly weird as it can be, in my view, but rather with a hard concept that it pushes like mad to get across in the most concentrated manner possible. It isn’t a laugh-out-loud goofball experience. Sure, there are bits that made me chuckle, but I was more impressed by the visuals, the lead performance and the experimental and imaginative ways in which Kruger told this tale.

In the end though, Fried Barry will not be for everybody. It is, and I can’t stress this enough, a very obscure picture. It is pretty damn adult at times, it’s artistically minded, it doesn’t shy away from testing strange new waters, and the story itself isn’t the most complex thing in terms of narrative. Still, there will be a fanbase for this, and those who like to dip their proverbial toes into something firmly innovative will find plenty to enjoy and respect about Fried Barry . If you decide to settle down for a night in and toss this film onto your flashy fuzzbox in the corner of your room, then my best advice would be to lay back, open your mind, and enjoy the ride. It’s a lot of fun, and I had a good time with it. Maybe though, don’t empty an entire bag of speed into your gob beforehand. It’s not worth it.

**** 4/5

Fried Barry premieres on Shudder on May 7th 2021

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