I’m a huge advocate of watching movies while under the influence. I believe occasionally taking psychedelic drugs before a viewing heightens the experience, depending on the film of course. However, drugs may not be required when viewing Ryan Kruger’s debut feature Fried Barry. The act of watching the South African sci-fi comedy unfold in front of your very eyes is intoxicating enough, sucking you in with colorful flashing lights and a cast of oddball characters.
Barry (Gary Green) is your typical heroin-addicted deadbeat who doesn’t care about anything—not his wife, not his son, just his next fix. But that all changes when he’s abducted by an alien ship and probed with their devices. An alien takes control of Barry’s body, piloting him through the nightlife of Cape Town. Barry stares at everything inquisitively, yet never saying a word. Party people gravitate towards Barry, telling him unusual things—even by human standards. For some reason, Barry gives off a sexual energy that makes him irresistible to women (and a few men), despite his stiff posture and shell-shocked expression.
“I’m a huge advocate of watching movies while under the influence […] However, drugs may not be required when viewing Ryan Kruger’s debut feature Fried Barry.”
Throughout the course of the alien’s journey, Barry ingests copious amounts of drugs, has sex with several people, and wanders into a greasy underbelly of prostitution and human trafficking. But Barry also does some good, reconnecting with his Afrikaans-speaking wife (Chanelle de Jager) and occasionally saving people from death and danger.
Fried Barry is based off of Ryan Kruger’s 2017 short of the same name, which consisted of Gary Green shaking and tripping out in an abandoned warehouse for three minutes. No real story, just this eponymous drug-addled character. When it came time to come up with a feature-length story, the sky was limit (or in terms of the aliens, way beyond that). Kruger incorporated another character from another one of his shorts The Time Travelers. Sean Cameron Michael reprises his role as Ronald, a patient at a mental hospital, who crosses paths with Barry and offers to help him escape the institution.
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Every new location Barry travels to works as its own vignette, sometimes goofy, other times downright dark. We meet characters who we’ll never see again, with a few exceptions. Between each scene, Barry wanders the streets, the camera switching between tracking shots and POV angles, allowing the viewer to really get inside Barry’s head. Kruger has directed a number of music videos for several different South African artists, so he really knows how to make whatever is happening on the screen vibe with the bumping electronic soundtrack, provided by Haezer. Barry is a lot like a character in a music video, quietly observing a world dancing around him.
The lighting is used effectively throughout, basking Barry in the neon nightlife. The alien abduction scene is an intense experience, with beams of light needling at Barry’s naked body against a dark background. Barry’s consciousness struggles to break free once the alien takes control, illustrated by quick half-second cuts to Barry screaming underwater in a crimson-lit tank, similar to the Sunken Place from Get Out. During his drug-fueled bender, Barry crawls into a Lynchian monochrome nightmare realm, though how it fits into the overall story, I have no idea (so, much like the majority of David Lynch’s work).
Of course, it raises the question of whether we can really trust that what’s happening to Barry is reality. After all, Barry has taken a rather large cocktail of different drugs throughout the night, and we could be in on the delusion. The hallucinations become particularly strong during a joyride in a convertible, like a scene out of Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, with all kinds of wild imagery projected onto the green screen behind the car. But then there are moments that suggest that Barry is undeniably inhabited by an alien parasite, as evidenced by one body horror scene that demonstrates the importance of wearing protection when hooking up with a stranger.
Casting is mostly based on look, so although this might be Gary Green’s first major role, he fits the character of Barry perfectly, with his long face, wild hair, and bugged-out eyes. In fact, he looks so much like a mentally disturbed junkie, that when we see Barry have flashbacks to his wedding day, he still (kind of) looks like a bum in a suit. It’s hard to believe he’s able to attract all these women. It must be some intergalactic pheromone. Prior to his abduction, Barry wasn’t very talkative, so no one really notices a change in his behavior after the fact. Green probably only has half a dozen lines in the entire script, but the look on his face tells you more than any amount of exposition ever could.
“Gary Green probably only has half a dozen lines in the entire script, but the look on his face tells you more than any amount of exposition ever could.”
With the exception of some Afrikaans dialogue, it feels like the events of Fried Barry could have taken place in a city in any corner of the world. It doesn’t feel thousands of miles away from my own backyard, and I believe that factor will drive international appeal to Fried Barry, far beyond the borders of South Africa, a country not really known for its genre cinema (except for District 9). It’s a strong beginning to what I hope will be a long filmography of bizarre and visually-stimulating movies from Ryan Kruger.
Ryan Kruger’s Fried Barry celebrates its Canadian Premiere at the 2020 Fantasia Film Festival. Click HERE to follow all of our festival coverage, and be sure to let us know what you thought of Fried Barry over on Twitter, in the official Nightmare on Film Street Subreddit, and on Facebook in the Horror Movie Fiend Club!