Directed by: Ryan Kruger. Starring: Gary Green, Sean Cameron Michael, Chanelle de Jager. Runtime: 1h 39 min. Released: August 20, 2020 (at Fantasia).
I have never done hard drugs. Looking at me, it’s not surprising, at all, but after watching Ryan Kruger’s Fried Barry, I don’t need to try any drugs. I feel like I just did some living through the titular Barry (Gary Green). He’s an abusive bastard to his family but soon gets abducted by aliens and probed and one of the aliens takes Barry’s spot back on Earth. He goes on a bender exploring Cape Town, discovering the world and doing generally wild things.
Eventually, he also meets up with Barry’s wife Suz (Chanelle de Jager) and this alien knows how to be a better Barry than Barry does. Barry sees every action, as if he’s trapped inside his own mind, but we only spend about 10 minutes with the real Barry before he’s abducted. Real Barry’s a bastard. Alien Barry is totally crazy, too, but he’s a good guy. Frankly, and this is a bizarre comp for a strange film, but this almost feels like It’s a Wonderful Life in the way that Barry can learn how to be a better person through this alien’s actions.
It’s also a story about discovery and debauchery made possible by an insane and original vision by director Ryan Kruger. The way he shoots the alien abduction with the colours is great, and the surrealism of what happens on the alien ship seems so bizarre and experimental that it must be what happens when someone is abducted by aliens. When it comes to the horror there’s some body horror and the intense moments come from Barry’s drug use and how horrifying that is, especially in the opening scene when Barry shoots up and there’s a great use of sound design as there are little jolts with every shot we get of him using. One scene with a prostitute and what happens there is straight out of a nightmare. I could never look away from the film.
Half of the body horror is how star Gary Green moves his body. He’s convincing as bastard Barry and totally convincing that he’s possessed by an alien. He moves his mouth in ways that looks straight out of a surreal film. It’s a physical performance that’s hypnotizing and bonkers, and he is just totally memorable as Barry and his performance is art.
The comedy comes from a lot of great dialogue with how unique the citizens are, and there also some really funny scenarios. The comedy also comes from just how entertaining this bizarre film is as Barry walks around. The plot is unpredictable because you never know what Barry will do next. To spoil any of what happens would be a disservice, but it can switch from pure science fiction to comedy to horror to anything in between from one scene to the next.
It’s a frenetic ride and like Alien Barry goes with the flow, Kruger asks us to do the same. I was down to do that and enjoy this ride. It’s surreal as hell at times and creepy, but the refreshing thing is that Kruger’s style complements the film and he never gets in his own way. It’s bizarre visually and everything and there are experimental moments of insane visuals but hearing the premise for the film I was worried that the neon lights or hyperactive visuals would be excessive. The style’s mostly there when Barry is at his most insane. It’s always balls-to-the-wall fun with a surprising emotional core.