Once upon a time, budding actor Ryan Kruger took it upon himself to take the helm and become a film director. After numerous shortform movies, his trajectory landed him on prospective ground with 2017 shortfilm thriller, Fried Barry, which currently serves as the basis for his rousing feature debut, which has already garnered favor at select festivals, including three Bests at Rapid Lion in South Africa.
One wonders how far the mind goes to tell the kind of story Kruger delves into for Fried Barry, and it certainly feels like he went above and beyond the call of duty to not only blow minds, but molest the senses in places we never knew possible. Lord knows the unengaged who aren’t usually keen on the kinds of extravagant, eccentric and whimsical imagery fitting for festival crowds may come away from this one with a certain mindset.
Fried Barry immediately hits the dark, dilapidated streets, corners and alleyways of Cape Town where we meet Barry (Gary Green), a decrepit, drug-addicted loser who’s never not found a way to disappoint visibly fed-up, angry and heartbroken Suz (Chanelle De Jager) in front of their son. After an afternoon fracas with Suz, Barry heads out to do what drug-addicted drunkards do when they want to escape the real world…only his escape begins to cost him greatly when later in the evening, he’s kidnapped by extraterrestrials, innoculated, probed and possessed by an alien conciousness.
The alien, now in possession of Barry’s body, begins a multi-day tour of Cape Town – its streets and every corner brimming at night time with pimps and hookers, gamblers, clubhoppers, drug dealers and junkies, basically anyone looking to get laid, high or anything in between and above. No matter what it is, Barry, in his new form, is no longer at the controls, left at the whims of anyone who coerces the alien piloting his body to do almost whatever deeds the situation commands.
Whether its drugs, dancing, and sex, no one is the wiser, not even Barry’s usual junkie acquaintances. Nor even the prostitute he copulates with, resulting in one of the most horrific anomalies you’ve likely once seen in a Ridley Scott movie or a certain Netflix series. When the partying is over and the alien learns about Barry’s family, the alien soon takes the mantle as husband and father, giving Suz a glimmer of hope that ultimately ends up short-lived.
Little does she or anyone know, the Barry that once was is now left in the backseat as the entity possessing him descends into madness while struggling to keep up. Isolated and thrown head-first into scuffles with Cape Town’s worst of the worst, including a demented, chainsaw-wielding child kidnapper and the confines of a mental institution, the alien resolves to find a way back home at any cost; whether or not Barry gets his body back is really anyone’s guess.
Layered with sound and music by Haezer, and treated with strong contours and colors befitting of its bizzare, strobe-like graphic imagery, Fried Barry takes you on an explosive drug-trip that never lets up on the crazy, with colorful characters and oddities that ultimately tests the depths of its own sanity beyond reason. You’re infinitely compelled to relax your brain at all times, or risk feeling left behind trying to make sense of what you’re watching, when really, it’s all as suggestive as you can imagine or allude to at certain points.
At the same time, Fried Barry delivers a character not unlike others you’ve seen in sci-fi thrillers where humanoid alien life takes centerstage. The alien is learning about the human condition every step of the way, from sex, violence and entertainment, to physical contact and the concept of love. There’s an air of reverence there that takes hold especially with Suz right down to the third act of the film that helps counterbalance the raunchiness and debauchery of the story.
The film plays fast and loose with nostalgia and satire, using an opening ratings bumper and an intermssion with its own in-movie commercials. It’s exemplary of the kinds of liberties Kruger takes in telling his story, and it’s amazing to see the fun he’s allowed himself to have with it in the process, pushing the envelope and testing the filmic limits of how far he can go, and on Fried Barry, he goes pretty fucking far.
Frankly, if you’re not at all desensitized to darkly comedic, exploitative, hypersexual and violent cinema in any mix or capacity, then it’s a good thing you’re catching these reviews. Fried Barry is a wholly NSFW, gonzo, sprawling odyssey into some of the darkest corners of humanity, seen from the perspective of an alien who, with a humanoid body, may very well find his footing in a species that doesn’t deserve saving, but clearly needs it.