No other story of alien abduction can compare to the wild, trippy, and unhinged vision of Fried Barry
You’re not going to see anything quite like Fried Barry, the latest work from South African filmmaker Ryan Kruger, and it’s not likely that you’ll see anything quite like it ever again. Kruger is a well-established presence in the South African music scene, directing music videos for some of the country’s biggest stars, and he serves as director, writer, and producer here in his feature-length debut.
He brings much of that music video energy to the film – the titular Barry is an almost entirely silent protagonist, and much of the film is told through stylish visual sequences that are backed by the booming electronic score from composer Haezer. In fact, if you cut the dialogue all together, Fried Barry would probably still be very much the same and you’d still easily be able to follow it; that’s how strong the combination of its visual language and sound is.
It’s difficult to figure out how to describe Fried Barry. The first word that comes to mind is chaotic. It’s a neon-soaked acid trip that goes from exuberant to horrifying to gross to weirdly tender. It’s a wild ride for sure, one that’s unpredictable, shocking, and relentlessly funny. There’s very little doubt that this thing will continue to grow a solid cult following.
The film follows a seedy scumbag named Barry (Gary Green), a heroin addict with striking, pointed features, long unkempt hair, and a set of crooked teeth. This hasn’t stopped him from procreating, however; Barry has still managed to procure himself a wife, Suz (Chanelle de Jager), and a son. He isn’t exactly a doting father or husband though, preferring to spend his time shooting up or getting tanked at the bar or a combination of the two. In the midst of one particularly disorienting bender, Barry is suddenly enshrouded in a beam of light from above, and lifted out of his shoes and socks into the air. But this isn’t divine intervention, it’s a straight up extraterrestrial abduction.
After being violated in a variety of ways, Barry’s body is then occupied by one of the alien captors and taken for one hell of a joy ride through the streets of Cape Town. The only goal seems to be to experience all of the most debaucherous things the city has to offer, and Barry’s new handler gets right to it. He hits up night clubs, takes A LOT of ecstasy and other drugs, dances his ass off, gets into various sexual situations, is admitted to a mental hospital and promptly breaks out, and that’s not even half of everything that goes down.
The less that’s known, the better. Fried Barry is wildly unpredictable and bizarre, jumping from one ridiculous scenario to the next as Barry’s body is dragged every which way. The film opens with a warning about the content and age restrictions, and it’s not kidding around. You’ll see a bit of everything in the ensuing hour and a half, and it has a consistently grimy aesthetic about it that keeps things raw and dirty. It’s as if Harmony Korine directed Under the Skin – it’s committed to its grossness and strangely hilarious, but there’s unnerving elements as well (this is a Shudder exclusive, after all). The ominous soundscape supplied by Haezer keeps things off-kilter even when it’s funny, and several implications, like how the sensation of having an alien in control of your body is shown to feel like you’re constantly drowning without ever being able to die, are downright horrifying.
As much fun as it is, all of the drug-fueled chaos can start to get a bit tiring after awhile. There doesn’t seem to be a particular point to the film by its end – there doesn’t have to be one, of course, but the insanity of Barry’s whacked-out adventures does threaten to wear itself thin. Thankfully, the performances are nothing short of remarkable and completely fearless. There’s dedication and commitment to even the nastiest and most absurd bits that the film sets up, and when combined with Kruger’s stylish direction and the inspired, constantly-shifting cinematography from Gareth Place, Fried Barry is pretty unforgettable. Probably best to indulge yourself and some friends with whatever substances treat you best and settle in for a deranged and thoroughly entertaining evening.
Fried Barry is currently streaming exclusively on Shudder.