'Fried Barry' Is Too Weird for Categorization Directed by Ryan Kruger
Starring Gary Green, Chanelle de Jager, Bianka Hartenstein
Published May 05, 2021Not every movie is meant for a wide audience. For every Marvel blockbuster, there's a quirky indie that finds its audience and is fiercely beloved. In 2017, South African director Ryan Kruger released a short film called Fried Barry about a man freaking out on heroin in a warehouse. It's an aggressive short with an intense soundscape, uncomfortable close ups of facial contortions, and hot potato editing. This 3-minute clip found its audience: it was an official selection at 59 film festivals, won 13 awards, and has generated countless discussions online. A few years later Kruger re-teamed with Gary Green (the aforementioned drug user) to create a full feature film based on this man.
Barry's your typical deadbeat. He's a terrible father and husband, absent from his family, spending his time getting high and drunk. One night as he's wandering the streets after using heroin, Barry is abducted by aliens who explore every single entrance into his body. An alien (or two, it isn't clear) gets into the driver's seat of Barry and takes his body out for a spin around Cape Town. Over the next few days, alien Barry hits up the red-light district, takes part in the clubbing drug scene, and even somehow gets mixed up in an attempted human trafficking scheme.
Kruger doesn't offer any storyline or traditional act structure of a typical feature. Instead Fried Barry is a collection of events strung together befitting of its short film origins. The drug-fuelled vibe instructs the acting, editing and sound mixing, creating a wildly frenetic and surreal movie. The music in particular is used effectively, emphasizing every beat of Barry's adventures. Kruger's background as a veteran music video director is evident in a lot of the shots with Barry speaking very little and the score taking over.
Gary Green is perfect as both Barry's: the Barry who your mother told you to stay away from, and alien Barry who oddly draws everyone towards him. Green's sunken angles on his face lend well to the menacing nature of Barry, and his blank stares are equally creepy and innocent. Green brings intensity in every facial contortion and body movement, but at the same time injects a great deal of softness to his performance that brings heart to an otherwise cold movie.
Objectively, Fried Barry is a strange but well-done film. The middle drags a little bit and gives credence to the idea that this movie was a better idea as a short film than a full feature, but Kruger brings it back together in time for a rather humorous ending. The performance by Green, combined with the editing, score and sound mixing create a truly unique movie.
Fried Barry isn't meant for the masses — it's honestly such a weird movie — but it will be thoroughly enjoyed by a particular group of moviegoers. It's being advertised as a horror/sci-fi, which is the only appropriate thing to do but it isn't really either – but then there is no genre for Fried Barry. At times, Fried Barry seems like a movie better suited to be playing as a video installation at an art gallery in Berlin than one to be shown in the cinema or on a streamer. This is a movie for those who enjoy the surreal and absurd, and it leans into that audience masterfully. (Shudder)