Since ancient history, humans have been obsessed with the possibility of life beyond our own. The potential for another unidentified species to coexist in the same universe as ours. We yearn to believe in a phenomena that isn’t fully accepted by a mainstream audience. Artists, authors, scholars, the media and everybody else in between have long taken advantage of this concept and belief and helped shaped what has now become the science fiction subgenre.
With a list that is almost endless, I could talk for hours upon hours about just how many great sci-fi films have been created and released since their inception in the late 1890s. Instead, let’s talk about a new artefact in the imaginative, futuristic, parallel universal canon – Fried Barry.
Starring feature-length newcomer and partial stuntman Gary Green as the titular character, the South African-made film focuses on a drug-addicted degenerate who is abducted by aliens during one of his benders. Forced to take the back seat, Barry’s curious visitor takes control over his body and goes wild on the streets of Cape Town, exploring the weird and wonderfulness of humankind.
Straight off the bat during the opening credits, Fried Barry is hilariously introduced with a subtitled of “A Ryan Kruger Thing”. Asserting itself as something unconventional, potentially challenging but ultimately not all that serious. It immediately invites a sense of something wacky that lay ahead before you’ve seen any of the films characters. Self-aware to normies of its oddity and the madman behind the product Ryan Kruger’s fliek is an inbred hybrid mishmash of horror, science fiction, drama and comedy.
Narratively, this kooky cross-breed has quite a nimble framework. As a(n almost) fully-functional junkie, Barry (Green) often spends his nights gallivanting the drug-fuelled streets of Kaapstad (Cape Town), returning to partner Suz (Chanelle de Jager) and young son the next morning on a rough comedown. The family relationship is dysfunctional and often amounts to bickering and petty name-calling between irresponsible reprobate Barry and loving, concerned matriarch Suz. Comparatively, during his intoxicated adventures, Barry’s persona shifts entirely. He’s somebody who’s respected on the streets, sought after for a good time and easy to talk to as he is consistently called “a good listener”. Outwardly, Barry is the best, most likeable version of himself whilst on heroin, or whatever mind-altering drugs he can get his hands onto.
With most of the films dialogue spoken in an eargasmic South African-twanged English, there are moderate spells of the Afrikaans language to break it up. Most pieces of dialogue in this film are short and sweet, requiring very little of your attention and add very little depth to the overall narrative. However, the (often) less comedic and more melodramatic scenes involving full-length, proper conversations are seriously whip fast! Blink and you’ll miss half of the subtitled conversational eruption between Barry and his loving but worried partner. If you can’t keep up with the minimal but breakneck pace and wit, you will simply hear mumbo jumbo delivered angrily and seemingly obnoxiously. The Afrikaans quip makes for a 100% authentic experience of the darker side of Western Cape province; the gritty, realistic underbelly of the South African capital.
Amidst one of his many benders, adventure turns into misadventure as Barry is stopped in his tracks, beamed up by the bright light, abducted and probed by aliens. In a blinding flash of vibrant, cosmic pink and blue tones and soundtracked by an ear-piercingly loud, dense, bass-heavy and exceptional score from Haezer, the probing scene is full on. It plays out similarly to a bizarro, world of weird Chris Cunningham, spastic Aphex Twin body horror music video. Every literary piece of science fiction you’ve ever read or ever heard about involving gratuitous, extremely graphic and often overtly sexual probing scenes are brought to life in the space of a few minutes in Fried Barry. Eric Cartman, eat your heart out!
Inhabiting Barry’s drug-abused hull, the extraterrestrial life form is out to globetrot. And blimey, does it globetrot! Digging much deeper between the sometimes blurry face value of its intertwined horror comedy mash-up, Fried Barry is an absurdist look at we; humans. We are the unusual and bizarre life forms.
During its time running riot on the streets of Kaapstad, the foreign entity hits up various pubs and clubs, a brothel, takes copious amounts of drugs, has copious amounts of sex and does everyday simplistic things such as eating food, drinking drinks and watching television. What is normal to us is completely…alienating…to this outer space organism. In the middle of a stint inside of a Capetonian nightclub, an overabundance of pills are taken and the alien unleashes its inner instinctive b-boy in a hysterical, (musically outdated) dubstep-heavy montage of flamboyant, flailing-crazy dancing. Naturally, the whole thing comes to a very lifelike and swift climax as “Barry” reaches his peak. As cottonmouth strikes, his jaw begins to swing and gyrate almost past his knees and gets the please-feed-me-more jitters. What follows is lucky for “Barry” and Barry’s shell, but unlucky for the audience. In a very quick turnaround from the MDMA-laced bathos, the films first of many sex scenes pops its cherry. Without giving away the juicy details or any more spoilers, let’s just say that Gary Green could challenge Ric Flair to a Woo-Off…or be taken to court for copyright infringement. WOOOOOO!
Speaking more on the relatively unknown Green, he forthright steals the show in Kruger’s fliek! Working with a micro amount of dialogue, he is able to achieve a heck of a lot by saying almost nothing at all throughout the films runtime. Before Barry’s abduction, Green appropriately portrays an average night crawling fiend who leads a disorderly life. When his exterior is hijacked by the celestial dynast, the dialogue becomes significantly more sparse and the execution shifts into hyperspace! Green showcases his best wooden, unbendable, unhuman Edgar the Bug of Men in Black slapstick comedic walk. His performance is freakishly magnetic!
Unfortunately however, Fried Barry isn’t a complete and total invasion of Earth…nor its audience. The observational commentary that’s on offer sometimes feel a little too on the nose. There’s very little room for subjectivity or reflection when the potential is likely there. It is exactly what it sets out to be. Its messages and themes are crystal clear. Perhaps not all that “potentially challenging” in the end, which is frustrating as its seems Kruger has only begun to scratch the surface of what could have been done with this batshit, circus freak show.
That being said, Ryan Kruger’s fliek unreservedly shines at its brightest for being a bleak and darkly humorous one-dimensional outward look at humans. From beginning to end, the whole film feels like a “shock rock” trip into the wicked psyche and heinous antics of human beings. Its perpetuatally fleeting pace equals to the bona fide experience of a very, very sweaty and filthy sesh.
If you’re looking for a 2001: A Space Odyessy, Arrival, Annihilation-level science fiction film that’s going to make your brain throb and pulsate as if you’ve gone full galaxy brain and unlocked all the secrets of the world, Fried Barry most definitely isn’t for you. If instead you’re looking for pure chaos, corruption and pure escapism for an hour and forty minutes, look no further. There is never a dull moment. You will be completely transfixed on this unhinged, unstable, unbalanced voyage of the complexity of mankind. So buckle up and take yourself to another dimension!
Horror, Comedy | South Africa, 2020 | 7th May 2021 | Shudder Original | Dir.Ryan Kruger | Gary Green, Chanelle de Jager, Brett Williams