Fried Barry, 2020.
Directed by Ryan Kruger.
Starring Gary Green, Chanelle de Jager, Bianka Hartenstein, Sean Cameron Michael, Joe Vaz and Jonathan Pienaar.
A drug addict returns to Earth with an alien visitor inside him following an abduction.
Fried Barry opens with a twist on the famous Simon Bates messages which used to play at the beginning of 18-rated videotapes, warning viewers of the explicit content to come. It’s a clear statement from prolific short film director – and first-time feature helmer – Ryan Kruger, nodding to the world of cult horror videos and blood-drenched grindhouse movies from the 1980s. What he has created is certainly a gnarly dive into a maelstrom of darkness, but one is left wondering whether it actually achieves anything.
The title character is played by stuntman turned actor Gary Green in a gurning, contorting performance for which the word “physical” seems like an enormous understatement. When we meet him, he’s a heroin addict who shirks his responsibilities as a husband to wife Suz (Chanelle de Jager) and their young son. After his latest fix, he is abducted by aliens who promptly probe him in every orifice – genuinely, every single one – and return him to Earth with an extra-terrestrial visitor seemingly seeing the world through his eyes. For some reason, Barry then embarks on an odyssey of sex, violence and yet more drug use, increasingly losing his grip on any sort of reality.
Unfortunately, there’s very little of substance amid Kruger’s mayhem. The movie – based on a short of the same name Kruger made in 2017 – unfolds as just shy of two hours of grotesque vignettes, barely strung together by the frayed scraps of plot Kruger bothers to offer. Dialogue and blocking was mostly improvised by the actors, and that shows in the haphazard feel of the story. That’s not to mention the fact that everyone Barry meets seems to want to have sex with him, despite his bedraggled appearance and utter absence of enthusiasm. The rest of them want to punch him in the face or pull out his teeth. Fried Barry is an experience akin to bathing in filth and, after an hour or so, even that novelty has been worn down to boredom.
In many ways, that’s the most frustrating thing about the film. It’s so desperate to be out-there and wild that, like so many recent Nicolas Cage movies, it forgets the more basic building blocks necessary to make such a project work. Kruger has said that he “went out to make a cult-style film”, which feels like a problem. Cult movies are a result of accident, happenstance and discovery, not cynical calibration. They grow and fester and ferment into the label, rather than being born into it. There’s a reason The Room is a bona fide cult film, while the Sharknado franchise is seen as tired and cynical.
Fried Barry certainly throws everything at the wall. The music and soundscape – put together by electronic dance artist Haezer – is an ambitious cacophony, albeit one that the movie leans on too often. Whenever there’s a lull in the carnage, Kruger simply turns the knob and cranks up the volume of the music. The effect is deliberately oppressive but, as with just about everything else, it’s not accompanied by anything in the way of substance. It seems to have nothing to say, beyond: “Weren’t cult 80s movies cool?”
The bright spot, in some ways, is Green’s performance. While his acting chops leave a lot to be desired, there’s no denying his commitment and physical invention. It’s a performance which requires 100% effort, and Green certainly delivers in that respect, throwing himself into every mad set piece and drug-fuelled dance session with considerable aplomb. It’s just a shame that the rest of Fried Barry can’t live up to his effort.
Flickering Myth Rating – Film: ★ / Movie: ★ ★
Tom Beasley is a freelance film journalist and wrestling fan. Follow him on Twitter via @TomJBeasley for movie opinions, wrestling stuff and puns.