Written by Chris Murphy
South African horror/sci fi/black comedy Fried Barry is a rare beast. It is an independent film featuring buckets of blood, copious amounts of sex, drugs and zany performances, yet it has heart and is an example of good filmmaking that far exceeds its budget. The narrative centres around the titular Barry (Gary Green), a drug addled and violent addict, who is abhorrent from the start as we see him within the first 5 minutes constantly getting high on heroin and aggressively neglecting his wife and young son. On one of his late-night drug benders, a red light appears from the sky and beams him into a large spacecraft, where he is experimented on by an alien species. One of the unnamed beings then wears his likeness and returns to earth to experience human life in the form of Barry. The movie follows a fish out of water plot as he encounters the frightening world of Barry’s existence and asks the question whether humanity is a human trait, or if it can be earned and experienced by other species.
Barry in his alien form is part hilarious and part sympathetic innocent creature, his venture into the violent and drug addled streets of an undisclosed South African urban landscape is beautifully executed. We are with Barry, as strange as he is, as he visits prostitutes, takes heroin, rescues children from a child snatcher and weirdest of all, we see him stare blankly as the woman he has sex with gives birth seconds after he ‘finished’. You watch with a twisted fascination as we follow and observe as the various characters from the city’s underbelly cross paths with the unassuming being they see as Barry.
Fried Barry is directed by Ryan Kruger and is a feature length version of his own short film featuring Green in the title role. There is a natural free flowing feel to the acting and dialogue and this was helped by Kruger’s method of direction. He encouraged a democratic set and welcomed feedback, and the movie benefits from its improvisational energy. The characters feel lived in and fitting with the seedy environment they imbue. There is such confidence of direction and the colour pallet is dreamlike in its 1980’s aesthetic vibe. The soundtrack is also fittingly 80s, with its throbbing synth and beats.
Another standout from the movie and an incredibly important one is lead actor Gary Green, in his first feature length performance he manages wonderfully at portraying both the cruel and damaged Barry and his innocently awkward replacement. The latter a wide-eyed childlike presence that fumbles his way around the city getting lost in its darkest corners. Green evokes multiple responses from a performance that is multi-faceted. He is despicable as the human Barry, yet alien Barry has layers far deeper than his counterpart. He is frightening yet comical and I was surprised that by the end, in what has to be a twisted homage to E.T (1982), sympathetic towards the character.
The sex and violence are plentiful throughout the Fried Barry’s running time and it wears it’s adult rating with pride. The explicit nature of the film however does not serve as a simple exploitation gimmick, there is a weight to them. Yes, there is an element of shock value that is present in most movies that air on the extreme side of horror/sci-fi, but none of what is on offer here is unnecessary. The purpose they serve is often humorous but also comments on the darker side of humanity and the urban setting, whether intentional or not. As alien Barry becomes prey to those willing to exploit the innocent for their own gain, it takes the steeliest of hearts not feel for him. Green says barely a word, it is his physical acting that is most impressive. It is as if he is unsure of how his body works as much as he is unsure about the strange planet he is inhabiting.
Evolving from the original short film, Fried Barry does not quite fit into its feature length running time. There is a slight meander in the second act that felt stretched and slowed the pacing, revealing some of the short film roots. This is a minor criticism though and the third act ventures from saving imprisoned children to a mental health unit amongst other surreal events and more than makes up for the slower paced central act.
Cleverly directed and featuring an abundance of excellent acting, especially from Green in the lead. Fried Barr‘s narrative is reminiscent of movies such as The Man Who Fell to Earth (1976), Fire in the Sky (1993) and to some extent, the more recent Under the Skin (2013). It is obviously a far more extreme movie and filmed with a fraction of the aforementioned films budget. But there is real skill on tap here and for the movie lover with a stronger stomach and a sense of humour airing on the darker side, Fried Barry is well worth a look.
A blood infused exploration into what it is to be human, Fried Barry is dark, fun and full of gallows humour and shows great promise for its writer-director and lead actor.
Rating: 4 out 5