I’ll admit, when I saw the short film that recent Shudder acquisition Fried Barry was based on, I wasn’t exactly expecting a cinematic masterpiece from the feature. The short is…let’s call it “experimental.” Written and directed by Ryan Kruger and starring actor Gary Green as the titular Barry, the short follows a man in a warehouse who does heroin and the things that happen to his body. He contorts, he laughs, he floats, he throws up, and that’s the end of it. It’s not something I expected a full feature to come from, much less a good one—it seems more of a showcase of Kruger’s filmmaking skills with flashy music-video style editing and psychedelic close-ups on Green’s alien-like face. South African DJ and producer Haezer provides the excellently unsettling sound design, but that’s all I really have to say for it.
And yet, Kruger and Green have pulled off the surprising feat of turning this stylish short into an entertaining feature.
Fried Barry (the feature) is about a very dirty man who’s abducted by aliens. Easy enough to explain. Barry (Gary Green again), in this movie, is a degenerate drug-addicted drunk who neglects his family and spends most of his time at bars or in his friend’s apartment doing a dangerous amount of heroin. One night, however, he’s captured by extraterrestrials and experimented on, then returned to Earth with one of them in his body. The alien formerly known as Barry must very quickly learn to be human in a world of drugs, sex, violence, sex, family, and love.
Kruger’s style comes through in spades on this feature but with a bit more of a plot to go with it—there’s much more here than just a man who kind of looks like an alien getting high and moving around all weird-like, though Gary Green manages to pull all of this off with incredible skill. Alien Barry doesn’t seem to know how to say no, and furthermore, doesn’t want to either. In one night, he gets extremely high, has sex twice, rocks out at a club, weirds out everyone around him, and then somehow saves a dying man from a fatal heart attack using Unknown Alien Powers. And that’s just the beginning. Seeing the difference between nasty old human Barry and reborn, up-for-anything alien Barry goes a long way towards making this work.
Thankfully, Haezer’s back for the Fried Barry score and sound design, and he delivers on all fronts. I’m a huge fan of his pounding, bass-heavy club music (he’s just released a full album, Exit, that is totally worth checking out), and while there’s more than enough of that to spare here. He goes above and beyond by creating some absolutely gorgeous score pieces to go with quieter and more atmospheric scenes. It’s reminiscent of classic electronic scores of the 1980s, but with a modern flair that you only really get from a fresh face, and it makes the experience that much more engaging.
Fried Barry has a sense of humor to it that was sorely lacking from the short, as well. It opens with an official-looking man notifying us that the film we’re about to see is for adults only, expressing how much sex and violence lies in store for us—a tongue-in-cheek slap on the wrist to all of us degenerates who know exactly why we’re here. The cringeworthy silences when people speak to alien Barry and don’t get a response are guaranteed a few laughs, as are some of the editing choices. And of course, there’s even an intermission midway through, helping remind us it’s only a movie and offering us a chance to grab a snack and a drink.
Post-intermission, alien Barry’s adventures find him tied to a chair in a dirty warehouse by a child kidnapper who I think wants to steal his teeth? Yes, this movie never lets up on the weird, but it really serves to drive home the point that maybe the worst of humanity can be that much more frightening than the monsters from beyond our planet. Alien Barry’s seen the most violent and exploitative that people can be, but he’s seen love and affection around too, and maybe he can help the world be a better place in his own weird way. Of course, his own weird way immediately involves a fight involving a chainsaw and a lot of blood, but it’s immensely satisfying watching our rowdy, dirty alien boy find ways to be a hero.
There are several more stops on Barry’s adventure that I don’t want to spoil for you, should you take this flashy, trippy, wonderful ride (aside from a bit in a mental hospital unfortunately full of Movie Crazy People[TM], but we don’t stay there for very long). Kruger even manages to bring things full circle, reusing some of the same small-part actors in new roles later on in the movie and returning alien Barry to some of the places he’s already been. The story ends with the exact blend of comedy, heartfelt sincerity, and straight-up weirdness that course through Fried Barry‘s veins, tying up some of the most important threads in alien Barry’s short time on earth and ending on a perfect final shot for a movie this odd.
With an engaging cast, a killer visual style, an underlying message about being a good person, and enough nudity and gore to satisfy the most hardcore of genre movie fans, this is the perfect movie for the right kind of person to see. It’s gross, flashy, in-your-face, and more fun than it has any right to be. Check out Fried Barry on Shudder starting May 7th for a drugged-up, dreamlike throwdown of a story you’ll have a hard time forgetting.