The other day I watched a very strange movie called Fried Barry.
It’s difficult to describe exactly what this Shudder original movie is as a genre. It’s too funny for horror, too dark for comedy, too meandering for straight sci-fi, and makes too much sense for surrealism. The clearest influence in director Ryan Kruger’s first feature-length film is 80s and 90s grindhouse, but neither is this basic mimicry. It’s more like a fever dream that springs so hard and fast away from reality that it shoots the moon and comes right on back to feeling, somehow, grounded.
Fried Barry stars stuntman Gary Green as Barry, an abusive, drug-addled scumbag who is, one night, abducted by aliens. When he comes back his body is driven around like a go-cart by one of his abductors, whose apparent first introduction to human civilization is the seedy, sex-fueled, drug-riddled underbelly of Capetown.
This is a movie meant to feel overwhelming in every way, which it achieves in cinematography and set design that often looks like a horrible LSD trip, but in a way that I know took an outrageous amount of care. Kruger proudly flouts traditional rules of filmmaking every chance he gets. The 180-degree line (keep the camera on one side of the set at all times otherwise the geography of the scene will be off) is gleefully thrown out the window. Characters arrive, are given privilege by the camera (“pay attention to this person!”), and then disappear forever.
It’s easy to assume this movie is nothing but a loosely connected series of vignettes: Barry eats all the drugs! Barry impregnates a sex worker! Barry solves a mystery! Keeping in mind, however, that Barry is not actually acting as himself during these adventures, Fried Barry becomes a mirror to the strangeness of human behavior at its least dignified. The humor and surreality of Barry’s adventures through the streets of Capetown are in his personal indifference to what he gets swept into. The civilization Barry-the-alien finds itself in is full of people constantly chasing a high, the absurdity of which is revealed in their complete lack of awareness of Barry’s inability to completely understand his role in their crime schemes or constant and fleeting promises to show him a good time.
It’s difficult to convincingly portray the grossness of certain human tendencies without either turning maudlin (and no fun) or glorifying. My personal opinion is that the most unattractive aspects of society are best served by nontraditional narratives. Fried Barry, in its very literal alienation of its main character and the audience attached to his perspective, is a very weird, very challenging, and very good example of how to do that.
9/10, 9 points for the way it is. -1 for occasional lacks of closure that are really just more of a personal taste thing.