Fried Barry is a fever dream of a movie. That’s really the only way to explain it. Opening with a surprising old-school age restriction introduction warning us about the film we’re about to watch and the implications of an “18” certificate, writer/director Ryan Kruger (#MeowToo, The Golden Rule) wastes little time in setting the tone for what he describes as his “thing”.
Barry is a junkie. He spends his days shooting up, bullying people for money, being a terrible husband to his long suffering wife and an absent father to his young son. One night, however, after yet another drug-fuelled bender, Barry… is abducted by aliens, and when he returns he’s no longer in the driving seat of his own body. Someone else is running around inside him so they can experience what it’s like to be human. You’d think they might pick a better vehicle for it, or maybe all the drugs in his system make him easier to “possess”? The ways of aliens are mysterious and unknowable.
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The audience rides along as Alien-Barry stumbles from scene to scene, encountering prostitutes, drug dealers, kidnappers, instant pregnancies and even takes a moment to save someone from a heart attack. It’s less a straight-forward narrative and more a series of vignettes connected by Barry’s wanderings, which makes sense when you learn that the film doesn’t have a traditional script. It was instead written as a scene breakdown, with most of the dialogue improvised on set. That said, it works far better than other films of this type I’ve seen, managing to maintain a level of energy and cohesion that was lacking in, for example, Threshold.
The success of the film is almost entirely down to the performance of Gary Green (Warrior, Healing Land), a long time collaborator with the director, who plays the titular Barry. He’s simply fascinating to watch. He’s sort of what you’d get if you took Iggy Pop and melded him with Jim Varney, all lankiness and twitching and gurning. He’s constantly in motion in virtually every scene, contorting his face and body into all manner of strange poses, making the moments where he goes still and quiet all the more effective.
The film is helped along both by a soundtrack featuring artists such as Jak Thomas, Jack Kennedy and Embassy, and a score from another of Ryan Kruger’s long-time collaborators, the composer known as Haezer (Nobody Dies, Swither), which provides an impressively ominous and unsettling undertone to counterbalance the up-tempo music.
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Fried Barry is not a film for everyone. It’s messy, loud and disjointed, with scenes that strain credulity even in a film that’s all about a junkie being abducted and possessed by aliens. But it’s got so much charm and heart and sheer balls-to-the-wall ludicrousness about it that you can’t help but admire it. Gary Green is utterly compelling every moment he’s on screen, the man has one of the most expressive faces you’re ever likely to see, and you will see a LOT of it as the camera frequently lingers in intense close-up inches away from his twisting features.
Ryan Kruger has stated in interviews that he wanted to make a cult film, a film with characters and moments that people would remember, and in that respect Fried Barry is a complete success. Is everyone going to like it? Definitely not, but then the true cult films are often polarising and this one definitely has future cult classic written all over it.
Fried Barry is streaming exclusively on Shudder from 7th May.