Shudder: Fried Barry (2021) - Reviewed

Sometimes it takes an outsider to take a real look inside—something that’s not human to shed light on the seedy underbelly of humanity.  In Ryan Kruger’s bold South African horror film Fried Barry, we see the world through the eyes of an alien, and humans suddenly seem more hyperviolent, ultrasexualized, and generally hedonistic than ever—but damn, is it a good time.

The film follows Barry, a junky protagonist who’s an all-around bad guy and gets into more trouble than usual one night after an especially nasty lover’s spat followed by a heroin binge.  As he stumbles down the street, a flying saucer decides to swoop him up and aliens have their way with him, eventually leading to one of these intergalactic visitors inhabiting Barry’s body to go on a sex, drug, and violence-filled bender throughout the city.  


One of the greatest strengths of Fried Barry is its commitment to a midnight movie style.  While it doesn’t look glaringly “retro” for the most part, it has all the spirit of a classic cult film and knows it.  Director and writer Ryan Kruger made music videos prior to this film, and his feature-length directorial debut here is a telltale sign of his background:  Barry’s alien abduction sequence, for instance, is trippy, disorienting eye candy that you could easily imagine on MTV.  Packed with jarring cuts, saturated colors, and striking shots, the moments where the film embraces Kruger’s music video aesthetic the most are what make it stand out and give it an edgy grindhouse vibe that’s easy to love. 


Further enhancing the atmosphere of the film, Fried Barry’s score is a great choice to flesh out this world so immersed in the nightlife of the city where it takes place.  Electronic artist Haezer takes the helm and creates a synthy yet aggressive soundtrack that perfectly compliments the environment of the film:  it is equal parts nightclub sleaze, casual sex, and no-holds-barred violence, just like the film.  This gives Fried Barry a distinct personality that makes it stand out among its peers with a more traditional film score.


What also works well here is the film’s ability to interject levity in what could easily have become a film that wallows in its own darkness while exploring human vices.  Kruger intelligently never allows you to take this story he’s weaving too seriously, largely thanks to the lead actor Gary Green.  He is entirely convincing as a drug-addled degenerate, but is also able to become a caricature of himself once the alien has taken over his body.  From his wide-eyed stares, jerky movements, and bizarre gait, he plays the part of an alien tourist experiencing Earth for the first time quite well.  Combined with a range of facial expressions that make one wonder if his face is made of putty, his reactions to the happenings around him are appropriately cartoonish and oftentimes hilarious.  


Be warned:  this is a film that screams “style over substance.”  Light on plot and heavy on stylization with perhaps a few metaphors thrown in for good measure, Fried Barry has one objective and does it well:  to entertain the hell out of you while making you feel a little dirty in the process.  Some might criticize this “fish out of water” story for not having an intricate plot, but don’t listen to them.  If you can take a little grit and indulge in ocular delights, then give yourself the opportunity to enjoy the fast-paced sensory overload that is Fried Barry.

—Andrea Riley