GORE IN THE STORE
FRIED BARRY ****
Directed by Ryan Kruger.
Starring Gary Green, Chanelle de Jager.
Science-Fiction, South Africa, 99 minutes, certificate 18.
Streaming on Shudder from 7th May.
Abusive and selfish with his wife and child, heroin addict Barry stumbles onto a wholly different kind of trip when he is beamed from the streets of Cape Town onto a spacecraft. Undergoing an eye watering procedure that involves his body being taken over by an alien presence, the real Barry’s personality is forced to take a back seat in his own body as the now dominant alien takes its new body around the streets of the South African city. What follows is a hallucinatory odyssey as “Barry” floats through the wild extremes of human behaviour and society in all its forms. Often with the aid of illegal drugs of industrial strength.
FRIED BARRY is an extreme experience. Those of us old enough to remember renting a video and having a Radio 1 DJ tells us why it was a certificate 18 before it started will be delighted to see that this starts in much the same fashion, cheekily warning us of the depravity that will soon unfold. From here Ryan Kruger’s film, or “A RYAN KRUGER THING” as it is described in the credits, blazes across the screen with little regard for taste. Sex and drugs are very much in play here as are chainsaws, wild dancing, flying, touching family drama and more drugs. It is safe to say that FRIED BARRY is not really a film for everyone but for those who like extreme cinema this is a ride worth lining up for.
At times it comes across like an extended music video, particularly reminiscent of Chris Cunningham’s often nightmarish collaborations with Aphex Twin. There is much more to the film however than inspired visuals. Kruger making his feature debut after a number of shorts, one of which provided the basis for this, wears his influences on his sleeve for all to see but he easily injects his own style and personality into this, making it one of the years most distinctive films so far. The alien in disguise experiencing human behaviour has been done plenty of times onscreen before but not with this level of visual and auditory imagination, special mention should also go to composer Haezer for his score and sound editing. While it is great to see that Shudder have snapped up the rights to bring it to a wide audience, one can only imagine how this would look and feel projected on a giant screen.
As the titular Barry, Gary Green delivers a memorable performance. Tall, lanky, mulleted and perpetually scowling before his abduction, the physical contortions he puts his face and body through afterwards also give us one of the more singular performances we will see this year. Largely dialogue free he gradually gives a surprisingly emotional centre to the film as it moves along from one outrageous scene to the next. This is in contrast to the majority of performances of the people that he often plays against. Heightened as they are to such a degree that they often come across as nothing that matches any normal human behaviour. The point possibly being made that we ourselves can be seen as a ridiculous species witnessed through the eyes of another. Such a point and performances may prove a tad wearisome to some viewers, especially alongside its often-extreme content.
However, Kruger knows his audience for this and delivers an excitingly, stylised film that does far more than trade in extreme visuals for the sake of them by smuggling in a humorously touching climax via an unorthodox family set up. As smart as it is vulgar FRIED BARRY is further proof that African cinema is making exciting leaps in genre cinema and the next RYAN KRUGER THING whatever it may will be well worth keeping an eye out for.