GORE IN THE STORE
IN CONVERSATION WITH RYAN KRUGER
Ryan Kruger’s directorial feature debut FRIED BARRY, an adaptation of his 2017 short film, is the simplest of premises – an heroin addict is abducted by aliens, and his body taken on a joy ride around Cape Town.
In conversation with FrightFest, Kruger spoke about the nostalgia of the video store days, being a big kid behind a movie camera, and feeling content that people will either love or hate his film.
FrightFest: Why film as a means of creative expression? Was there an inspirational or defining moment for you personally?
Ryan Kruger: Growing up, my mum was a bit stricter, but my dad let me watch what I wanted to, and so from a young I was exposed to 80s cinema, and horror films. It has been a big reason why I wanted to go into film, and it makes up a lot of my references and influences the style of film I love to use.
FF: Youth is a special time to discover film because at that age we’re sponges. We absorb everything, and as we get older how we relate to cinema changes. It’s not that we love film any less, but it’s a different experience, and one that I find feeds a nostalgia.
RK: I live in the past more than the present because it's always, ‘Oh, it's so cool when you're a kid.” My dad would take me to a video shop and my mum wouldn't come because we we were going to be in there for a long time choosing films. It was always about those covers of cool 80s horror, and without even reading the back you'd think, 'Oh that looks amazing.’
… When I was 12-years-old, maybe younger, one of my friends would have a VHS copy of A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET or HELLRAISER, and it became a big thing to get these movies and watch them together.
There are a lot of 70s and 80s references in FRIED BARRY because these were the movies I grew up on. If FRIED BARRY came out when I was 12, I'd have loved that film.
I'm 37-years-old and I'm still a big kid. I love movies, and maybe I’ve never grown up and I'm still playing with my toys, but I've grown up toys now and I can actually make films. I always wanted to act and direct, and for people that are crazy about movies, it's a big part of their lives. I've had ex-girlfriends say, "He’s talking about movies again”, but it’s my thing, this is what I do.
FF: Short films are sometimes seen as stepping stones to a feature film, yet it does them a disservice because there are stories that are suited to the short form, and some features fail to acknowledge this. How do you compare and contrast short with feature films?
RK: I love watching short films, and they're obviously not commercially present. You can go on YouTube, but shorts are not often on TV and so it's never been a major commercial side to cinema. I love making short films and it all depends on what you want to make. Sometimes it shouldn't be a feature, it should just be a short, and vice versa.
Where I was with my career when I shot the 2017 FRIED BARRY experimental, I'd done short films and commercials. When I was making music videos, it was great that they’d let me do what I wanted, but I was still in a box. The concept had to fit with the music and it had to go on TV, so it couldn’t be too crazy.
I decided to do a four and a half year project, which I'm still doing, to make eight experimental films. It just happened that the first one was FRIED BARRY, and it was the first time I didn't have to answer to anybody. I just wanted to do it in my style and with my vibe. It was a standalone short, and there was no plan for a feature. It was more of a moment about a heroin addict in an abandoned building, who was off his head on his latest trip. After it did well, I started shooting my other experimental shorts and ended up going through a rough patch. I went into depression, and at the bottom of the pit I asked myself what was the number one thing I’d always wanted to do? It was to make a film.
I had other scripts I could have done, but when I had the idea for FRIED BARRY, I knew it was the perfect one. I didn't even have a script, but I knew exactly how I wanted to do it, and what excited me about it was that I hadn’t seen this film, so I’d get to be creative.
There was no sci-fi element to the short, so I adapted that character and broadened the story. I thought it would be fun, this idea of what would happen if an heroin addict was abducted by aliens? The story is very simple - a heroin addict is abducted by aliens and spat back out on earth in Cape Town, and this alien takes his human body on a joy ride.
The film is an experience, a journey, and it's meant to feel disjointed, which is why I'd say it's a road movie without a car - Barry's the car. It's one of those films that you can't take too seriously, you just have to be open minded going into it to have fun.
FF: It’s a difficult film to categorise, which will frustrate those who like films that fit into boxes. FRIED BARRY needs to be experienced because no critical reaction or audience discussion can convey the ride we’ll go on with this character.
RK: The way this movie is designed, every single element is meant to be what it is. It’s designed for you to go on this experience, but I knew straight away when I was making it that you're either going to love it, or you're going to hate it. You’re either going to get it, or you're not. It's one of those that you will not understand it if you don't go into it open minded. There's a lot of depth in the movie, where we've shown a darker side of humanity - it's society that's crazy, not the alien.
FRIED BARRY is definitely a required taste and that's great. I wanted to make this stylish cult film and have this iconic character. All of those cult films I watched back in the day, I wanted to implement them, and try to create this film that I would have loved to watch when I was a kid. So I knew who I was making it for.
FF: There’s a sentiment amongst filmmakers that there are three versions of the film, the one you write, the one you shoot and the one you edit. Was the experience different for you, or was it still an act of discovery?
RK: I was very lucky how this all came together - I literally got what I wanted, if not more. As you said, there's the script that you write, there's the film that you make and then you have a different film in post. The good thing about this movie was I knew what I wanted to make from the very start.
When I'm on set, I know what I'm getting and I know what it's going to be like. It’s a style of directing that nothing is set in stone. If I get an idea, I can do it, and that's what FRIED BARRY was about. I wrote a brief 50% scene breakdown in three days, and a month later we started shooting. We shot over a year and a half, 28 days in total, and I was writing the script as I was going along.
I did a lot of improv with all of the cast apart from Gary, and the cool thing about FRIED BARRY is that you could be in the moment, have a good idea, and try it. It’s the same with post, where there's extra ideas that can make the film even better. So it's about problem solving when your editor says, “Oh shit, we didn't get that shot. How are we going to do that?” I get all the shots that I want, but then we get more ideas, and we can make it better.
FRIED BARRY is streaming exclusively on Shudder.
Read the FrightFest Gore in the Store of FRIED BARRY HERE