Fried Barry [Grimmfest Review]: Psychedelic Horror Trip
Fried Barry started life as an eccentric, drug fuelled, nightmare logic, short film filled with jump cuts, jarring sound design and otherworldly special effects. It rightfully won multiple awards on the horror festival circuit and was transformed, by original writer-director Ryan Kruger, into this mind-altering feature that takes the source material and cranks it up to eleven. The short film explored the terrifying side effects of drug abuse and this feature expands on this idea and transforms it into a hybrid of 80’s Sci-Fi, Psychedelic Horror and Dark Black Comedy.
Barry (Gary Green) is a wanker and an all round shit person. He’s addicted to heroin, neglectful to his wife (Chanelle de Jager) and son, and generally just a pretty nasty character. That is until he is visited by an alien and his whole world changes. Taking a backseat in his own skin, Barry is now controlled by an alien tourist who witnesses, and readily indulges in, the excesses and sins available to it in Cape Town. From the moment we witness the surreal dream-like abduction scene that melds experimentation with strobe effects and stunning montages of psychedelic imagery and the evolution of human life, we enter a new chapter for our protagonist. Fried Barry goes to some strange places, allowing Barry to impact the lives of many of the residents of Cape Town. It’s a crazy night for this alien visitor as he shoots up heroin, escapes an institution and even rescues caged children from a predator.
This new alien Barry is still finding his feet, and his vocal cords, so seems to only be able to repeat what he hears. It’s surprising how endearing this makes him to the people around him. His repetition of human behaviour allows him to bond with his wife and child, something that just makes this film even better. Who knew that an alien is a better choice than a normal man? New Barry is living his best damn life whilst not even being present.
I find it hard to believe there is anyone more perfect for the role of Barry than Gary Green. Everything about his performance reads alien and he is somehow distant and unimaginable whilst being so naive and easy to follow. His face is intensely expressive, translating ideas to the audience even when static. This is one of the key strengths of the film, Barry becomes a sympathetic entity when he is being puppeted by the extra-terrestrial entity, one we feel much more inclined to follow than the original dirt bag human he was. Despite being intensely absurd at all points the improvisational and lived in character work gives it grounding.
“…it’s a wild roller coaster ride of excess and hits every insane high note to keep an audience fascinated and staring at the screen in awe.”
Gareth Place’s cinematography is spectacular, switching from Barry’s POV to a Snorricam of him that adds even more unsettling surrealism and adds to the dizzying effect of the visuals overall. It’s almost as if we took as many pills as Barry did. Add into this the intermission interlude and the rear projection and this is a feast for the eyes with hints of surrealism, experimentation and visual playfulness. The editing, by Stephen Du Plessis, is frenetic and hyper stylised, pushing us from situation to situation with disorientating joy. It’s a stunning film to watch and definitely warrants many a re-watch to pick up on all the tiny nuances of the aesthetics.
This is a visual experience, reminiscent of other genre films such as Mandy, Suspiria and The Beyond. The use of heavily saturated extreme colours and pulled focus lends a beautiful otherworldly aesthetic to the film and intensifies the beautiful absurdity of the plot itself. Shot in South Africa the film takes advantage of the bustling night atmosphere. There’s drugs, booze and raging arguments on the neon lit streets that Barry wanders like a lost puppy.
This film is made up of exceptional set pieces that go from the hilarious to the tense, to downright terrifying. There’s a chainsaw fight, a ‘daring’ escape from a psychiatric ward and a nightclub dance montage that rivals anything seen on MTV or in a Clubland video. It’s not light on the nightmare imagery either. After ‘bonding’ with a prostitute Barry proves his virility by instantly impregnating her. Her sped up pregnancy ends with her giving birth within seconds of the act and, honestly, that’s my nightmares sorted for a long time.
Kruger was clearly inspired by 80’s Sci-Fi, with Barry wandering Cape Town like an out of place Terminator and even suffering an inhuman illness just like poor little ET, his genre love is appreciated in the little nods and homages. I can see people accusing this film of being style over substance, and there’s definitely an element of that to it, but it definitely didn’t detract from my enjoyment of it. There’s not a moment of pace dropping, it’s a wild roller coaster ride of excess and hits every insane high note to keep an audience fascinated and staring at the screen in awe. Fried Barry is a frenetic journey into aliens, drugs, sex and violence, what more could an audience want?