There is no reasonable way to prepare for Fried Barry. Ryan Kruger fills his deeply strange curio of a film with enough ideas and threads that the lean 99-minute runtime threatens to burst at the seams. Not every character or plot point lands, but in the sci-fi/horror landscape, a surplus of ideas is always more of a blessing than a curse. Fried Barry has a lot to say, and it’s not going to waste a second of screen time.
Fried Barry’s chaos springs from a simple enough premise. A heroin addict and general misanthrope named Barry (Gary Green) is abducted by aliens, poked, prodded, probed and ultimately turned into a host. Barry, now featuring 100 percent more alien, is returned to the streets of Cape Town. This new Barry is immediately inundated with the vice and sensory overload of the city. He goes to a rave, he does drugs. Barry is a sponge, absorbing every new source of stimuli passively, and becomes a blank slate for each new person he encounters to project upon. Alien Barry has a truly astounding amount of sex, without making any effort, seemingly because his lack of any perceivable desire allows the women around him to focus on their own.
Barry gradually begins a small degree of assimilation. He mimics the little acts of kindness and gentleness he sees strangers commit on the street. Barry also cures a man’s heart attack, hinting at some sort of mystical powers that are never explored any further.
The narrative structure of Fried Barry is loose and vaguely picaresque. One particularly bizarre throughline involves an unplanned offspring, but to say too much about that would destroy the weird pleasure of discovery. Most of the components are entirely unique, connected only by the presence of Barry. This is both an asset and a liability. The movie is choppy, and the structure is disorienting, which is appropriate for a film about alienation but at times takes away from the hope of immersion. There is no real escape into the world of Fried Barry, but it is incredibly fun watching the movie continually top itself. There is absolutely no way to anticipate the next scene at any given moment.
The greatest and most unexpected pleasure of Fried Barry is the pure vein of sweetness that pulses beneath the surface. In contrast to the frequent ugliness the title character witnesses, he adopts the kindest parts of humanity. Fried Barry is full of drugs and sex and what can only accurately be called “alien-weirdness,” so Barry’s gentle demeanor hits harder. It’s impossible to overstate how essential Green’s performance as Barry is to making the film work. He convincingly transitions from an absolutely unlovable scumbag into a sweet, awkward and confused alien. Green’s face has a Lance Henriksen quality; it’s fully of character and the promise of experience that viewers can only hope to guess at.
Kruger fills his film with unexpected colors and playful visuals. Barry’s abduction via a beam of light plays like an homage to classic science fiction films of the past. The score threatens to overwhelm the first half of the movie, but it eventually settles and doesn’t stand out as a bug. Fried Barry is busy and overstuffed, but it’s also an incredibly promising and deeply weird reinvention of the body invasion thriller; a strange, disorienting and ultimately rewarding experience.
Kelly Mintzer (@KellyMintzer) hates dolls but loves movies about evil ventriloquist dummies. She is working her way through the Sandman series slowly but surely, and has been compared more than once to that iteration of Death. Holding down South Philly with a creative writing degree and the full series of Hannibal, she hasn’t seen her natural hair color in years.