The Shudder original Fried Barry should be screened at drive-ins at 2 a.m. on a Saturday night. It’s lewd, gory, and bonkers. This type of alien abduction movie isn’t like Fire in the Sky (1993) or The McPherson Tape (1989). Instead, it’s an absurd film about an alien that takes a test drive in a degenerate’s body, encountering some of the worst dregs of society along the way.
Directed and written by Ryan Kruger, and based on his short of the same name, Fried Barry is set in Cape Town, South Africa, but really, it could be any sketchy city. Prostitutes linger on street corners. Men have oral sex in bathrooms of drive bars. Pimps prowl the streets, looking for women to kidnap. At the center of everything is Barry, played by newcomer Gary Green. Barry is a junkie loser and a lousy husband to Suz (Chanelle de Jager). Within the opening 10 minutes, she pleads with him to be a better father. His character is best summed up by his response. “He doesn’t even look like me. He doesn’t even look like you,” he says to Suz regarding their kid.
That’s about as much dialogue that Barry has in a single scene. Shortly after, aliens abduct him. Strange instruments go in all the most uncomfortable places before an E.T. commands his body. Green shines in this outlandish role. His performance includes wild and wide-eyed facial expressions, as the extraterrestrial tourist tries to comprehend language and human interaction. It’s an amusing and entertaining performance that carries the film.
Certain scenes have such a sleaze factor that you feel like you need a shower afterwards. The alien has one nasty sexual encounter after the other, and even grocery clerks have nothing but the birds and the bees on their mind. This isn’t the type of film that requires a deep level of thinking. Think Street Trash (1987) meets The Greasy Stranger (2016) with some aliens thrown into the mix. It calls to mind the 1980s VHS heyday or the 1970s drive-in grindhouse era. Kruger seems aware of that, too. The film’s halfway point features a retro 1980s-like intermission.
Yet, Fried Barry isn’t without a dash of humanity. The alien makes Barry a better person. He even tells his wife that he loves her. In fact, the second half of the film feels a bit uneven in tone. The first half leans into the b-movie factor with absurd sex scenes and gore. The second half isn’t as funny, and instead, it’s more restrained. At that point, it’s unclear what the film wants to be. Kruger shares a story credit with producer James C. Williamson, and at times, I felt myself wanting more form the narrative other than an alien observer encountering one drug dealer or prostitute after another. Maybe, I’m just overthinking.
Kruger, an award-winning music video director, is known for blending visuals with narrative. You can see that all over Fried Barry. Again, this is a film in which the lead hardly talks and instead meanders from one grimy part of the city to another, as industrial music by Haezer plays in the background. Images of the city are bleak, the dark color palate reinforced by Gareth Place’s cinematography. Parts of the film feel more like a music video than a fully realized story, but that’s a small gripe.
Overall, Fried Barry is a lot of fun, an acid-washed romp featuring plenty of sex, drugs, and gore. If you’re looking for a sleazy good time, then stream this film.
Fried Barry releases on Shudder May 7.
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