starring Gary Green, Chanelle De Jager, Bianka Hartenstein, Sean Cameron Michael
written and directed by Ryan Kruger
by Walter Chaw South African hyphenate Ryan Kruger's debut Fried Barry is just really fucking delightful, an amalgamation of The Greasy Strangler and John McNaughton's unfairly-forgotten The Borrower. The glue that seals the grimy, appalling parts together is, of all things, E.T.. It's in that juncture between the obscene and the profound where Fried Barry finds its singular genius as a creature so foul that when it suddenly, briefly, becomes Save the Green Planet! but with the victim/protagonist/antihero the saviour of a group of girls held in a pedophile's torture dungeon, what already defied description suddenly becomes... Is it art? At least it's useful, cogent, maybe brilliant surrealism in that by turning into something familiar, all of the bizarreness racks into focus as a critique of the conventions of our popular entertainments. Why, for instance, is E.T., a film about an alien symbiote attached to a child nearly to the point of killing the child, so beloved a family classic? Look, you're either with it, or you're decidedly not. But if you're in, so is Fried Barry. Oh, mate, Fried Barry is emphatically in.
Barry (Gary Green) is an awful person. One day, he's abducted by aliens, who do terrible things to him. I mean it, you guys, really terrible. So terrible it's hilarious. Green is a marvel, a special effect unto himself--like if Starman possessed Julian Beck from Poltergeist II on about 120 tabs of MDMA. That happens, by the way. Barry--inhabited by an alien, I think--goes to a club where he dances so spasmodically he earns a one-night stand. All this after consuming an entire bag of a dealer's stash and before visiting a prostitute he X-tros, doggy-style. Look, Fried Barry is astonishingly inventive and relentlessly, tirelessly profane. There's a scene where Barry's jerking down the street when he comes upon two club girls, one of them vomiting. Barry stops and watches for a while, and I was sure he was going to eat it. John Waters, eat your heart out. Later, Barry sees a happy young couple with a baby and I screamed inside. Fried Barry is the kind of movie where nothing is sacred. It's not just about shocking us, though. Consider a sequence inside a car in which, using poor-man's process and rear-projection, Kruger calls up similar passing sequences from Oliver Stone's phantasmagoric Natural Born Killers. Of all the film's inspirations, Stone's landmark picture is perhaps the truest progenitor.
There are movies that are just provocation, and then there's Fried Barry. Empty provocation is immediately boring, arrogant, a movement instead of moving, yes? But Fried Barry is pure: an explosion of ideas and jarring, often-disgusting images. I love the part where some guy in a bar offers up a fascinating read of why Mickey Mouse wears gloves--a monologue as potentially at home in a Tarantino joint as it would have been in the amuck version of Stand by Me. I love the bit where you think something really, truly abominable is going to happen to the prostitute, and then something does but not as abominable as you think it's going to be: You realize that Kruger's punchline is you're even sicker than Fried Barry. It's true. In the midst of all this fluid-drenched chaos, there's a sense of reserve and some polished comic timing, along with that subplot where Barry becomes a hero, and then a good father (yes, he's a father) and beloved husband (yes, he's married), making it a weirdo sequel to The Hidden where the "good" thing has to try to be a human being. Which reminds of Clive Barker's short story "Hardshell," which, which, which. Fried Barry fires the synapses, is what I'm trying to say. I haven't been this aroused by a film in ages. Well-played, Kruger; cue that shit up again. Programme: Selection 2020