REVIEW: Fried Barry (2020)

dir. Ryan Kruger.

Following yet another bender, heroin addict Barry (Gary Green) stumbles home to his wife and son only to fight, storm out, and ricochet onto his next hit. But somewhere between shooting up and coming down he is – or appears to be – abducted by aliens, an extra-terrestrial consciousness now piloting his body around the seedy Cape Town nightlife, seeing everything with wired, new eyes.

There’s more than a whiff of Under The Skin to Ryan Kruger’s directorial debut, itself based on his own 2017 short: but whereas Jonathan Glazer’s film saw Scarlett Johansson glide around an ethereal Glasgow harvesting men, here Green etches a very different – but no less compelling – visitor, his gnarled face contorting into all manner of twisted expressions that perfectly portray the presence of some disconnected intelligence within. By turns hilarious, tragic, moving and zany, the topography of his performance – amplified by DP Gareth Place’s roving lens – anchors proceedings in an emotional reality that is simultaneously human and other.

It’s this propulsive current of raw experience which keeps Barry – and us – coursing through the episodic narrative like cheap smack through hungry veins. Some beats court exploitation as he stumbles into a series of erotic encounters – with hardcore shots added for extra sleaze – but despite this an ebb of childlike humanity gradually rises to the surface: a sensation that this version of Barry is perhaps more human than his human self ever was. It’s a theme sustained by the excellent ensemble, with one scene in a psychiatric unit recalling Chan-wook Park’s I’m A Cyborg… But That’s Okay being particularly impressive.

Hypnotically scored by Haezer, Fried Barry is ultimately a trip movie and in that sense the esteem one bestows it depends on how far you let yourself go. There will doubtless be some who resist, clinging to cinematic sobriety, but for those who submit to the crashing waves of its hallucinogenic power there’s a journey just waiting to be taken, epiphanies to be found in the night.

Tim Coleman

FRIED BARRY is available now on Shudder.

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