To Fry a Barry in Cape Town, South Africa
FRIED BARRY is available On DVD, Blu-Ray and On Demand and Digital today, October 5, 2021. Released by RLJE/Shudder films, FRIED BARRY boasts an 80% Rotten Tomatoes Score and has garnered quite the stack of awards leading up to its home release. Put simply, "Aliens take over the body of a drug addict and take it for a joyride through Cape Town." As a film it demands no more than that glimmer of premise, but as an experience it offers much, much more. FRIED BARRY marks a return to the gonzo-style of filmmaking promised by the garish filmsleeves of Full Moon Video features on VHS, circa 1994. It's a trip of nightmarish delight, and I genuinely believe I watched the entire film with my mouth agape. The title character is played by Gary Green, a no-effects needed humanoid of limitless energy and enigma. I couldn't take my eyes off him. The film is made with a passion and DIY-sensibility that echoes those of its fans and its distributor, SHUDDER, the AMC-spinoff streaming service for all things spooky and weird.
I had the chance to chat with the director, Ryan Kruger, about BARRY's deeper themes, pairing with SHUDDER, directing Green, and the bright future for tourism following FRIED BARRY's release. There are slight spoilers ahead as we'd both seen the film before discussing it but I assure you, whatever you might think you know about the film, it still has something wonderfully bizarre to show you...
Ryan Kruger: Hey, Eric, how’s it going?
Eric McClanahan: I’m doing well, Ryan. How are you?
RK: I’m good. It’s starting to go into summer here, which is nice.
EM: Oh yeah? We’re finally starting to get autumn here, so I enjoy that. So, let’s talk about FRIED BARRY. First thing someone notices when they sit down to watch this film is that it’s not a film; it’s a thing. “A Ryan Kruger Thing.” What is the distinction?
RK: Well, for me, I’ve always used that tag, since I was a kid growing up, making my films. You know, you’ve got an Alfred Hitchcock Flick or a Spike Lee Joint, so I’ve always tagged myself as a Ryan Kruger Thing. So it’s more of a branding thing than anything. But FRIED BARRY itself is an experience. That’s what I would say it is: it’s definitely an experience. This is what I always say to people: the story itself is… easy. It’s a very easy story. It’s about a heroin addict that gets abducted by aliens. Alien takes over his body and takes that body on a joyride through South Africa, Cape Town. And that’s the story. The heart of the movie is his wife, and apart from that it’s this rollercoaster ride that, by the end of the film, you’ve just been on this trip. Like, as Barry, or with Barry, and by the end of it you just kind of feel like “What the fuck did I just watch, and I feel dirty and I need to take a shower…”
EM: That’s a very good summation. One thing I noticed early on whenever Barry becomes the vehicle for the entity is that you showcase just how gruesome and disgusting human animals are. Like, watching girls throw up on the street outside of a club, watching people shove food into their faces, etc. And I wondered if that was the impetus behind having Barry be a heroin addict to begin with; to have him be something of a scumbag to help ease that transition.
RK: Yeah. Well, see, this is the thing: so, it’s funny because Cape Town is a really beautiful place. [laughs] You wouldn’t think it from FRIED BARRY. I’ve probably fucked up Cape Town tourism completely with this movie! But, with this film, it’s obviously like the dregs of society. There’s a lot of depth in FRIED BARRY in that we show how dark humanity is and how crazy society is and it’s not the alien that’s crazy; it’s us. As human beings, we do stupid shit and we waste our lives doing stupid shit sometimes, so this alien is borne into basically this circle of all these misfits and all these crazy people and it’s not Barry the Alien that’s the crazy one; we just show how crazy the world can be and all these random characters that he meets along his way.
EM: Yeah. So tell me about getting distribution through SHUDDER. I wouldn’t call FRIED BARRY a horror film; it is, in fact like you said, it’s own experience, so how were you able to hook up with the SHUDDER network?
RK: Yeah, so with distribution, originally we had our world premiere with City Quest in San Jose (California) in America, and through that I met up with a sales agent and then from there the sales agent pitched it to companies and they all ended up hearing about FRIED BARRY and yeah, it was a perfect fit. The interesting thing about FRIED BARRY, like you said, is it’s not really a horror film; it has lots of horror elements, it has sci-fi elements; a lot of dark humor, a shitload of comedy in the movie, but it’s a very arthouse, indie-style movie, and it has all that genre-mashing stuff in the movie and I think for the people who are open to these type of films, SHUDDER was the perfect fit, you know?
EM: Agreed. Now tell me about the pervasive use of first-person POV to put the viewer in the driving seat of Barry.
RK: Yeah, so obviously at the start of the movie we had to show the Drug Addict Barry and we had to make that quite different to when he becomes the Alien Barry. So when he becomes the Alien it’s almost like you’re going on this journey with him. So through camerawork and how we wanted to shoot it, a lot of the time you’re either sitting in the driving seat, which is why I always say that this is kind of like a road trip movie without the car; Barry’s the car. So we want the audience to experience what he’s experiencing. So we’re either with him: shooting behind Barry, or it’s Barry’s POV. So it’s as if the audience is either on the experience with Barry or we are Barry, out here meeting all these people. So I really wanted to get that effect where you’re going along for the ride whether you like it or not. [laughs]
EM: I like how you mentioned that his wife is the heart of the film, and there are beautiful memories evoked throughout the film by Barry, or the Alien accessing Barry’s memories of the love that he shared with his wife. What do you think the intent of the visitation was and what did the Alien learn?
RK: The funny thing is, when we see alien abduction movies, they’ve always come here to learn. Let’s see what this planet is like, how these humans do whatever they do, and hopefully every planet will be different. And this film could’ve gone a completely different way if the aliens had abducted a guy that works from 9 to 5; it just would’ve been a different movie. So the bad draw of it is there’s this drug addict on his way home and they pick him. It’s just a bad lucky dip that they pick him. I always imagine the aliens saying to [the explorer] “Right, so here’s a body. We’ll pick you up in the next few days. Go out there and see what you can find out.” And obviously what we don’t see is, I imagine, the alien comes back to the ship and they’re like “How was it?” “Yeah, man, they’re just crazy. They just do a shitlaod of drugs and have lots of sex and that’s all they do. And it’s just a bunch of crazy people.” That’s how I see it.
EM: Yeah, like “That place is fucked up. I’m going to need to carb-load before we go back there.” Now, in the same vein, you mentioned that it is like a rollercoaster or a road trip film where Barry is the car, and in the final frame, he is discarded back on Earth. What, if anything, do you think Barry learned from this experience?
RK: Yeah, I always said to myself, throughout the film you always see that very red shot of Barry inside the Alien’s body shouting to get out, so he’s just taken a backseat this whole time. When we’re first introduced to Barry he’s not a likeable character at all. He’s a bastard to his kid and his wife; he’s just a horrible person. The interesting thing is when he becomes an Alien, he’s a nicer guy, a nicer person. He’s learning and mimicking stuff as he goes along, so at the same time I would like to think that the Drug Addict Barry, at the end, when he comes back, it’s like “I’ll be better. I’ll be a better person. I’ll try harder. I’ll be a better husband and a father and I can’t let this happen to me again.”
EM: I think it speaks something to either the Alien or Barry, or both, that throughout the whole experience he’s rather passive. He lets things happen to him. But when he does interact it’s typically in a somewhat heroic way. He saves that man on the street. He saves that girl and the other children from the street barbarian. Is it a redemption story, overall?
RK: What do you mean by “Redemption?”
EM: In that Barry is given the opportunity to be better?
RK: Yeah, I guess so. That’s why I always say that I definitely want the Drug Addict Barry to learn something from all of this. As humans, if we do something bad or get ill or whatever we say to ourselves “If you get me out of this, I’ll be better. I’ll stop fucking smoking or whatever I need to do.” Then as soon as you’re out of it you’re like “Yeah, I’m just going to have a cigarette” or whatever you run back to. So it’s really that Heads or Tails of however you want to see it. And everyone he meets in the film, it’s them experiencing him just as he’s experiencing them. He’s very much like a kid, sponging up all this information as he goes along, and that’s why his wife thinks, when she sees him feeding the kid, “Oh, he’s really trying…” but it’s really just the Alien remembering he saw the kid getting fed in the park and he’s like “Oh, cool, I’m going to do this.” Or when he says “I love you” it’s just a lucky draw. Even when he mimics someone, he’ll just happen to say the odd word and sometimes it just happens to make sense. Like when he meets the girl at the club and she says “Hey come back to my place!” He says “my place.” And she says “No, my place is just around the corner, yeah?” And he goes “yeah.” And it just happens to make sense. But overall FRIED BARRY is one of those films where you either get it or you don’t. You either love it or you hate it. And it’s amazing to see so many people get so many different reactions from it and get so much from one movie, where they see that dark side of humanity and how crazy society is, and somebody else could watch it and say “oh, there’s no story!” or this or this. And that’s why I say, the story is easy. It’s this experience we’re taking the audience on, and when you try to do a different structure to a movie or something like that then people might grumble or they might sit there and really enjoy that trip, you know? But I say it’s like a late night movie. The last thing you’d want to do is watch FRIED BARRY in the morning. [laughs] I couldn’t think of anything worse. But I think it’s a great film to watch with a bunch of people and there’s lots of comedy in this, lots of humor, and I think when you watch the trailer for FRIED BARRY, it’s everything you think it’s going to be, but like way more that you don’t think it’s going to be, as well. It’s really a mixture of everything in it as well as the genre-mashing kind of film it is.
EM: Yeah, definitely a dessert; not breakfast.
RK: Yeah. [laughs]
EM: I think we have time for one more question and I’ve got to ask: as a director, guiding Gary [Green] through this film, through this experience… what were those conversations like?
RK: It was a lot of fun! I mean, Gary was made for this role. He did such an amazing job. The interesting thing about Gary is that he’s not a trained actor. The rest of the cast was and it was great to do a lot of improv with a lot of people, but Gary was the only one that I didn’t want to improv with because the movie is FRIED BARRY. It’s called FRIED BARRY, so I have to rely on this character. So I had to work very closely with Gary during the process but at the same time, I also picked Gary for a reason, based on his looks and the character, that this could totally work. But at the same time we were saying that his character mimics these people that he meets and then when I’m directing Gary I’m sometimes outside of the shot going “Okay, Gary, copy my face. Now do this face. Now do this face.” So I’m doing that so I get exactly what I want but then on top of that I’m also editing the scene in my head so I know I’ve got the shot of this guy so now I need to get Barry’s reaction. So it went on like that throughout the film. The other thing was that I didn’t want Gary to overthink or preempt or pre-organize or rehearse in any way, so Gary wouldn’t know what we were doing until thirty minutes before filming. So when we started the film we’d say this is what it is, this is what it’s about, this is your character, but when it came to thirty or forty minutes before shooting I’d tell him “okay, this is what we’re doing now” and I worked from that clean slate every day and it had to be done this way, otherwise it wouldn’t have worked. But, yeah, Gary and I had a lot of fun making this film and he trusted me and it was a great experience with a lot of laughs. As the movie went on there were always new challenges and we, well, we had a laugh.
EM: Well thank you so much for your time today and wish you the best of luck and I really appreciate you talking with me.
RK: Amazing, Eric. Thank you so much for having me. Much appreciated.
FRIED BARRY is available On DVD, Blu-Ray and On Demand and Digital today, October 5, 2021.
Until next time, keep your eyes to skies and remember that we can always try today to be better than we were yesterday.
-McEric, aka Eric McClanahan-