Last year, I praised the lost-in-time horror whatsit The Berlin Bride for feeling like it “travelled here from a previous era when movies could just be Weird as Fuck without having to justify that indulgence by Saying Something.” The new straight-to-Shudder curio Fried Barry made me eat those words just a few months later; I regret everything. An episodic, self-amused tale of drug abuse and alien abduction, Fried Barry desperately wants to be an instant-cult-classic geek show but lacks any of the propulsion or command over atmosphere that would make that distinction possible. It’s all hacky, edgelord comedy stunts and no attention to tone or purpose. Equally obscene and tedious, it’s essentially a half-speed horror version of Crank – with all the “insensitive” political jabs and mouthbreathing misogyny that descriptor implies. It’s a movie that deliberately strives to be Weird as Fuck without having to justify that indulgence by Saying Something, exactly what I asked for. I can’t say exactly why that for-its-own-sake exercise was mesmerizing to me in The Berlin Bride but punishingly boring for me here. I can only shrug Fried Barry off as A Bad Movie that only gets worse the longer it hangs around.
If Fried Barry has any of the potential cult-status value it’s clearly desperate to earn, it’s as a kind of “dare” film for teenagers who are technically too young to watch it. The film opens with a cheeky warning that it’s strictly for an 18+ audience, which reads as a wink that you need to be 15 or younger to be excited by its meaningless transgressions. The titular Barry, described by his loving wife as a “useless piece of shit”, is immediately shown shooting heroin into his arm in a hideous series of post-Tony Scott rapdifire montages, emphasizing just how Edgy and Fucked Up the next 100 minutes are going to be. While high, Barry is abducted by aliens, who probe both his anus and urethra for good measure, then commandeer his body for a joyride on the streets of Cape Town, South Africa. From there, the aliens take a nightlife tour of the city, periodically stopping for improv-heavy bits of cringe humor among the “useless piece of shit” locals. The film is caught halfway between a PSA about how overwhelming it is to trip balls in public and a PSA about how obnoxious it is to simply go nightclubbing. In either instance, you’re going run into the worst people, and they’re going to spoil the mood.
For the most part, the movie rests on the decision to cast Gary Green as Barry, as he does have the kind of arrestingly odd bone structure that David Lynch could build an entire movie around. It probably goes without saying that first-time director Ryan Kruger is no David Lynch, at least not yet. Whether it’s because of the heroin or the alien body possession, Green isn’t asked to do much here besides stand around as a human prop. His episodic adventures mostly focus on the much less fascinating bit-part actors who bounce their own inane performances off him, pausing occasionally for gross-out eruptions of gore. If this dynamic has any chance of working, it’s in the first half of the film when seemingly everyone is uncontrollably attracted to Alien Barry and impulsively propositions him for sex. If the film had committed to the all-out sexual bacchanal of that premise, it might’ve at least had a unifying theme or purpose to its grotesque pageantry. Instead, it’s an excuse to sneak in some on-screen titties for the under-15 crowd and for a blatantly homophobic gag where Barry murders his one potential male partner. And then the sex stops all together mid-film at the tongue-in-cheek “Intermission” title card, abandoning the one thread of continuity that tied all this meaningless bullshit together. Pity.
A movie this obscene has no business being this boring. Maybe a version of Fried Barry where an alien invader inspires human locals to break all their previously held sexual taboos on-sight might’ve been something worthwhile. Maybe a version of Fried Barry that was more heavily scripted instead of relying on Improv 101 edgelord humor would’ve been less irritating. Maybe a version of Fried Barry where women were allowed to be more than just victims, whores, and nags might not have sat on my stomach so queasily. Can’t say. All I know is that this version feels pointlessly obnoxious, and not in the fun way.