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An Interview With ‘Fried Barry’ Director, Ryan Kruger

Fresh off of his 2017 experimental short, Fried Barry is the feature length debut of Ryan Kruger. It tells the tale of the drug-addled Barry, a mostly unlikeable character whose body is eventually taken over by an alien. We are then taken on a wild odyssey through Cape Town’s nightlife, where we, like Barry himself, begin to lose our grip on reality.

Fried Barry is a little like 2013’s Under The Skin, although the movie’s star, Gary Green, pulls off more facial contortions than Scarlett Johansson did in that low-key science-fiction movie. There are echoes of Trainspotting too with the hallucinogenic effects of drug use forming part of the movie’s story, although for Kruger, the biggest influence on the movie was John Carpenter. Fans of the Halloween director will notice many nods to his earlier movies, most notably Starman, although the movie has much in common with horror movies of the 80s too.

This isn’t to say Kruger is entirely riffing off cinema past, however. As stated during the opening credits, Fried Barry is ‘A Ryan Kruger Thing,’ and from the depths of his wild imagination, we have a movie that is distinctively his own. It’s a visually dazzling piece that is funny one moment, darkly horrible the next, and balls-to-the-wall crazy for the duration. Fans of weird cinema will love it, as will anybody looking for something a little different from the copycat movies that saturate the horror and sci-fi genres.

The movie’s director, Ryan Kruger kindly agreed to answer a few questions for us about his debut feature. Find out what he said below and then, if you haven’t already, subscribe to Shudder to see Fried Barry for yourself.

SH: Fried Barry is a feature-length version of an experimental short you made in 2017. Why did you decide to expand on that and make this your first feature?

The first one is always the most important film. So it needed to stand out and I wanted something that was very creative.

SH: You thanked John Carpenter in the end credits, so he was obviously an influence on you. There were hints of Starman and They Live within the movie’s plotting. Did any of Carpenter’s other movies influence Fried Barry?

I’ve always loved John Carpenter. Growing up as a kid my favorite was Christine but his film Starman was a big reference to this film.

SH: You mentioned in another interview that you wanted to make an 80s style film. Why was that?

I am a big 80s kid. 80s cinema was the best and still is for me. They just don’t make movies like they use to. They had the right amount of VFX mixed with prosthetics. And I just loved the tone and feel of 80s cinema.

SH: I recently described the movie to you as Trainspotting meets Under The Skin with a sprinkling of David Lynch. Is this a fair assessment?

Yeah, I guess with all the drugs, and Under The Skin being about an alien coming to earth. But it wasn’t actually a reference. Both great films though. David Lynch is a legend so that’s great haha. It’s always cool to take references of films that mean something to you that you loved growing up but also putting your own spin on it and style.

SH: The movie chronicles the story of a drug addict whose body is taken over by an alien. It’s not something that I or anyone has probably seen before, and your shooting style is certainly unique. What inspired the story?

As a director, it’s very important to make the right choice for your first film. I had all these other scripts I could have chosen, but as soon as I got the idea I just knew it was the right one. I knew people won’t forget this film if they watch it and that’s what excited me.

What inspired me was a mix of great films from late 70s and 80s cinema. And where I was at the time before I made the film. I was down and out and in deep depression. I needed something huge to change in my life. So I made this film which was my medicine.

SH: The Downtown Abbey crowd are probably not going to like this movie but there are many people who will. In fact, the movie is garnering some great reviews, so there is clearly audience appeal. What kind of moviegoer were you aiming at when making the movie?

Downtown Abbey fans will love it. Lol. Anyone that was a kid or growing up in the 80s and liked the dark side of cinema. There are so many easter eggs in the film so fan boys and girls will dig it. If I was 10 and saw this I would have loved it. But people with a dark sense of humor will have a smile.

SH: Gary Green gives a great physical performance as both Barry and the alien-inflicted version of himself. He’s not a trained actor, so why did you choose him for the part? And how did the two of you meet?

I met Gary about 11 years ago. We were both on an indie film together doing a small featured part. I chose Gary because of his look. He just has a very interesting face and nobody looks like him. But I’ve worked with him over the years and placed him in small parts in music videos and shorts and as time went on in 2017 we shot Fried Barry the 3min experimental, so I think that planted the seed in my head.

But the main thing was when I got the idea for the feature. It had to be right for Gary as he’s not an actor. So the story and character was key for it to work. So when the idea came it was just perfect and I molded the movie around him to make it work. But I had to work with him very closely to get exactly what I wanted. I didn’t tell him anything prior to shooting about the main story. So every day 30min to an hour before shooting I would tell him, as I didn’t want him to prep or overthink stuff.

Courtesy of Enigma Ace FIlms

So I needed that clean slate every day to work with him. I did a lot of improv with other actors in the film but Gary was the only one that didn’t improv as I had to be super strict with him to get what I needed. The funny thing is that his character mimics the people he meets, and when it came to directing he was mimicking me off-screen. I kept saying pull this face, copy me, as I was editing the scene in my head while shooting. So it looked like he’s hitting all the comedic beats.

SH: Barry goes on quite the journey in the film. He is quite unlikeable at the beginning – a little bit of a monster in some ways – but thanks to the alien within, he eventually becomes more human. It’s almost the antithesis of a movie like John Carpenter’s The Thing. Was this intentional?

I never thought of that actually, that’s interesting. For me, it was very much the character arc showing the darker side of humanity and how crazy society can be. The alien was like a kid just sponging this information and he was basically a nicer person than the drug addict. And it’s almost that this needed to happen to him to maybe wake himself up in life. And that’s why the scenes with his wife are so important as she is the heart of the movie. And we really began to like him more.

SH: Thanks to Shudder, Fried Barry has now been released in a lot of territories. For those who ‘get it,’ the movie has been warmly received. How does this make you feel?

Yeah, it’s been great and Shudder has just been so amazing. So it’s been a great experience so far, my inbox’s got flooded with fans. I did know from the start though that I am making a film that not everyone will love. You’re either going to get this film or not. And if you do you’re going to have a lot of fun with it. If you don’t it’s going to be a bad trip 😉

SH: Sam Raimi’s first feature was The Evil Dead. Peter Jackson’s first feature was Bad Taste. Like you, they had a limited budget but a wild imagination and eventually went on to make multi-million dollar movies. Is this something you would like to do?

Of course but the most important thing is doing what you love and doing stuff that gives you your kicks. So as long as I am making films I want to make I will be happy. I love all types of genres.

SH: Explain to me why you have on your credits “A Ryan Kruger Thing” instead of a Ryan Kruger film?

I have always used that tag since I was a kid making movies with my friends, I wanted something cool to stand out. Like an ‘Alfred Hitchcock Flick’ or a ‘Spike Lee Joint.’ It definitely worked though as in South Africa I’ve always been known as a music video narrative director and people will always come up to me saying that (A Ryan Kruger Thing) which is cool.

SH: What’s next for Ryan Kruger? Do you have another feature planned?

I will be releasing a collection of 8 experimental films soon. And moving onto another feature soon. Stay tuned!

Thanks Ryan! Check out Fried Barry on Shudder today!