Montreal’s Fantasia Film Festival began on Aug. 20 and continues through Wednesday, Sept. 2, bringing genre cinema right into your home thanks to their pandemic-friendly online-only edition. Here is our latest round-up:
Strap in for the trippy, seedy world of Fried Barry, a feature debut from South Africa-based actor and director Ryan Kruger, who originally made this as an experimental short in 2017.
Barry (Gary Green) is a loser, unkempt and useless, who leaves his desperate wife with their young child to go to the pub, meet another loser and shoot up heroin in a dingy room. While wandering stoned, he gets sucked up by a UFO and abducted by an alien (via his penis, of course). Imagine an alien’s first exploration of our planet being around the grotesque underbelly of a poor man’s Cape Town, through the eyes of a criminal junkie. The new alien Barry meets all kinds of lowlifes along the way from a club, to a brothel, to a nightmarish warehouse, right to an actual mental institution. Welcome to Earth, baby!
From its retro fonts to its heavy Drive-like synth soundtrack and its dizzying, gory visuals, Fried Barry wants to be a cult film. Green carries the craziness on his tall, stoic frame, playing the alien with wide eyes and a strange gait. His physical comedy is on-point and, while the dialogue is minimal, he manages to bring quite a few laughs through incredibly stupid situations. An entertaining mix of sci-fi and just pure trash, Fried Barry joins legions of modern TV shows and movies that borrow from ’80s aesthetics. It might no longer be surprising, but Kruger’s “thing” finds its originality elsewhere, in all the wacky plotlines he throws at Barry and at the audience. They come out of nowhere and don’t go anywhere, but it’s part of the nonsense joy ride you’ve decided to embark on. This is one that definitely made me miss the hooting and hollering of Fantasia crowds. Have a socially distant viewing party and enjoy, because Barry might just be the ugly alien superhero you need right now.
Fried Barry is on-demand until Sept. 2.
Sheep Without a Shepherd
Ouft, what to say about this one? Crime-thriller Sheep Without A Shepherd, by debut Malaysian-Chinese director Sam Quah, was a huge financial and critical hit when it was released in China in 2019, leaving me to wonder… is there something I don’t get? Perhaps linguistic or cultural subtleties?
A remake of an Indian-Malayalam thriller called Drishyam, the film follows the unfortunate misadventures of a lower class family led by Li Weijie (Xiao Yang), husband and father of two who owns an Internet equipment company and brags about watching thousands of movies. After his teenage daughter’s dire encounter with a disgusting rich boy leads to a violent crime, Weijie must use his cinematic knowledge to defend his family, because that boy happened to be the son of an important mayoral candidate and the chief of police.
I would like to understand how this could be perceived as a serious thriller. It starts off weirdly comical, complete with light jingle-like music and cartoonish performances, and shifts to the extra dramatic real quick, with slow-motion montages and a loud score highlighting every twist and turn. One of these montages just cuts between Xiao Yang’s goofily frightened face and a shepherd’s water bottle slowly hitting the ground for way too long. Another features all our main characters crying or panicking in the rain, while every raindrop looks like a giant pearl dramatically bouncing off their heads. I laughed out loud more than once, not just a subtle guffaw, but a great big belly laugh, because… what is even happening here? To be clear, this is meant to be serious, but why is sexual abuse mixed in with a plot about covering up a crime with tricks stolen from blockbusters? Why is a tiny child being very seriously interrogated by cops? A huge chunk of the world loved this, so maybe I’m way wrong, but I would fit this squarely into the good-bad category. Maybe it would have worked better as an actual comedy, or maybe I just find intensely exaggerated melodrama very funny — who knows! ■
Sheep Without A Shepherd is on-demand until Sept. 2.
To see the complete Fantasia Film Festival program and more details about tickets and streaming, please visit their website.
For more film and TV coverage (including reviews of more on-demand Fantasia movies that are still available to watch), please visit our Film & TV section.