Hey everyone! I’ve been playing catch-up on a handful of indie horror movies over the last few weeks, and here are my thoughts on two films I recently had the opportunity to watch—Benny Loves You from Karl Holt and Ryan Kruger’s Fried Barry.
Benny Loves You: When I first read the initial premise of Benny Loves You—a man’s childhood toy becomes sentient and embarks on a killing spree—I knew I was absolutely all in for this wacky little movie, and it didn’t disappoint. Brimming with ambition, ingenuity, and heaps of slash-tastic fun, Benny Loves You feels exactly like the type of movie I would have made with my toys back as a horror youngin, but writer/director/star Karl Holt does a much better job than I ever could have dreamt up, resulting in a wickedly funny horror comedy that also has something to say to those of us who maybe aren’t so keen on the idea of growing up anytime soon.
In Benny Loves You, we’re introduced to Jack (Holt), who is at a bit of a crossroads in his life. After a freak accident leaves both of his parents deceased, the twenty-something has to grow up rather quickly and start making all sorts of “big boy” decisions, including evaluating where he wants to live, his career, and whether or not it's time to move on from all this playthings, which includes an adorable stuffed toy named Benny that Jack has kept near and dear to him ever since he was a small child. As it turns out, Benny doesn’t exactly want to be separated from his buddy Jack, though, and as his longtime friend starts making some changes, Benny embarks on a deadly path of destruction, laying waste to anyone who threatens the lifelong friendship he shares with Jack.
As someone who absolutely adores horror movies involving inanimate objects that come to life and have a murderous agenda, Benny Loves You certainly spoke to my cinematic sensibilities in a big way. Because Holt doesn’t have a huge budget at his disposal, it was up to him to come up with some rather ingenious ways to bring his titular murder toy to life, and he does it in a way that’s both adorable and a bit alarming all the same, and the sequence where Benny goes bananas and obliterates a room of unsuspecting victims somehow works despite the ridiculousness of its setup. There’s also a bonanza of toy-centric trauma during the finale of Benny Loves You that left me chuckling throughout (it reminded me a lot of the Child’s Play remake’s finale), and I think that, as a whole, Holt has created a truly great horror comedy that may play up its laughs more so than it does its genre elements, but I think considering the film’s premise, that works in favor of what Holt was trying to achieve with Benny Loves You.
Also, I absolutely fell in love with Benny as a character and there’s something haunting about the vocals of the doll that left me unnerved, especially after hearing Benny’s cheerful chatter so often in the film. Perhaps it’s some leftover PTSD I have from the days where people would actually fight with other shoppers in the store I worked at over those damn Tickle Me, Elmo dolls in the ’90s, because I can still hear Elmo’s voice merrily declaring from his packaging, “Elmo Loves You!”
If I have one quibble with Benny Loves You, it’s that the film feels a bit long, and some of the bits end up feeling a little repetitive, but it wasn’t enough to derail the fun that I had with the film, and I look forward to seeing whatever Holt does next, because Benny Loves You was a wonderfully weird and funny experience that reminded me why I adore the subgenre of horror comedies above all others.
Movie Score: 3.5/5
Fried Barry: Now, on the other end of the genre spectrum is Ryan Kruger’s drug-fueled descent into WTF-ery territory, Fried Barry, a movie that is probably more of an “experience” than it is a traditional film, and sometimes that works to the advantage of Kruger’s ambitious efforts on Fried Barry, and other times, it just feels like Kruger gets weird to get weird, without there really being any purpose behind his directorial decisions here. But without a doubt, Fried Barry is one of the most bizarrely offbeat movies I’ve seen this year, and even if I didn’t totally love everything about it, the movie is still rattling around in my brain after these last few weeks, which says something about what Kruger is able to achieve with his feature film debut.
Taking place in South Africa, Fried Barry introduces us to its titular character (played by Gary Green), who is a heroin addict, a terrible husband, and a completely negligent father to boot. Barry’s life is a grimy mess, but things get even worse (or maybe better, depending on your viewpoint) after he’s abducted by aliens, and then returned to our planet, where an alien version of himself is now wandering the streets and getting into all sorts of shenanigans. Beyond the fact that “Alien Barry” is something of a fish out of water as he meanders around Cape Town, this new iteration of the character also emits some type of pheromone, too, making him a magnet for a series of weirdos and super horny women who all find themselves drawn to Barry for one reason or another. This magnetism leads “Alien Barry” to go on all sorts of adventures—usually involving drugs or sex—and this odyssey continues to meander until the film’s finale.
The thing about Fried Barry is that there is so much going on in the film, but ultimately, I’m still not exactly sure what any of it means, or if it actually means anything at all. At times, the film dabbles in creating a thesis about the all-consuming nature of addiction and the toll it takes on those we know and love, but it never really culminates into any sort of meaningful message, either, leaving us with a series of striking visuals, but very little narrative of consequence, and I wish Kruger had been able to strike a better balance with his material in Fried Barry.
That being said, there’s still a lot that I really appreciated about Fried Barry, as you can sense Kruger’s ambition in every single frame of the film, as he goes completely all out here. As I mentioned, on a visual level Fried Barry is hugely successful, with a rich and vivid palette working in tandem with the often dingy and dirty locales, which make for a fascinating visual juxtaposition. I also absolutely loved Fried Barry’s score from Haezer, and I have to commend Green for his performance as Barry in the film, where he has to play the character two ways, and does it while barely uttering any dialogue, either, which isn’t an easy thing to pull off. But Green’s performance is very much a standout against a lot of other roles I’ve seen so far this year, and I absolutely cackled when “Alien Barry” ends up consuming a bag full of Molly (or maybe it was Ecstasy—I’m no expert, obviously) much to the chagrin of some rave participants that sets up several other hilarious sequences.
As a whole, there are aspects of Fried Barry that worked well for me, but ultimately, the lack of a focused narrative does the film no favors, and considering the addiction that plagues its main character in the film, Fried Barry misses a real opportunity to say anything meaningful about addiction or the human experience as well. But Kruger shows great promise here, and I hope we can get more genre-defying films from him that are just a little more streamlined than what he’s created with Fried Barry.
Movie Score: 3/5
[Image Credits: Above images courtesy of Epic Pictures Group and Shudder.]