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PARTY MONSTER: A Shamelessly Campy Spectacle

Party Monster
Party Monster
World of Wonder

Some will argue that Fenton Bailey and Randy Barbato’s Party Monster, a bio-pic concerning New York Club Kid and convicted murderer, Michael Alig, is a competent motion picture. They're entitled to their opinion. The film has gained quite a cult following in the past few years, namely because of the presence of former child actor, Macaulay Culkin, in his first serious film role - if that's what you want to call it.

Party Monster tells the story of Michael Alig, who moves to New York as a teen and plugs himself in to the party scene, following on the coattails of the flamboyant club queen, James St. James – played by a fantastic Seth Green. Before long, Alig begins hosting his own parties at a club called the Limelight, which is owned by a man named Peter Gatian, who wears a patch over one eye and is played by none other than Dylan McDermott. Michael soon finds a boyfriend in up and coming DJ, Keoke. He becomes the talk of the town and hosts a series of outrageous costumed parties with grotesque and “fabulous” themes. James St. James and Michael have something of a love-hate relationship with one another, sharing mutual interests, including glamour, glitz, and drugs. Eventually, their fondness for drugs ultimately leads to a downward spiral, as both of them become addicted to heroin and an animal tranquilizer called Special K.

Michael’s extravagant and expensive parties become something of a burden on Peter Gatian, especially after Michael starts letting people in for free. Keoke and Michael start having problems, and so Michael turns to a drug dealer and wannabe Club Kid named Angel Melendez in order to feed his habit. When Michael’s addiction becomes worse and he starts to lose his grip on reality, Angel confronts him about his mounting drug debt. Michael has yet to pay for all of the heroin that he has been snorting. Things take a horrific turn when Michael murders Angel and dismembers his body, throwing the remains in box and tossing it in the river.

This is Party Monster, based on the book “Disco Bloodbath” by James St. James. Fenton Bailey and Ricky Barbatos take every opportunity to inject as much camp as possible into the film to offset some of the more disturbing scenes. They’re clearly going for a “black comedy” feel, but are not quite able to pull it off. First of all, the film was shot on digital video. It looks incredibly cheap. Added to this is the fact that Macaulay Culkin has never been a good actor. He just isn’t. His line readings are stilted, and his performance as Alig is incredibly bizarre. His attempts at homosexual mannerisms are awkward and way over-the-top, and he goes cross- eyed at times. His forced bouts of nervous laughter punctuate almost every other line. If it weren’t for the incredible performance of Seth Green as James St. James, the film would collapse. It must be said that, for all of the obvious issues, Macaulay Culkin’s performance does grow on you after a while. Roger Ebert described it as “fearless”, and I guess that’s an accurate description.

This film is a huge, exploitative mess. From the aforementioned reasons above, to the lack of the direction, to the trite and annoying film score, Party Monster is a disaster on every level - but that's exactly why I love it. You can’t stop watching it. I’ve seen this film several times. I keep going back to it. It’s the best kind of trash that there is, and I have added it to the list of my favorite camp classics. See this film for Culkin and Green, for Chloe Sevigny, for the spectacle of the Club Kids, for Marilyn Manson’s turn as a drag queen named Christina, for Dylan McDermott’s eye patch, and Diana Scarwid’s loopy performance as Michael’s mother.

Watch Party Monster as soon as possible. You won’t regret it.

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