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Party Monster (2003)

good. evil. fun.

Rating: 8/10

Running Time: 99 minutes

UK Certificate: 18

The life of Michael Alig followed the kind of narrative arc that Hollywood loves to portray in films 'based on a true story'. Growing up in the Midwest without a father and abused as a child by the local priest, young Michael gets a job as a busboy in a New York nightclub. Under the tutelage of his new friend James St James, Michael rises rapidly in the club scene, attracting other outcasts around him to join his army of Club Kids and organising parties as outrageous as they are popular. Soon however Michael descends into excessive drug use and self-delusion, and is eventually imprisoned after murdering his dealer Angel and bragging about it in public.

Yet writer/directors Fenton Bailey and Randy Barbato make this relatively straight story become something very queer indeed by focussing not so much on Michael as on his complicated relationship with James – his mentor, lover, rival for club celebrity, emotional support, betrayer, and the author of the book from which this film has been adapted. The film opens with James giving a press interview about his new book 'Party Monster'. It ought to be James' moment of glory, but instead he complains about finding himself 'playing sidekick in a sick and twisted buddy movie'. In one way or another, James' style, habits and life have all been stolen by Michael, and even as James tries to regain some control (and some lost credit) by telling the story his way, Michael continues to butt in and take over, exerting his charismatic, manipulative influence over James' narrative just as he did with James' life. As these two drama queens jockey for prominence, the film's narration becomes a bitchy affair with little regard for truth or grip on reality, as fickle and illusory as the celebrity it describes.

Seth Green is a revelation as the jealous James – ridiculous, rapier-witted and cursed always to be in the orbit of Michael's rising (and falling) star. Macaulay Culkin is cleverly cast in the rôle of Michael, proving as cherubic, lovable and downright annoying as he was in the 'Home Alone' movies that made his name in the early 1990s. In fact 'Party Monster' is just like a gay, adult version of 'Home Alone 2: Lost in New York' – only this time, when a character gets hit over the head with a hammer, he is not magically recovered by the next scene.

'Party Monster' is loud, brash and unapologetically over-the-top, like the characters it portrays. And it proves to be a monster of many parts – all at once a colourful biopic, a camp horror, a snapshot of the 1980s, a revenger's tragedy, and of course a buddy movie. Party on!

It's Got: A giant talking rat with a story to tell, and Marilyn Manson playing a transvestite acidhead called Christina

It Needs: less sex, fewer drugs, less swearing - goodness, kids just have no values anymore


A clever, funny tale of people at their most irresponsible and unhinged, which puts the 'high' back into high camp.