Party Monster (2003)

Film #4: Party Monster (2003)

Okay. Party Monster. Wow. This little 75-minute “gem” is available on Netflix, so if you happen to be living a life devoid of glamorous camp and actors you recognize in ridiculous roles, you can fix that problem for only $7.99 a month. Party Monster tells the (absurdly enough) true story of the “Club Kid” culture that sprung up in New York during the late 80s around Michael Alig (played here by Macaulay Culkin). Alig was “mentored” in his party-promoting ways by one James St. James (Seth Green), which led him to plenty of wealth and some fame in its own right, a life of prodigality that ended in drug addiction and downright murder (for real, Alig murdered his dealer/friend Angel Melendez and is now in prison for it).

I mentioned the word “camp” up there. Yeah, Rocky Horror doesn’t have anything on this freak show. Actually, it might, but whereas Rocky Horror rubs me (emphatically) the right way, Party Monster burns to the touch. Right off the bat, you’ll notice the deplorable acting. Seth Green is bad; Culkin is worse. Green’s voice is perpetually an octave higher than its natural range, his words constantly demarcated by an irritating Butthead-like guffaw. Culkin is all sorts of amateur, flatly drawing out words in some weird attempt at being eccentric, and as the movie progresses he also picks up the annoying chuckling habit. Although the cast is rounded out by notables such as Wilmer Valderrama (That 70s Show) and Marilyn Manson (Marilyn Manson), the only one who escapes with any dignity intact is Chloe Sevigny, playing Alig’s drug-addicted beau who thinks of rehab as a sort of honeymoon. She happens to put in a quality performance, with a realism that’s out of place surrounded by all these caricatures. The movie might have been able to steer itself into the “So bad it’s good” category, except the acting is so bad it’s bad.

The camera work is inexpert and shaky, the story bogged down by overwrought and hammy admonitions about drug abuse and vanity. The only things the movie does (exceedingly) well are costume design and make-up. There’s an endless parade of outrageous appearances, my personal favorite being St. James’ troll outfit on the talk show. If you’re a make-up or wardrobe person, you should probably hit this movie up. I’d like to warn everyone outside of those fields to avoid this movie… but in all honesty, it’s a train wreck that I’m kind of glad I witnessed, if only because it was based on a true story that I wasn’t aware of previously.

Party Monster has become a cult film, and that designation pretty much determines how you’ll feel about it. If you can revel in cinematic atrocity, you’ll probably have a good time. If you take films seriously, you’ll probably want to kill yourself.

Final rating: 4/10

–James A. Janisse

Stray Observations:

  • Even with its 75 minute runtime, I was sick of this movie long before it ended.
  • What the hell is John Stamos doing as the talk show host?
  • To get an idea of how eccentric the real-life people this film is based on are, you need look no further than this picture of James St. James:

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