Party Monster
3Ĺ out of 5 stars
R E V I E W   B Y   R I C H   C L I N E
party monster Camp documentarians Bailey and Barbato expand their 1998 "shockumentary" Party Monster into a narrative film, and the result is similar to their docs: colourful and silly yet also serious and deeply moving. Michael Alig (Culkin) is a young man in New York determined to become big on the early 1990s club scene. So with his pal James St James (Green) he creates the Club Kids, an army of drug-fuelled youths dressed in increasingly outlandish outfits who take the city by storm. Finally the club owner (McDermott) is happy, Michael's mother (Scarwid) is being pampered, and he has his pick of boyfriends (Valderrama) and girlfriends (Sevigny) until one day he mentions that he killed his drug dealer (Cruz). Oops.

Everything about this film is infused with fabulousness, from the costumes to the sets and, especially, the performances. After an absence of nine years, Culkin returns to cinemas with a type-smashing role ... which he's sadly not quite up to. He gets the physicality and campness just right, but never brings out the character below, except in a couple of rare serious scenes. By contrast, Green's St James is even more over-the-top, and yet there's a real person just barely visible underneath the hilarious costumes and drama queen antics. In many ways this is his movie, really (it's based on St James' book, Disco Bloodbath). Or at most it's a sort of deranged love story between Alig and St James, while most of the other characters stay well in the background. Meanwhile, Bailey and Barbato fill the film with quirky scenes, characters on the edge of drug-induced oblivion, and insanely colourful costumes. Yes, it's very self-aware and probably too arch. But their effortless and inventive weaving of zany surfaces with the more sobering truths below makes the film worth seeing. This is a cautionary film about drugs, madness, murder and rehab ... made more potent because these things are flippantly seen by the characters as a normal part of everyday life.

cert 18 themes, language, drugs, violence 13.Aug.03

dir-scr Fenton Bailey, Randy Barbato
with Macaulay Culkin, Seth Green, Chloe Sevigny, Wilson Cruz, Wilmer Valderrama, Justin Hagan, Diana Scarwid, Dylan McDermott, Marilyn Manson, Mia Kirshner, Natasha Lyonne, John Stamos
release US 5.Sep.03; UK 17.Oct.03
03/US 1h38

Queens of the ball: Green and Culkin in drag.

culkin green sevigny

and PARTY MONSTER ('98 doc)
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R E A D E R   R E V I E W S
send your review to Shadows... party monster Anna, England: 5 out of 5 stars "Wow! the film was amazing! I was awestruck when I saw it. Macaulay was fabulous as usual and the special appearance from the almighty Marilyn Manson was just so so so good! I will definitely try and see it again, and can't wait for it to come out on video/dvd. Oh yeah, I recently purchased the soundtrack and once again ... wow!" (12.Nov.03)

David Mullen, London: 5 out of 5 stars "I thought this film was ... Ďfabulousí of course. The costumes and the music were so nostalgic and hip! Culkinís performance was great as Alig and he created a great chemistry on screen with Keoki. All I can say is long live Club Kids and Iím gonna bring it back into fashion again in London!" (12.May.04)

Lucy, Birmingham: 5/5 "Absolute fabulous film. Mac, Seth, Chloe and Mr Manson were all amazing. Costumes and makeup was amazing. I recommend buying the DVD as the bonus features are also SUPERB! People interested in Michael Alig's life should visit his website." (20.Jul.04)

© 2003 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall