Directed by Fenton Bailey and Randy Barbato (1998)
Reviewed by MaT, added on Feb 16 2007
Right now, our culture is obsessed with celebrities "famous for being famous". Paris Hilton and her ilk are plastered all over the tabloids, as America can't quite keep it's glorifying eye off talentless rich kids. Today's tabloid fodder were not the first, nor the last, "created famous" individuals, but few have fallen as far as Michael Alig, New York's party promoter extraordinaire who had a drug filled glamorous rise and a nosedive fall straight into a federal penitentiary. Party Monster is his story (or, some of it).
Ask most people about Michael Alig, and nearly all will say "Who?" In the late 80's and early 90's, Alig was the "it" boy of the New York party scene. From all accounts, he was one of those people with an infectious personality that others were just drawn too. It didn't matter if he was pissing on someone's face or trashing a McDonald's, he just had "it", whatever "it" is. Everyone knows somebody like this and Alig was no different. He made a name for himself as a party promoting wiz kid who was able to make any club the happening place to be on any given night. Alig and his cronies became so well-known that they frequented Geraldo's talk show, were on the payrolls of numerous clubs to do nothing more than "show up", and became pop culture celebrities. As the documentary points out, most of the Club Kids (they were even given a moniker) were just kids with trust funds being as ridiculous and over-the-top as possible. Everything changed in 1996 when, in a drug induced haze, Alig and his roomate killed a friend by beating him over the head with a hammer, pouring Drano down his throat, sawing off his legs and then dumping him into a river.
I was pretty disappointed with this documentary, which at only 57 minutes, barely scratches the surface of possibilities to examine the rise and fall of Alig. We get interviews with Alig's mother, a few of his Club Kids groupies, but no real information of any kind that would help one to understand how Alig got so successful in the first place. How did Alig come to obtain his money? How did he rise up and replace the other notable party promoters in NYC? How did he influence the Club Kids culture? None of this is examined, which is a shame because it's pretty important to the story. Directors Bailey and Barbato interview Alig in prison and grossly misuse the footage. In fact, there's hardly any interview footage with Alig at all. For a documentary about the guy, you would think we'd get some more of his own insight rather than relying on people like Michael Musto to fill in the details. For his part, Alig comes off as a smug, arrogant, and completely unrepenting individual and what little interview footage of him is contained never touches upon his actual role in the murder. Another piece of vital information that is largely ignored in the documentary is that Alig bragged about the murder for many months leading up to his arrest. The documentary shows one piece of footage, three months before his arrest, where he tells an interviewer that he killed Melendez, but the film never follows up on it.
The rest of the documentary is just a collection of clips that try to piece together how and when the murder took place, and the aftermath that happened when it was over. We also get some footage from Blood Feast, which Alig was a huge fan of and used to promote some of his parties. I got the not-so-subtle impression that the filmmakers were implying "Hey...he liked gory movies like Blood Feast...and he chopped somebody's legs off...hint hint, wink wink" although again, his love of horror films is never examined in any length or given a reason as to its possible relevance in the murder.
Party Monster is a pretty weak ass documentary. It's like some amateur version of something you would see on the Lifetime channel. It focuses more on the fashion statements of the Club Kids than the actual "Party Monster" himself, Alig. Admittedly, Alig's story generates some weird fascination, kind of the same feeling you get when you read stories about Ted Bundy and people like that. It's really just kind of sick, sad, and tragic, but for some reason it's still interesting. It doesn't help that Alig is the definition of an unsympathetic person and when you see him in this film, you'll get that nasty gut reaction that happens when you are around people you wish didn't exist in the first place. Alig is ultimately unimportant and the sad thing is that he just doesn't seem to understand that. He wanted desperately to be famous, and now, sadly, his actions have granted his wish.
If you don't know much about the story, then Party Monster may be worth picking up just to get a feel for all the players involved and to get a cursory explanation of the events that took place. If you already know of Alig and the murder, then there really isn't anything of value in the film. This documentary should not be mistaken for the 2003 film of the same name starring Seth Green and Macauley Culkin (a feature film directed, once again, by Bailey and Barbato). To find out what Alig has been up to the past 10 years, click here