Follow TV Tropes


Film / Party Monster

Go To

"I think it's so important to begin with a bang, don't you? Let 'em know something horrible is going to happen, and then — poof! We're suddenly elsewhere. Michael Alig's Blood Feast party. Just a quiet night out with a few friends..."

Party Monster is a darkly comic 2003 film about the rise and fall of infamous club promoter Michael Alig. The film covers his partnership with fabulous and attention-seeking socialite James St. James, his success in the outrageous '90s club scene, and the ensuing downward spiral of outrageous behavior culminating in the murder and dismemberment of roommate and drug dealer Angel Melendez. The framing device is that years after the murder, James St. James has found success as a writer, and retells the events of his friendship with Michael over the course of an interview.

The film stars Macaulay Culkin as Michael Alig, Seth Green as James St. James, Dylan McDermott as Peter Gatien, Wilson Cruz as Angel Melendez, and Chloe Sevigny as Gitsie. The film was a critical and commercial failure at the time of its release, but has gone on to have a reasonable cult following.


Not to be confused with the 1998 "shockumentary" of the same name, and about the same individuals or the 1960 Halloween classic Mad Monster Party.

Party Monster provides examples of the following tropes:

  • Ambiguously Bi: Michael has some Homoerotic Subtext with his drug dealer Angel and eventually ends up at least intimate with Gitsie.
  • Based on a True Story: The film draws from the real-life James St. James' memoir Disco Bloodbath as well as the 1998 documentary.
  • Bathtub Bonding: Between Michael and Gitsie. With added uncomfortable humor in the form of Michael crossly declaring his health issues mean that he can no longer pee, a problem that clears up shortly as soon as they're in the water together.
  • Benevolent Boss: Peter Gatien is reserved and professional, and he doesn't put up with Michael's bad habits. He seems like a reasonable authority figure... at least for a while.
  • Black Comedy, including...
    • Bloody Hilarious: Though notably not with actual blood; blood and guts are just a running motif.
  • Camp: More than a little, yeah.
  • Cloudcuckoolander: Christina Superstar, though drugs almost certainly help her achieve this state.
  • Club Kid: Quelle surprise. In the most extreme fashion possible.
  • Concert Kiss: Michael and Gitsie, minus the applause and while dressed as drag!Hitler.
  • Conditioned to Accept Horror: A low-key, non-murderous example — sexual abuse has obviously done a pretty serious number on Michael's sense of intimacy and appropriate behavior, like not French kissing your mother good night or feeling up your boss on your third meeting.
  • Converse with the Unconscious: James keeps passing out/overdosing in the middle of conversations, which does not stop Michael from continuing to talk about himself.
  • The Dark Side: The police assume Peter Gatien is behind everything that goes on at his clubs, and try to win Michael's confidence by comparing Michael to Luke Skywalker and his employer to the evil, corruptive Empire. That's... not quite the state of things.
  • Decadent Court: Metaphorically speaking, and Michael's the king.
  • Dinner with the Boss: A particularly dysfunctional dinner, in this case.
  • Downer Ending: Michael ends up in jail for killing his drug dealer Angel.
  • Dreaming the Truth: James ultimately puts together the truth of the murder during a hallucination of a giant rat telling him what it witnessed on the night of Angel's death.
  • Empathy Pet: Keoki and Michael picked up their cat as a stray on the night they first met, and Michael dotingly refers to it as their child. As their relationship wanes and Michael starts to run aground, first he ends up feeding the cat cocaine, then it starves to death while he's passed out.
  • Entendre Failure: "Would that I were a glove on that hand..."
  • Even Bad Men Love Their Mamas: Inverted; Michael's mother continues to dote on the memory of her son as a sweet little boy, even when he's a coked-up misbehaving socialite. She seems to have bought into the Club Kid phenomenon at least a little bit herself.
  • Eyepatch of Power: Peter wears one of these. Early on in their acquaintance Michael assumes it's a fashionable affectation and gets shot down.
  • Fashion Dissonance: The club kids' outfits are this, when they aren't outright unbelievably garish. Everyone looks like a late-80s/early-90s Rummage Sale Reject at best (with considerable overlap with drag-like performance and makeup).
  • Foregone Conclusion: The film starts right off the bat with James St. James as a published author talking about Michael Alig, convicted murderer.
  • Foreshadowing: Michael tells an anecdote about being a kid and hatching a plan to run away with his first boyfriend, hidden in a large cardboard box. They end up hacking up Angel's body and disposing of it in such a box.
  • Freudian Excuse: James St. James has little patience for Michael's depressing backstory, as his own childhood was not terribly happy either.
  • Future Slang: Michael's self-invented slang walks the line between neologism and narm.
  • Gory Discretion Shot: Angel's murder is not shown as graphically as one might expect, but it's still pretty ugly, and the process of disposing of the body is discussed in nauseating detail.
  • Happy Dance: Dancing around to Stacey Q's "Two Of Hearts", though notably to cheer up rather than from an excess of joy.
  • Hard-Work Montage: James St. James always claims to be writing a novel, but before Michael's complete collapse he has barely two sentences to rub together. After things reach their complete nadir, he finally gets down to business and hacks out an entire manuscript of what will eventually become Disco Bloodbath. Or did he? In any case, it sets up his nightmarish revelation sequence.
  • Heterosexual Life-Partners: James St. James and Michael Alig's "sick and twisted buddy movie" friendship, though neither of them is particularly heterosexual.
  • Hookers and Blow
  • Hypocritical Humor: Young Michael's protests that he doesn't do drugs and his horror at Keoki using cocaine comes across (very darkly) this way in the context of the Foregone Conclusion.
  • I Just Want to Have Friends: Michael's stated goal with the Club Kids is to make life one big party for other lonely young rejects, and quite a few like-minded people end up roommates with him, or in his social orbit.
  • Ignored Confession: Michael talks pretty freely about killing and cutting a man up, and James assumes he's just joking with his usual regard for good taste.
  • Implied Love Interest: Gitsie ends up one of Michael's admirers/proteges, and they're at least shown bathing together, with comparisons between their rehab visit and a "second honeymoon" and Michael in prison jokes about conjugal visits before he finds out she's died of an overdose during his absence.
  • Incredibly Lame Pun
    (James St. James, meeting Keoki for the first time, Michael's Hawaiian boyfriend) "Oh, aloha. How about a lei?"
  • Is This Thing On?: The film starts with James St. James being interviewed. "Testing, testing, 1, 2, 3, test...osterone, testicular cancer—" (chuckle) "Tess of the D'Urbervilles."
  • Jerkass: Michael progresses from merely insecure, to affectedly callous, to really callous, a genuine asshole, and a murderer.
  • Manic Pixie Dream Boy: Michael is this, declaring Keoki his new boyfriend on the spot despite protests that he's straight, dubbing him no longer a baggage handler but DJ Superstar Keoki, hauling him on a stolen taxi ride and ensuing chase across town, and sharing their first kiss (or more) in a dumpster, all on one night. Unfortunately, he's also a little volatile.
  • Meet Cute: Michael and James meet when the former is a washroom attendant dazzled by St. James' affected charm and glamour.
  • The Mentor: Though the mentor is decidedly younger than the usual instance of this trope — Michael seeks out James St. James to "teach [him] to be fabulous", and he ends up being his proper introduction to the New York club scene and all that entails.
  • Naughty Nurse Outfit: Michael memorably wears one of these at a party inspired by his most recent OD and subsequent trip to the hospital. It's constructed mostly out of surgical masks and held on by the audience's collective desire not to see the kid from Home Alone naked.
  • Older Than They Look: Possibly due to casting — Macaulay Culkin was 22 at the time of filming, and the film follows Alig's life well into his 30s, but in-story Michael's boyish looks coupled with his occasionally childish wardrobe choices make him come across much younger, and during his questioning the police talk to him like he's about 12.
  • Oral Fixation: Gitsie and Michael are both seen with (heart-shaped) lollipops fairly frequently — including during Michael's police interrogation.
  • Posthumous Narration: "So come with me now, on the last night of my life..." (Subverted, in that St. James isn't talking about a literal death, but the perfect storm of events that catapults him out of the club scene.)
  • Psychopathic Manchild: Guess who. (Answer: pretty much all of the Club Kids, though Michael's arguably the worst.
    "But it's my birthday and I want a Blood Feast!"
  • Pushed in Front of the Audience: Michael and a few of the Club Kids are mistakenly understood to be performing rather than merely appearing at a club on one occasion, resulting in "Money, Success, Fame, Glamour".
    Club MC: "Five minutes to showtime."
    Michael and James: "Showtime!?"
    Brooke: "Your show."
    Michael: "But we don't have a show. We don't do anything."
    Club MC: "Curtain up at the end of this song."(leaves)
    Michael and James: "Song?!" *both laugh*
  • Protagonist Journey to Villain
  • Real Name Ultimatum: James knows he's crossed a line when Michael furiously calls him by his much more prosaic real name, but he's mostly just pissed.
  • Reality Is Unrealistic: While the drug use of the characters is excessive, the filmmakers admitted they actually toned it down significantly from real life for this reason.
  • Refuge in Audacity: Pretty much the Club Kid M.O.
  • Sassy Secretary: Peter's secretary is downright dour, and also his wife, but she's definitely a snarker.
  • Scary Non-White Man: Angel is not one of these at all, despite filling the role of Michael's drug dealer and occasionally having to show up to shake him and his friends down for payment. He comes across as a rather disillusioned Only Sane Man thrust among childish, exploitative addicts.
  • Shut Up, Hannibal!: Peter Gatien's assistant delivers one sharply when an obviously strung-out Michael responds to being reprimanded by posturing about his social position and Peter liking him better. Her response is a scathing assessment of Alig's childish misbehavior and its roots in his insecurity.
  • Situational Sexuality: When accepting a phone call from James, Michael tells him how he doesn't want to leave prison since he can have all the sex and drugs he's ever wanted.
  • Spirit Advisor: In this case, a hallucinated giant rat.
  • Talking Down the Suicidal: Done with no grace whatsoever when James declares that Michael's too selfish to really kill himself.
  • Uncanny Valley Makeup
  • Unusually Uninteresting Sight: All of the Club Kids pouring into a fast food restaurant for burgers.
    • The characters treat bullying and sexual abuse like Unusually Uninteresting Experiences overall — Michael's mother is completely oblivious to the things that happened to her son in childhood, Michael himself talks about them flippantly, and James St. James waves them off as boring sob-story stuff.
  • Used to Be a Sweet Kid
  • Vitriolic Best Buds: Michael Alig and James St. James, though things fall apart before long and their barbs are a little stronger than bickering.