Welcome to Screen Gems, our weekend dive into queer and queer-adjacent titles of the past that deserve a watch or a rewatch.
The Monstrous: Party Monster
Not to be confused with the mediocre narrative feature of the same name, Fenton Bailey & Randy Barbato‘s chilling 1998 documentary traces the rise and fall of New York nightlife icon Michael Alig. In the 1980s, Alig relocated from rural Indiana to New York City where he emerged as a party promoter and unofficial leader of the so-called Club Kids, a group of largely LGBTQ nightlife personalities which included James St. James, DJ Keoki, RuPaul and Amanda Lepore. The Club Kids earned attention for their outrageous dress and ridiculous drug use.
Go figure, then, that this story ends in tragedy. Party Monster documents Alig and the Club Kids’ emergence as media stars and party promoters, as well as Alig’s excessive drug use. That life of excess and substance abuse eventually led Alig to murder his friend and drug dealer Angel Melendez in March 1996. The film recounts the disturbing lead up to the crime, and the even more horrific aftermath in which Alig flaunted his own role in the killing.
Like all of Bailey & Barbato’s work, Party Monster celebrates the LGBTQ and party elements of Alig’s story, as well as includes in-depth interviews with Alig, St. James, Keoki and the family of Melendez. It also plunges to unforeseen depths, laying bare the culture of New York’s underground. By far Bailey & Barbato’s darkest work–and one of their best–Party Monster is a must-see chapter in queer history, and one we pray never gets repeated.
Streams on World of Wonder Presents Plus.