Party Monster

Institute History

  • 1998 Sundance Film Festival


The eighties gave birth to a decadent attitude that permeated all aspects of society, from the extreme consumerism of Reagan politics to the nightlife of the New York underground party scene. Pushed from the Warhol era into their own warped carnival of excess, partyers constantly strove for newer, more intense highs. They eventually became known as the “club kids,” infamous for their outrageous looks and flamboyant behavior. Party Monster recounts the chilling tale of the rise and fall of a leader of this group, Michael Alig.

Through home-video footage of Michael and his friends, Fenton Bailey and Randy Barbato uniquely chronicle the frightening downward spiral. Along the way, they expose the evolution of drug dependence from cocaine to Ecstasy to Special K and ultimately to heroin. The parties began to take place in more dangerous locations and promote disturbing behavior, pushing the boundaries of convention and sanity. This mania for a new high ultimately clouded Michael’s judgment so badly that his reign ended with the brutal murder of Angel, a fellow club kid and roommate. One of the more frightening revelations of the film is that even though Michael made no effort to conceal his actions, it was nine months before he was brought to justice. By slickly combining candid interviews, astounding video footage, and a perfect sound track, Bailey and Barbato have created a highly stylized account of one bright young man’s transformation into a cold-blooded monster.

Fenton Bailey and Randy Barbato, Directors
Fenton Bailey and Randy
Barbato met at NYU Film School after graduating from Oxford University and Emerson College, respectively. In 1991 they formed World of Wonder Productions, producing and directing documentaries and series for HBO, Channel 4, and the BBC. In 1995 they won a Billboard Music Award for directing the music video for RuPaul’s “Supermodel.” That was followed in 1997 by a CableACE award for best direction of a comedy special for “Drop Dead Gorgeous.” Party Monster is their first feature film.

— Trevor Groth

Screening Details

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