Oh what a night!

“Party Monster” parts the glittery curtain of New York’s club scene.

Gabriel Shapiro

Everybody deserves a second chance, right? We believe that people can repent, reform and start anew. Can a young New York club kid who, in a drug-induced stupor, went awry and killed a friend with a hammer, atone and be forgiven? When a couple of directors best known for their documentaries about the seedier, campier sides of life make a mediocre-at-best film based on a story so fantastic anyone should have had a hit with it, they can remake that dog as a biography, right? When a child actor returns to the screen after a long hiatus he can be forgiven his past cinematic crimes and reassume a place of dignity in the glare of fame’s spotlights, right?

“Party Monster” carries the baggage of all of these sinners, some more heavily than others, and it doesn’t look like anyone genuinely wants to be saved.

“Party Monster” is based in part on James St. James’ novel “Disco Bloodbath: A Fabulous But True Tale of Murder in Clubland” and on the 1998 film documentary “Party Monster” by the same directors as this film.

The novel was St. James’ account of his own fabulousness and the life he and other superstars of the New York club set lived. There was decadent freedom and constant partying and, oh yeah, the murder of one of their contemporaries.

St. James relates the confession of club kid luminary Michael Alig, in which Alig tells in lurid detail how he and another drugged-up clubber beat, suffocated, poisoned, dismembered and disposed of a drug dealer and club-goer that St. James seems to have always disliked.

The whole story is awash with vivid memories. Almost too vivid,for someone who claims to have been as incapacitated by drugs for the period the book covers as St. James does.

Director/producer team Fenton Bailey and Randy Barbato have made other documentaries. Their biggest hit to date, “The Eyes of Tammy Faye,” was a hilarious look into the twisted world and long fall from grace of Tammy and the whole Bakker clan. Bailey and Barbato visited club kid territory in 1998 when their documentary version of this story failed to make a splash.

When St. James’ novel came begging to be adapted, these two jumped at the chance to rework their documentary into a new film.

These guys have a knack for bad storytelling. How else can you explain the ability to take a story that any true crime TV show could make interesting, add a big budget and come up with a stinker?

Murder, drugs, parties, cross-dressing, New York and everything else people seem to be drawn to, especially when it turns tragic, and they still can’t put together an interesting 90 minutes. There’s no compelling drama, you couldn’t care less about the silly characters, the costumes are great, but we only see each one briefly. Here is the real crime: Depriving a perfectly good story of any entertainment value.

And now, the star of the show, perhaps the kernel of that morbid curiosity that is still drawing you to this movie despite the resoundingly negative reviews: Macaulay Culkin, all grown up. We ask ourselves if we can forget little Kevin McCallister’s face-slapping and one-liners and allow Culkin to become a man. Of course he can, but only if his new work displays the positive effects of his exile and confirms a change for the good.

Culkin might have wasted his chance in his role as Michael Alig, St. James’ wayward protege and the killer. Culkin is not alone in his terrible performance. The delivery of the badly written lines is enough to make you want to stab yourself in the ear. Most of the actors in this movie are going to try to leave this one off the resume, but Culkin, having been out of the limelight for almost ten years, might have had the most to lose. Remember when Travolta resurfaced in “Pulp Fiction” to wide acclaim? The industry couldn’t put him in enough movies. It was years before the weight of his own bad acting dragged him back down again. Culkin might only get to rise to the surface briefly, flail his arms in this terrible film, and sink again to the dark depths, confined to our memories as the little boy from the “Home Alone” franchise.

Seth Green is the same Seth Green he’s been since “My Stepmother Is An Alien”: a dry wit, a snide remark, a funny face, this time in a wig and false lashes. There is never so much as a hint at any real range this actor might have, so we’re left to assume there just isn’t any.

No indie film about young people or club life would be complete without Chloe Sevigny, and she shows up here in a useless role as an unexplained entity who pops in, hangs out a bit, then dies just as quickly. She seems to hold out some kind of de-queerifying salvation for Culkin’s Alig in his slapdash phoned-in repentance moment, and that makes her presence that much more uncomfortable. Her character doesn’t have any attributes except being female and a late addition to the group, and therefore it just doesn’t work.

There aren’t many highlights here, just an ultimately unfulfilling look at wasted lives. Not wasted because of the hedonism, sex, drugs and parties, but because the creativity and fun were erased in a deluge of crime. Their only legacy is destruction – by drug addiction, by greed, by any number of the everyday killers.

There’s no lament for the end of something, just the focus on the disgusting evidence, as if everything leading up to the death of the scene was just a long prelude to the real story of death told by the forensic scientists. The movie reads like life in that sense, always looking toward the arrival and never taking account of the journey taken getting anywhere. The filmmakers are so intent on telling the story of a murder that they miss the rest of what went on.