Missing Mondo Movie Night – By Jordan Garren

 Lately I’ve been doing a lot of reminiscing about the last decade of my life; revisiting all of the good times (and some of the bad) and in doing so, I realized that it’s nearly been two years since I attended the last official Mondo Movie Night screening. (Namely Mondo Movie Night # 7, which took place in April of 2005.) That’s when I fell to my knees, shook my fists in futility at the mockingly bright blue sky, and finally, cried for hours on end while curled into the fetal position. Ok, maybe that’s not what happened, but I can say that thinking of Mondo Movie Night brought back some grand memories, as it was one of the main things I had to look forward to on a frequent basis. I felt that I was part of something huge, that was potentially going to grow and grow into something even larger. There was even talk that it could turn into a miniature horror convention at one point.

And then it happened: Mondo Movie Night vanished and was no more. Why did this happen and who, if anyone, is responsible for the disappearance of the one event that many cult movie fans in the tri-state area had to look forward to every other month? I can’t tell you for sure, but allow me to give my thoughts and opinions on this subject. Going back to the first few shows, it seemed like Mondo Movie Night was really picking up steam, and Blake Monahan and his crew were so damned energetic and constantly coming up with new ways to keep the crowd entertained. There were always contests and giveaways before each film was screened, and many times, people came dressed up in costumes! It was always fun and festive, and we all had a blast (save for some film snobs that would look disgusted when anyone talked during a movie). But, after pulling off six successful shows and one crazy all day film festival, something suddenly changed for the worse.

During the screening of “Punk Rock Holocaust” I sensed that something was amiss, especially when Blake offered the task of setting up future Mondo Movie Nights to yours truly. Though I would’ve loved to do that, I just couldn’t since I lived so far off and didn’t have the contacts and connections that he did. This troubled me a bit, but I thought nothing of it because two months later, Mondo Movie Night #7 was in full swing with a screening of Tobe Hooper’s “Texas Chainsaw Massacre.” While there were some technical problems with the movie (i.e. the filmstrip caught on fire!) it was a return to form for Blake and everyone had a wonderful time. However, this was officially the final Mondo Movie Night.

After this show was completed, another was quickly announced. At first Jim Van Bebber’s “Manson Family” was the alleged film of choice, and then it changed to a Troma Weekend event that boasted “The Toxic Avenger,” “Citizen Toxie: The Toxic Avenger IV,” and “Tromeo and Juliet.” Needless to say, neither screening ever came to fruition, and soon, all of us Mondo Movie Night fans were left sad, lonely, heartbroken, and confused. Eventually Blake ended up working briefly as the Head of Acquisitions for Troma and managed to squeak out three thrown-together screenings for “Citizen Toxie,” “Mother’s Day,” and “Cannibal! The Musical.” After “Citizen Toxie,” the final two events had hardly any audience members, and there were no contests or anything of particular interest. It’s as if Blake had finally given up. After “Cannibal,” the screenings ended, as did Blake’s short career at Troma.

Since I don’t know the details of his sudden departure from Troma, I can only surmise that Blake decided to try his own hand at making an independent Troma-esque film of his own. The last I heard, Blake was (and still is) working on his film debut, “Kickball: The Movie.”  I watched the teaser trailer and it has the look and feel of a Troma film! Good stuff!) But getting back to the rhetorical question at hand, who’s to blame for the end of this once great event?! Your first inclination is to probably blame Blake as he started the event and let it slowly waste away. I personally don’t blame him because Mondo Movie Night was a labor of love for him. Blake (and many of us attending) missed out on the grindhouse film era, and he was just trying to give us a taste of what it may have been like, but without the semen-stained theater seats, the smell of urine and booze, and/or the numerous cats that populated the old grindhouse theaters in order to control the rat population.

Also, putting on these events helped springboard Blake into Troma for a brief time, which has ultimately led to the creation of “Kickball: The Movie.” No dear reader, I can’t blame a man for moving on to bigger and better things, especially if he’s going to be adding his own brand of films to Troma’s growing film library. So if the blame can’t really fall on Blake, then it must be my fault right? I mean, he did try to pass the torch onto me and all, and I perhaps could have saved Mondo Movie Night. Realistically though, it would have been impossible for me to do such a thing. I live an hour away from the theater, I don’t have any close contacts or connections that I could utilize in order to obtain films for screenings, and I have a full time job that doesn’t allow me too much spare time for any big projects. Nope, you can’t blame me either! (Ha! Rationalization rules!)

I guess that leaves the general populace left to take the blame then, right? Perhaps if more people came to the shows, then Mondo Movie Night would still be around. Or perhaps, those that did attend should have attempted to interact more openly and maybe even gotten involved in the planning and advertising of each Mondo Movie Night. (Sigh…) There are a lot of “perhaps” or “maybe ifs” that I could cycle through, but in the end, what’s the point? Mondo Movie Night is long gone. Even so, I can’t help but think back to all the fun times I had, and all the great people I’d met and became friendly with. And I think that’s really why any of us repeatedly went to Mondo Movie Night: To meet other cult movie fans and be with “our own kind.” No it wasn’t just the movies and contests that made these events great, but the people that came to them. I guess that’s why I miss Mondo Movie Night so much, because I’ve lost contact with nearly all of my fellow “spookydudes” and “mondo moviephiles.”

Maybe one day Mondo Movie Night will make its triumphant return with some new blood leading the way, or maybe a similarly themed event will suddenly start up in a nearby city or county and help pave the way for the next generation of cult movie fans. Until that happens, I suppose I’ll just have to sit here and continue missing Mondo Movie Night. Now if you’ll excuse me, I’ll go back to crying in the fetal position once again.