It seems as if something always has to go wrong when I’m preparing to get down to Scranton for Mondo Movie Night. While past problems have largely been my own fault, this time I had to contend with Mother Nature. Due to heavy rains caused by one of the hurricanes that had recently ravaged Florida, a great deal of Susquehanna County (Pennsylvania) was flooded. I was severely dismayed when I woke up around noon (I had the day off from work and enjoyed a nice long slumber) and heard that a trip to Scranton could be unlikely.
Not wanting to miss out on Mondo Movie Night, I tempted fate and decided to investigate local road conditions on my own. Thankfully most of the flooding had receded by the time I was out and about and I did in fact reach Scranton later that day, fully prepared for a night of ghoulish fun! I arrived in town around 5 P.M. and had an hour to kill before I had to pick up my girlfriend Tara. That hour was well spent, as I managed to purchase several DVDs from Suncoast Motion Picture Company. After Tara had finally finished her shift, we had a luxurious fast food meal and then spent the next four hours at her house. At 9:15, we headed out the door and quickly made our way to Endless Mountain Cinema.
For the first time ever, we arrived early and to our complete and utter surprise there was a huge line outside of the theater. While waiting to go into the theater, I made the acquaintance of a young couple that I noticed at the first two Mondo Movie Nights. They were simply ecstatic about seeing Sam Raimi’s “Evil Dead II” on the big screen and were a total joy to talk with. At 10 P.M., the theater staff finally let us go inside, and this is where surprise number two occurred. I entered the building under the assumption that Dr. Zombie had come through with my complementary tickets (a perk granted due to my coverage of the Mondo Movie Night phenomenon).
I figured that I’d just have to give my name, get checked off on a list, and then waltz through the doors. Imagine my amazement when I was turned away at the door by the theater staff! Luckily I just had to go to the ticket booth out front and confirm my “VIP” status. My mind was reeling at this point and all I could think was, “What else is going to go wrong tonight?!” Luckily nothing else did go wrong and the rest of the evening was smooth sailing. After securing a seat, I began to wander around and snap photos with my camera and greeted the event’s hosts and coordinators. I also managed to chat with J.W., the promotions manager at Endless Mountain Cinema.
In recent memory, I cannot recall meeting anyone that was so intensely passionate about their job and about movies (specifically horror films). During our conversation, J.W. gave me a heads up on some of the possible themes for future events, including a plausible theatrical viewing of “A Nightmare Before Christmas” and maybe even an 80’s horror film retrospect! Eventually we each had to go our separate ways because the show was about to begin, but I’m going to make sure that J.W. and I get to talk some more when we meet again.
Once everyone had taken their seats, the festivities began. The main attraction for the evening was supposed to be the “Ash Impersonator Contest,” but it had to be canceled. Surpisingly, not one single person in the theater was dressed as Ash. Not one! To remedy this, Doc Zombie instead had a horror trivia contest. Yours truly ended up being a contestant (my thanks go to Tara for helping my hand raise itself), and claimed victory after answering (what I thought) were two very easy questions. The first trivia question was to name the three films that made up Lucio Fulci’s so-called “Zombie Trilogy.” (Namely “Zombie,” “City of the Living Dead,” and “The Beyond.”)
After answering correctly I made it to round two which involved another similar question. “Name any three films made by Herschell Gordon Lewis.” The other two contestants could only manage to name “Blood Feast,” which allowed me to claim victory! (My answer: “Blood Feast,” “Wizard of Gore,” and “The Gore Gore Girls!”) I ended up getting a pretty cool prize pack that included a ton of promotional items from Media Blasters (mini-posters, DVD trailer reels, etc.), an “Army of Darkness” comic book (Issue #1), and a faux police report concerning Leatherface, with Andrew Bryniarski’s autograph on it! (For those who don’t know, Andrew played Leatherface in the 2003 remake of “Texas Chainsaw Massacre.”)
Caught up in the moment, I held the prizes above my head and screamed “Hail to the King Baby!” After taking my seat, it was Tara’s turn to get up front for the “Scream Queen Contest.” Unfortunately, she and most of the other contestants were outclassed by a girl that probably could’ve shattered glass if she had a microphone in her hand. Tara still managed to walk off with a parting gift: a prize pack made up of promotional material from Media Blasters! Being the loving girlfriend that she is, Tara kindly added her winnings to my “Evil Dead II” barf-bag of movie swag.
Once the screamers all sat down, a group of young men marched to the front for the “Demonically Possessed Hand Contest!” No word of lie, if plates were available at the time, these guys would’ve smashed them off their own heads! One guy ripped out a chunk of his hair, one flipped himself onto the floor after slapping himself silly, another guy took off one of his shoes and starting beating himself with it, and yet another went diving into the front row of theater seats moments before his finale, where he crashed into a wall! Truthfully I don’t recall who won or what the main prize was, but damn, you don’t see that every day! I think the main prize should’ve been payment for any hospital bills!
As the battered and bruised contestants made their way back to their seats, a small group of people walked to the front of the theater. Only these brave few had entered the “Gross Out Contest,” in which they had to eat gross food for a big prize. Round One consisted of raw SPAM, straight from the can. Those that ate the most or finished their entire tin of SPAM (and survived), moved on to Round Two. This time, a bowl of Miracle Whip was the meal of choice. By the time the contest hit Round Three, only two guys were left. Their mission? To eat an entire can of mystery meat/canned meatloaf. Needless to say, the winner was the guy that wasn’t about to regurgitate. Once again, I’m not sure what the grand prize was for this contest, but it may have involved a certificate to get your stomach pumped at the nearest hospital. Blech, how could anyone eat that stuff?!
With the contests out of the way it was finally time to see “Evil Dead II,” but first, Doctor Zombie gave a brief introduction. During his speech, he noted that the print of the film that he had obtained was not in the best of shape. Once the film began, the audience quickly saw what he meant. There was some visible damage to the print, and the soundtrack was very tinny at times, or rather, most of the time. Still this in no way detracted from the fun that the audience had. Mere minutes into the film the heckling and cheering began and barely ever stopped; “Evil Dead II” proved that it was still an entertaining film and a total blast to watch.
After an hour and a half of sheer b-movie bliss, the house lights came up and the crowd slowly shuffled out to the lobby. As always, Doc Zombie and his fellow entrepreneurs had plenty of cool stuff for sale. I picked up copies of “The Manitou” (the only “evil Native American midget shaman” film in existence) and Lucio Fulci’s “Touch of Death” (on DVD-R) and also got a really cool reproduction of an Italian “Dawn of the Dead” poster (courtesy of Tara). Before we finally left the theater, I managed to get a picture with Doc Zombie and his significant other before bidding them both a fond farewell.
Mondo Movie Night is quickly evolving into something much bigger than what most people had originally anticipated. The number of people attending each event is rapidly growing to the point where I think it will start selling out completely! The main appeal of this event isn’t entirely the movies being shown. A good chunk of the people show up to have fun, plain and simple. To paraphrase a bit of what (promotions manager) J.W. told me, “Theaters nowadays are just herding people in to see a film, then herding them back out. Moviegoers aren’t really being allowed to experience the movie! The key to it all is audience participation, and you don’t have that at regular movie theaters!”
The next event is scheduled on Saturday, October 23rd, and will be the biggest thing to hit the Scranton area yet! Why pay to see one movie and enjoy contests when you can enjoy an entire day of movies and contests! The “Haunted Halloween Horror Film-Fest” will begin around noon and run for the rest of the day. I haven’t gotten a complete list of movies that will be featured, but it seems that the majority may be in the public domain (and there’s absolutely nothing wrong with that). Included in the marathon will be George Romero’s original “Night of the Living Dead,” Francis Ford Coppola’s “Dementia 13,” and several more! The night will end on a high note with the showing of Dario Argento’s “Suspiria,” one of the loudest and (supposedly) most terrifying films ever made! While that leaves an entire month to plan things out, I just know that fate will throw me a few curve balls. But hell or high water, I am going to be in the audience that day, all day. You can count on that!