Alamo Drafthouse and Mondo have pulled out all the stops and made sure this special Rolling Roadshow Mondo Mystery movie was more then just a Mystery Movie. This was an event of epic proportions. There was no over-hyping this event by Mondo co-founder Justin Ishmael.
I really was not sure what was going to happen tonight for the 9th Mondo Mystery movie. The only thing I was sure of was I was going to spend an evening enjoying a movie with friends and having a special screen print made for the movie.
During my years of traveling, I have determined the following: The traveler is active; he strenuously searches for new people, new adventures, and new experiences. The tourist is passive; he expects interesting things to happen to him.
The same goes for Mondo Mystery Movie lovers. Alamo Drafthouse and Mondo have changed the rules for the movie-going experience. We are actively a part of the adventure, but in the end we are truly passive.
We are Mondo Mystery Movie travelers in the way that we enjoy the adventure of the Mondo Mystery movie from start to finish. From the very moment tickets go on sale, to the waiting in line, we strenuously seek access to the event and we actively try to guess what movie it might be and who the artist might be, and participate in the rumors.
We are Mondo Mystery Movie tourists in that no matter what, we succumb to what we are shown/given. We accept that we may/may not like the movie or the artist/art of the poster; yet we still get a rush when the curtain rises and the choice is revealed. We expect to be impressed, and Mondo rarely disappoints.
October 29th will go down in history as the first Mondo Mystery Movie/Alamo Drafthouse Rolling Roadshow. But it was more than that; it was a combination of misdirection and rumors that elevated the adventure to new levels. The only thing everyone was sure of was they were attending a movie with a special screen print.
#MMMIX was the twitter hashtag, and the Twitter comments started to fly while waiting in line at the church, which was the fake screening location given by Justin Ishmael in the early weeks after the Tickets went on sale. It was merely just the starting point of an unforgettable adventure on this Halloween weekend.
As the sun began to set the crowed swelled with Mondo Mystery movie fans, and the rumors flew like bats in the Austin night; people were truly unsure. While waiting in line after being given a colored wrist band by Eric Garza, one of the newest members of the Mondo Team, based on what type of ticket you purchased (a variant or regular screen print). Then we were greeted with a local film crew asking: “Do you have any idea what movie is playing tonight?” People shout everything from Ghostbusters to The Exorcist.
As soon as the chartered buses and motorcycle police escort started to arrive, the conversations suddenly grew louder and the realization hit that we were NOT going to be watching a movie in a mega church. We had been duped! At least our hopes for an R-rated movie suddenly became closer to reality. Things just got real. Loading up the buses did not take long, but there must have been location delays because we sat on the bus for almost an hour. Good thing we had a ton of friends plus tweeters and posters to Facebook and screen print forums to keep everyone who couldn’t be here and even other buses updated on bus-to-bus shenanigans. And of course there were even more rumors fueled by that Mondo tweet hashtag #MMMIX.
Some of the most notable tweets I started to see on my phone were: “Rumor from #MMMIX line: we’re watching SPEED while riding on this bus.” Then: “In case I go missing – I’m getting on an unlabeled bus for @MondoNews secret screening #mmmIX (posters will be inked in our blood?).” And my personal favorite: “First @MondoNews Mystery Movie experience. #MMMIX. Should be awesome!” Did this tweet poster have it right? Multiply that by a factor of 100 and maybe.
Once on the road our five-police-motorcycle escort lit up the highway in red and blue and parted traffic like we were some sort of presidential convoy; pulling people over who wouldn’t heed the lights and sirens. In fact, here is a story that was found a day later from one of those unfortunate folks pulled over after almost running down one of our police escorts.
The convoy began to slow after nine miles of fun driving and speculation. What only a handful of people figured out by the direction we were headed and by the exit we took was that we were headed to Highland Mall here in Austin, Texas. It is considered an almost DEAD mall from its lack of people. The jig was completely up when we pulled into the parking lot and where approached by the walking dead. I’m not talking one or two or twenty, I am talking about a few hundred of the undead.
They approached the buses and started to smear fake blood all over the outside and the windows were splattered by gobs of fake blood, and no one broke character for any reason. The buses all line up as Alamo and Mondo team members kept in contact with each other via radio. The zombies walked away towards the entrance of the mall. People were screaming with excitement on the buses and we could hear yelling over a bullhorn for the military to move in.
And then all hell broke loose. Explosions, gunfire and the Alamo/Mondo rep had the bus driver prepped and she began to scream, “When we open the doors, run towards the entrance!” ZOMBIES! And then more gunfire. More explosions. I was outside running, my heart was beating a helluva lot faster then normal. I lost some of my friends. I saw more explosions that blinded me for a split second and I was only able to only see dark figures roaming around; hundreds of people running. Zombies were in full George-Romero-slow zombie mode grabbing at me. I think I even saw a zombie Harry Knowles doing circles in a wheelchair.
I looked down just in time to not trip over a guardsman who didn’t make it and had several Zombies eating him. It was pure gore, a very surreal moment. More instructions from the bullhorn, “Get into the mall as fast as you can!” As we found ourselves walking into this mall it was dark. We were all still on edge from the bus run, but of course I was snapping pictures left and right as best I could. But once we got inside the mall entrance we were herded like cattle to an open area with hundreds of seats and a giant screen.
As we all started to sit down we began to grasp what we had in store for us as the movie and Mondo screen print. The only question left was which movie and what artist. We were just starting to calm down when a burned-up zombie walked on the stage and introduced himself as Justin Ishmael. His first question was, “Did everyone make it past the zombies?” The place erupted with screams of delight from 700-plus fans, press and Mondo/Alamo crew. Justin then said, “I guess you all know why we are here tonight. This is not Monroeville Mall this is Highland Mall in Austin, Texas and we are about to watch Dawn of the Dead.” The place erupted with applause and screams.
Justin apologized for a longer-than-normal wait on the bus and said he would be handing out snacks. Another person walked on stage with some pretty gory zombie snacks and he started to throw things into the audience; eyeballs and hands and fingers, and even a completely edible gummy baby (the gross out effect worked; you could hear people groan). What happened next was something no one was expecting. Justin said, “We wanted to make this extra special so we brought in a very special guest, I think you guys know who this man is, George, can you come out?” Mr. George Romero himself walked on stage! Again the place erupted with applause and cheers.
Mr. Romero began by talking about the ease of working with Italian Producer Dario Argento and also how his 1978 masterpiece was made on a relatively modest budget estimated at $650,000. As Mr. Romero was talking, Justin Ishmael interrupted him and said “George, ummm I hate to interrupt but can you take care of this right here?” He pointed to a slow moving zombie walking towards the stage. George Romero, zombie master, pulled out a gun and shot the zombie square in the head. The back of the Zombie’s head exploded and he slumped down onto the ground. Again the place erupted with cheers and applause. George followed with: “Shit happens.”
“Let’s watch this movie.” Justin said and the 1978 movie started. For those who hadn’t seen it, they may have expected all the special effects of today’s zombie movies or TV shows, but for a movie that is 33 years old, it was way ahead of its time for special effects. As the movie wound down, sitting in small uncomfortable chairs and dining on cruddy mall pizza, I was anxiously anitcipating the intro of the special screen print, and I was not disappointed.
Justin came out again and on the big movie screen introduced us to the Jeff Proctor print ofDawn of the Dead that Mondo had commissioned. Jeff Proctor made every attempt to include every zombie from the movie into the poster. It looks amazing. The regular version sported a yellow sky, while the variant had a light blue sky. This print won’t be released online, it is strictly made for Mondo Mystery Movie IX folks. With that being said, you will most likely be able to find them on the secondary market (like Ebay).
Justin Ishmael and the rest of the Mondo team outdid themselves with the evening’s production; we not only enjoyed the movie with director George Romero in attendance, but the whole experience of the zombie apocalypse outside the Highland Mall and getting from the church to the mall in chartered buses was also an amazing and rewarding feat.
Thank you to Justin Ishmael, Alamo Drafthouse, and the whole Mondo team for the most memorable evening of my life. I can check this off my bucket list for sure. A police escorted bus ride to an empty shopping mall, watching Dawn of the Dead and having George Romero shooting a zombie in the head in front of 700+ fans and friends. A big fat check mark fills that box.
Check out the pictures and video below for this amazing event!