Mondo Mystery Movie IX Recap - 'Dawn of the Dead' in an Empty Mall
by Jeremy Kirk
October 31, 2011
Of the thousands of movies I've seen, the numerous number of times I've seen a film in the theater, this past weekend marked what could go down as the best theatrical cinema experience I've ever had. And it's all thanks to Mondo Tees, the t-shirt and poster leg of the Alamo Drafthouse here in Austin, Texas (where I'm now living as of September). The event was the Mondo Mystery Movie IX, the ninth mystery movie of the year for Mondo (Alex also attended the MMM LA events) and what was being touted as their biggest movie event ever. Read on for my full recap and a look at the new Mondo poster debuted that night.
It all started at Riverbend Church, where we were told to arrive by 8:30. The line when I arrived was already huge, stretching well over 100 yards and ending not at the doors of the church where we expected it to, but at a place marked near the driveway out of the lot. It wasn't long before charter buses began picking people up, 50 to 60 at a time, and pulling away. It was here where it occurred to me we were being bused to an undisclosed location. I boarded my bus, and we pulled out to a side street where the bus came to a stop. It sat there for nearly an hour, building the suspense and having everyone on the buses question where it was we were begin taken.
At 9:30, the buses left the church. Ushered through traffic lights and on and off the interstate via a police escort - they really went all out for this one - we soon found ourselves approaching the Highland Mall North of downtown Austin. As we pulled in, we saw people milling about the mall parking lot. It was long before we realized the mall and now our buses were being swarmed by an army of zombies. The zombies slapped the sides of the buses, streaked blood all across the windows. We even saw that Ain't It Cool News founder, Harry Knowles, had been "turned", as he wheeled himself about slowly in circles. It was at this point someone on the bus announced: "When we open these doors, run towards the light."
That was the only instruction we were given. The buses staggered next to each other, allowing everyone on all of the buses to be let off at the same time. As soon as the doors open, we all ran out. People dressed in army fatigues and armed with machine guns began firing at the zombie hoard, which was now moving itself towards us. We all ran towards the entrance of the mall, the sounds of gunfire behind us and laughing and screaming surrounding us on every side.
Over 700 people and 200 made-up zombies (courtesy of Hawgfly Productions Inc) packed into the ground floor of the Highland Mall for what we all assumed at this point would be a screening of George A. Romero's 1978 zombie classic, Dawn of the Dead. I made my way to the front, where I found two seats available, and sat down. A huge screen was set up in the main area of the mall where the always reliable Drafthouse pre-show kept us entertained with zombie-related goodies.
Around 11:00, Justin Ishmael (@MondoNews) from Mondo took the stage. Dressed up as one of the gorier zombies of the night, he explained to us that we would be watching Dawn of the Dead. He also apologized for keeping us waiting on the buses for so long, and offered us food for our troubles. Two zombie helpers came out with platters of gummy body parts, hearts, eyeballs, brains. I was lucky enough to get my hands on one of the gummy and bubble gum eyeballs. A fully created, gummy baby was also brought out, but after tearing its arm and leg off (red filling spilled out onto the floor in front of us), Ishmael decided he wanted to keep it for himself.
It was here where Ishmael announced another surprise for the night. He said they had a very special guest to present Dawn of the Dead, then turned to back and said, "George, do you want to come out here?" To our surprise, legendary director George A. Romero (seen to the right) came out to present his film. Mid-intro, Justin interrupted Romero and pointed off to our left. One of the many zombies was making its way toward the front. "Can you take care of this right here?" Ishmael asked Romero. Romero reached into his picket, pulled out a handgun, and fired the zombie complete with movie special effect squib packs and a really nice fall by the zombie "stuntman" (watch a video of it here).
And then, nearly three hours after arriving to our first location, traveling by charter bus to our very secret movie-watching spot, and running through (surviving) a zombie apocalypse, we were treated to Dawn of the Dead, arguably the greatest zombie movie in history.
The attendants of the night were also treated to a new Dawn of the Dead poster Mondo had commissioned. Artist Jeff Proctor made an attempt at including every zombie from Dawn of the Dead into this poster, and he does a great job of it. You can check out the poster below, which was given out to all of the attendees:
The Mondo Mystery Movie IX event is an experience I will never forget. From the building tension while sitting on the buses to running through a zombie apocalypse to the entrance of Highland Mall, to watching the classic Dawn of the Dead with 700 fellow zombie lovers, it was a movie going experience that will be unrivaled. Of course, if any experience can do it, it will surely be a future Mondo Mystery Movie. If anyone can top this experience, it would be them. Thanks to Mondo for hosting such an incredible night, and thanks to Fons PR for handling the event so flawlessly. You can see a full video recap of the event here:
And for more updates and more videos, we suggest checking out SlashFilm's coverage, the post on Ain't It Cool News, Peter Hall's post on Movies.com talking about how he became a zombie as part of the event, and Mondo's YouTube page for many more updates and videos from the event, including the George Romero appearance. All this over a poster, but it's the experience that makes it truly unforgettable. Thanks Mondo!