Lucas Dunn, Joan Stowe and Harold Storey

Fringe Flicks

Mondo Mondays brings its cult film programming to Tower Theatre for a special Halloween screening of Evil Dead 2.

“It gives me chills,” Lucas Dunn said.

As film programmer for Ponyboy’s Mondo Mondays, a weekly series of cult cinema screenings, Dunn has seemingly seen it all. From questionable bare-budget schlock to esoteric works by underground auteurs, he has curated a startling array of obscure picks since launching the program in early 2020. The one theatrical experience he has been dying to have, however, has been out of reach until now. He has never seen Sam Raimi’s Evil Dead 2 on the big screen.

“It’s one of the earliest horror films I saw that made me go, ‘Oh my god. I’m in love with this genre. This is all I want,’” Dunn said.

This year, Halloween happens to fall on a Mondo Monday. When Dunn saw this, he leaped at the opportunity to bring his film series from Ponyboy’s upstairs bar space to the neighboring carpeted balcony of Tower Theatre. Not only will it fulfill his desire to enjoy one of his favorite movies in a historic venue, but it may also bring new weirdos into the Mondo Mondays fold.

“This is the most ‘mainstream’ film we’ve booked so far. I wanted something that has enough wide appeal but still fits into our cult aesthetic,” Dunn said. “I am hoping that people have a good time and then find out, ‘Oh wait, this thing is every single week and it’s free?’”

Spearheaded by Dunn and assisted by fellow programmers Harold Storey and Joan Stowe, Mondo Mondays is unlike any other media event in Oklahoma City. Storey kicks the evening off at 6 p.m. with his After School Anime block, and Stowe co-hosts the Mondo Monday Movie at 8 p.m.

click to enlarge Fringe Flicks
Christopher G. Acoff
Harold Storey, Joan Stowe and Lucas Dunn

Each Monday, as the sun sets on Uptown 23rd, Ponyboy’s second floor dims from the nostalgic glow of anime to the dark corners of genre flick obscurity. By nightfall, faces are lit only by an overhead projector and the venue’s iconic blood-red letters spelling “OKLAHOMA.”

Following a brief introduction in the tradition of TV horror hosts Joe Bob Briggs and Elvira, previews roll for forthcoming Mondo screenings. Then comes the main course, a feature film pulled from the American Film Genre Archive, a nonprofit dedicated to cult film preservation and distribution with which Mondo Mondays partners. Many of these movies are so slender in niche appeal that they border on invisible.

“I want to show movies that nobody has either seen projected on a screen in OKC or ever even heard of,” Dunn said. “It’s a kinda DIY punk rock approach I take with it. We’ll show a serious art film by Alejandro Jodorowsky one week. The next week, we might show something like Pathogen, a zombie movie that was written and directed by a 12-year-old girl.”

Popcorn is available for snacking, though viewers looking to dine more heartily can try anything from pulled pork sliders to vegan cauliflower rice bowls off of Ponyboy’s full menu. Dunn recommends the flash-fried brussel sprouts in particular, but appetites beware. The blood and gore of some Mondo screenings are not for the faint of stomach, so a hard drink might be a better bet.

“I just drink Coors Banquet on draft and a shot of rye,” Dunn said.

With the Halloween season underway, Mondo Mondays has been indulging in its adults-only space. This year’s creep-themed programming includes notorious 60s slasher progenitor Blood Feast and obscure 80’s Cantonese squirm fest Centipede Horror. The grotesque thrills will extend through November.

“Halloween is the only holiday that matters to me, and it pisses me off that stores will now start selling Christmas decorations in October,” Dunn said. “If they can get several months for their gaudy holiday, I’m going to get two months for Halloween.”

The extreme counterculture framework of Mondo Mondays is designed as much to attract fringe audiences as it is to deter general ones. With weird obscurities as its beacon, the screenings have gradually built a small but passionate community of local misfits and media connoisseurs.

From this crowd came current co-host Joan Stowe.

“I had never met Joan before Mondo. They just started showing up every week and wanted to eagerly talk about film,” Dunn said. “We ended up bringing VHS tapes to swap with each other.”

At its inception, Mondo Mondays was a joint project between Dunn and another walking cult movie compendium, Randy Heyer. When Heyer became too busy with other life events, like fronting nationally acclaimed noise band Chat Pile, Dunn lost his wingman. The series needed a replacement, and Stowe was the natural choice.

“I like having a co-host so that, one, I’m not alone on stage, and two, I don’t wanna be the one picking out all the movies,” Dunn said. “That’s boring to just have one dude’s taste curate everything. Joan and I have many similar aesthetics but are divergent in other ways, and that helps keep a healthy balance of different kinds of weirdness to cater to a diverse crowd.”

Harold Storey joined as anime programmer through his connections with the venue. As host of Tunes/Toons, a nostalgia-tinged podcast about animation and music, he has worked in recording spaces on Tower/Ponyboy turf and become one of the building regulars. He had been wanting to hold anime screenings when Mondo Mondays opened the door for him to launch After School Anime, a two-hour block of animation programming spliced with music videos from national and local bands. It is modeled after Cartoon Network’s Toonami, but the format-bending precedent of Mondo Mondays has allowed Storey to try some ideas of his own.

“I showed the Street Fighter II anime,” Storey said, “and a local video game store (Video Games Plus) set up some game consoles for people to play fighting games on the TVs while we watched that movie on the big screen. It was really rad.”

Together, the three hosts form an eclectic bunch, and that reflects in the standard set by Mondo Mondays. Not only is it a place where cult media followings can thrive, but it is also a means to celebrate differences with unabashed sincerity.

“There’s a wide spectrum with all kinds of art, and so much of it gets washed away,” Dunn said. “At the end of the day, I’d rather watch a movie that cost $500 that was shot in a backyard by some nobody and their friends over a $400 million reboot of Batman. That is art.”

Mondo Mondays presents Evil Dead 2 at historic Tower Theatre on Oct. 31 at 8 pm. Guests must be 18+ to attend, but the screening is free.

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