Terror Tuesday Continues to Be the Alamo’s Bloody Beating Heart
Horror series send shivers up the aisles
Once upon a time in Austin, there was a scrappy little movie theatre with a grotty ceiling, a smallish screen, and a mission to show the coolest movies to the most rabid movie fanatics. The original Alamo Drafthouse Cinema, situated at 409 Colorado, programmed the good, the bad, and the weird – especially the weird. These days, you'll hear the occasional gripe that the expanding theatre chain that made its name by bringing in spectacularly special guests, such as Russ Meyer (Faster, Pussycat! Kill! Kill!) and Udo Kier (Andy Warhol's Dracula), has lost its edge.
To that we say, quit your bellyaching, hightail it over to the Alamo South Lamar on any given Tuesday night, and embrace the communal darkness and mad-passionate, blood-spattered, horror movie love-fest that is Terror Tuesday, a permanent component of the Alamo's sanguinary heart and genrefied soul since 2006. Sure, some things have changed over the years, but when it comes to Tuesdays at the Drafthouse, the scream remains the same.
Zack Carlson, original programmer/master of slayermonies of what was first Terror Thursday, handed over the reins to the film freak he called his "first and only choice," Joseph Ziemba of video horror website BleedingSkull.com, in 2013; but apart from that switcheroo, the terror has remained unrelenting in the coolest of all possible ways. "For me, programming Terror Tuesday comes down to two things," Ziemba explained. "First, I want the audience to be happy, and second, there are really no rules anymore in terms of what can play. It's now a case of anything goes, every era, all centuries."
Anything goes, indeed. When not onstage hosting Terror Tuesday, Ziemba serves as the Alamo's Director of Genre Programming and helms the Alamo's nonprofit film-preservation/restoration/distribution offshoot the American Genre Film Archive. The latter allows Ziemba a mind-boggling wealth of fright films – some 6,000 35mm prints and counting, including the archives of theatrical partners like Arrow Films and Vinegar Syndrome – from which to program TT. Ziemba said, "It's not like the old days when it was a case of 'Oh, AGFA has 150 prints, let's play them all because that's what we have.' Everything's exploded in the last decade."
More recently, that includes the syndication of Terror Tuesday to the ever-growing list of satellite Drafthouses nationwide, including a current push into unsuspecting suburban markets. According to Ziemba, "The key is making sure that [the syndication] retains the integrity of the original. I've been really inspired by other, non-Austin programmers because the way we have it set up allows us to share information about what works in any given market. It's grown into a great team of people doing all these different Terror Tuesdays all over the place."
Ultimately, Terror Tuesday has always been and continues to be a safe (if, um, terrifying) space for deep-down trauma hounds to commune with like-minded fans and perhaps discover their new favorite psychotronic shocker. As the ever-enthusiastic Ziemba put it, "The really cool through line about the audience in Austin is how much respect they have for the movies and how sincerely happy they are just to be there. They have a lot of trust in us and that's a kind of familial relationship that's really hard to build. They know it's a place where they can be themselves, and it's so great to see that kind of love for super-obscure stuff, smart stuff, and even the mainstream, franchise stuff."
Terror Tuesday runs Tuesday nights at the Alamo South Lamar (1120 S. Lamar). The series continues with a special Made-for-TV Mystery Movie at the Alamo Ritz (Jan. 29) before returning to South Lamar for Bride of Chucky (Feb. 5).