Thursday Night Terrors is labeled as a monthly horror and cult classic film series at the Dipson Amherst Theatre in Buffalo created by Peter Vullo. But it’s much more than that. Terrors has brought together a community of individuals looking for others who also love zombies, werewolves and sometimes killer security droids. WBFO’s Nick Lippa went to last month’s showing of Joe Dante’s “The Howling” to see what has made Terrors so popular.
Amherst Theater GM Rich DiSalvo has his hands full for every Terrors event.
“A normal Thursday night crew isn’t enough for Thursday Night Terrors. We need a few extra people out here,” DiSalvo said.
While he’s helping the staff, the small Dipson Amherst lobby fills up quickly with people who call themselves members of the "Terrors Crew”. Running around and greeting those as they enter is the face, personality, and soul of Thursday Night Terrors—Peter Vullo.
“It’s great that the series gets a lot of attention, but for me that’s the important thing. It’s those connections and the community that’s formed through Terrors,” Vullo said. “It was just a total dream that happened to come through.”
Terrors started to culminate in 2016. Vullo said he realized all the horror movies that he loved he never had a chance to see on the big screen.
“Working at the theatre, I already had an in where I could contact one of the owners of the theatre and say, ‘Hey this is my idea.’ He said, ‘Give me a list of movies and we’ll go from there.’ Of course I had to pick a day of the week to do it. And I guess the most reasonable day given the movie theatre schedule would be Thursday,” Vullo said.
The group's Facebook page now has over 1300 members.
One member of the "Terrors Crew" who has embraced the community is Marcus Ganci-Rotella.
"We’re just a bunch of weirdos,” Ganci-Rotella said. “Kind of like the line in ‘The Craft’. We are the weirdos mister.”
“I’ve never felt more comfortable with a group of strangers in my life until I came to Thursday Night Terrors,” he said.
Before each show, DeadEnd Toyz & Teez has a table full of horror related merchandise sitting in the lobby. That played a big role in Ganci-Rotella’s first date with his current girlfriend— which yes, was at a Terrors screening.
“DeadEnd Toyz & Teez, who has all the merch and everything, they usually have a Hurst parked out front because that’s their company car. And we asked if we could go in the Hurst. And we went in the back. And then we couldn’t find our way out of the back of the Hurst, cause you know anybody who’s in the back of the Hurst, they’re not trying to get out of there,” Ganci-Rotella said. “And so we got trapped in the back of the Hurst. I had to climb through the window and like the patrician kind of thing to get out for us. And now we’re engaged!”
And they asked Vullo to perform the wedding ceremony.
“Terrors is family. I’m sure Peter has probably said that to you before,” Ganci-Rotella said.
Once you settle in to the theater, previews cycle on the screen showing future Terrors events mixed in with random 80’s and 90’s commercials (including one for the video game Splatterhouse on the TurboGrafx 16).
It’s a full on nostalgia trip. Eventually DiSalvo introduces Vullo to the crowd.
“I get the pleasure of introducing Pete every time I do (a TNT screening). I get to have a lot of fun with that,” DiSalvo said.
“You know I always have some sort of quirky intro for him and why is it going to change tonight. And I was thinking about this particular movie ‘The Howling’. He’s the guy who gets his pick of mates and all that sort of stuff. And I guess because I’m the GM here, I guess for the most part, I would be considered the alpha male. But let me tell you something. Once a month on Thursday night, I am reminded that when it comes to putting on a kickass series, promoting it, making sure everybody knows that this is the place to be, without a doubt, I am this man’s bit**. Put your hands together for the alpha male, Peter Vullo,” DiSalvo exclaimed to applause.
Vullo then walks to the front of the theater.
“All this crying is going to make me dehydrated. That was really beautiful Rich,” Vullo said sarcastically.
“Terrorssss Crewwwww,” Vullo prompts the audience. “This ear’s a little clogged. How’s everybody doing tonight?”
Vullo grew up watching Tales from the Crypt. The host of that show, the Crypt Keeper, was known for his puns.
For example: “Today we’re going to be learning about scare-allel parking and the correct way to look behind you when HACKING up,” Crypt Keeper.
If you want, here are more puns to DIE for.
Naturally, Vullo has taken these lessons to heart while hosting his own series.
“I’m sure there would be some who would say that the Howling is DANTE’S PEAK,” Vullo said.
He is immediately met by a barrage of boos and a faint “I get it” from one audience member who needed extra time to remember Dante’s Peak was a 1997 disaster movie starring Pierce Brosnan.
Vullo doesn’t stop there.
“I’m glad to see that you’re HOWLING with laughter… oh you sound so FUR-ious.”
It’s silly. It’s over the top. It’s part of the charm.
One of the audience members at this show was Niagara Gazette movie critic Michael Calleri, who calls Terrors the best movie series in the history of movies in Buffalo.
“There’s never been anything like it. There have been other series’,” he said. “But nothing has captured the areas imagination like this.”
Calleri doesn’t think a series like this would work too well with other genres.
“You going to do romantic comedies? Love-sick Tuesday’s?” he laughed. “Could there be a sci-fi series? Sure. But there’s something special going on here. The audience really relates to not only the films, but the guy that’s hosting it. And that’s why it works.”
DiSalvo said he’s tried to do events in the past in a similar fashion.
“And I’ve had nowhere near the success that Pete has had,” DiSalvo said. “Pete was able to tap in to a group of people who wanted to see these type of films. This is something that’s cross-demographic. Everybody wants to come see it and he’s done such a phenomenal job getting the word out there now. This is the biggest thing going as far as Buffalo scene and film goes. And I can’t be more proud of him for doing that.”
When the series started in 2016, DiSalvo said he had a hunch it would have some popularity.
“But I was not expecting it to become a monster, no pun intended, that it’s become,” DiSalvo said. “It really has. Now I have people that I didn’t think even followed our theater. ‘Hey you guys do the Terrors, right?’ Everybody knows about it now.”
Once the film is finished, Vullo greets the audience one last time to announce the winners of the raffles and upcoming events.
People don’t come back just for the movies each month. They come back for the group experience.
“I love watching them on the big screen,” Ganci-Rotella said. “Even movies like ‘Scream’ for example, which played a few months ago, which I’ve seen a million times. One of my favorite movies. Revitalized the genre. There were things in the background, shots that I never noticed even watching it on my 55 inch TV, that I never noticed before until I saw it on the big screen. And it’s great. Especially for the really crazy weird movies. Like the Italian zombie movies and things like that. A lot of people who haven’t seen them yet when they react to the crazy parts. It’s so much fun. It’s a community basically. It’s more fun than just sitting on your ass at home watching a movie by yourself.”
Or as Vullo puts it as he said goodbye…
“Well have a good night everyone. Terrors is family.”
There’s humor, there’s scares, and to be incredibly cliché, there is definitively family.
UPCOMING MAY EVENTS:
- Thursday, May 16th at 7:00pm: CHILD’S PLAY (1988) with special guest Alex Vincent, who played Andy in the film.
- Friday, May 17th at 8:30pm: FRIDAY THE 13th PART VI: JASON LIVES (1986) with special guest C.J. Graham, who played Jason Voorhees in the film.
- Saturday, May 18th at 7:30pm: AN AMERICAN WEREWOLF IN LONDON (1981) with special guest David Naughton, who played David in the film.
There will be live and in-person Q&As with each guest after the film.