It’s only held once a year, participation is extremely limited and by invitation only, and the results are often head-scratching, if not downright controversial.
Modeled on “Family Feud," the long-running TV game show that was once hosted by Richard Dawson (and most recently by Steve Harvey), “Fantastic Feud” has become a late-night tradition at Fantastic Fest, held every year at the Alamo Drafthouse in Austin, Texas. The brainchild of our own Scott Weinberg, Fantastic Feud is a genre movie version of the game.
The original features two families facing off against each other on stage, trying to guess the top 5 answers to questions that were posed earlier in a survey of random people. In a similar fashion, Fantastic Fest drew from a group of 150 movie fans who answered questions ranging from ”What country is known for producing horror movies?” to “What’s the worst 3D movie released between 1981 and 1984?” to “What’s your biggest ‘guilty pleasure’ movie?”
The answers provided by survey respondents often perplexed the members of the two rival teams. Star Wars, for example, was not included among the top 5 science-fiction movies of all time; the “guilty pleasure” that received the most survey votes was Michael Bay’s Armageddon. It can be tough for experts to guess what the common man might pick, suggested Team USA member James Rocchi, a veteran film journalist, perhaps not realizing that only dedicated geeks attending Fantastic Fest were eligible to vote in the survey, and not “the common man.”
Past editions of Fantastic Feud have featured multiple contestants who have, shall we say, imbibed an excessive amount of adult beverages before taking the stage, leading to raucous exchanges and much merriment. This year, the proceedings were a touch more subdued, but everyone was in high spirits.
Once again, Scott Weinberg served as host, and this year’s edition was a tighter, perhaps more scripted show than in the past. While the anarchy was missed, I don’t think anyone objected to less time spent arguing about the rules and more time spent debating the relative merits of the survey respondents’ picks.
Scott and his perky co-host Devin Steuerwald came on stage dressed in costume as Mario and Luigi, AKA videogame characters The Mario Bros., kicking things off in stylish and silly fashion. To clarify: I’m talking full costume, complete with giant, giant heads. For the sake of Scott and Devin under the hot lights of the movie theater, they removed their heads for the show. The ten members of the two teams, divided into Team USA and Team World, were then introduced.
Team USA was led by captain Elijah Wood, and included filmmaker Ti West (The Innkeepers), and film journalists Rocchi, Devin Faraci (Badass Digest), and Jen Yamato (Movieline). Team World was captained by Dominic Monaghan (The Day), with producer Andrea Quiroz (Penumbra), writer/director Nacho Vigalondo (Extraterrestrial), producer/distributor/exhibitor Ant Timpson (from New Zealand) and writer/festival programmer/producer Todd Brown (Twitch) rounding out the team.
As the two teams battled it out, testing their collective brainpower and knowledge of movies against the “unwashed” mass of survey respondents, there was considerable good-natured bantering, patriotic cheering, wisecracking, and occasional fisticuffs. With this mildly wild bunch, it was sometimes difficult to forecast when a spontaneous fist fight might break out -- or when a scripted disagreement might arise.
Fantastic Feud has become one of the signature events at Fantastic Fest. As much fun as the live events can be, they’re best appreciated as the cherries on top of a series of delicious ice cream sundaes. And with Fantastic Feud, audience members can sit back, relax, and enjoy the spectacle of hard-working actors, filmmakers, industry professionals, and film journalists having a good time, talking about movies after spending all day doing ... what else? Watching movies. (Check out some video from this year's event too).