The Fantastic Planet Film Festival Trivia Competition and How to Win It.
Frustrated by a film-obsessed teenager prone to weekends working through towers of VHS rentals, my mother would often bellow “Why would you want to be inside on a day like today!” That memory echoed subconsciously as I abandoned the glorious sunshine of a Sydney Saturday afternoon for the confines of Newtown’s Bank Hotel. I had committed to fielding a team in the inaugural Fantastic Planet Film Festival Trivia Competition back when the East coast was sodden after weeks of rain and was honouring my promise, but the sun felt good.
The event was the brainchild of Bryn Tilly, a charismatic Kiwi steeped in obscure genre knowledge; he administers one of Australia’s leading fan-sites, Horrorphile. He had secured some respected names in the field to judge the gore-filled recollections of my like-minded competitors – The Horseman director Steve Kastrissios; Matt Joyce, editor of cyberpunk e-magazine ‘Machete Girl’; international guest of the fest, Seve Schelenz, director of cult-hit Skew; and festival co-programmer, Pablo Perreira.
I knew the event would have nerds like me scurrying from dark corners to take part, so I had corralled my own team of Alpha geeks. Monikered with self-deprecating good humour ‘The Reservoir Dags’, it included Needle screenwriter Tone Egan; zombie-obsessive Meg McKenzie; Universal’s Australian operations manager and Planet of the Apes guru Ken Taylor and his Potter-head wife, Heather. We settled into a corner booth, drew the curtains to fully excise any stinging daylight, and poised our pens...
A couple of categories into the battle and we knew we had a good shot at the crown. Tone set the standard when he correctly guessed the 1922 witchcraft doco Haxan was narrated by William S Burroughs for its 1968 re-release. True, we stumbled badly when asked “How many daggers are needed to kill the Antichrist in The Omen?”, but it was a mere blip. By the time we bellowed “The Slaughtered Lamb!” in perfect unison, the event had ceased being a contest.
By mid-afternoon, a palpable tension had descended upon the gathering. The more our team answered (and drank), the louder our confidence grew. Questions that brought exasperated groans from other tables were met with our giggly delight. Tone knew what crashed through the cinema roof in Lamberto Bava’s Demons; Ken rattled off all the ...Ape films in a single breath (quite something to watch); I contributed by identifying the blush-response test employed by the Blade Runner cops to detect replicants in Ridley Scott’s classic. It threatened to be a landslide; as Tilly started revealing the answers, his voice straining to be heard over our self-congratulatory whoops, seething rivalries threatened to spill over.
When the inevitable disputed-call came, the Bank Hotel erupted like Thunderdome. To the question “In Steven Spielberg’s Close Encounters of the Third Kind, Roy Neary builds his first model mountain from what?”, all teams answered ‘mashed-potato’ and were marked correct. Led by yours truly, The Dags lodged a protest; the morning after his roadside close encounter, Richard Dreyfuss’ character crafts his first sculpture of Devil’s Tower from shaving cream. When Tilly acknowledged the gaffe, he not only awarded us full points, but took every other teams point away; a 2-point turnaround. Team captains flew from their cubicles, gesticulating wildly as the geek-spit flew, but their fate was sealed.
By the tournaments end, our rag-tag unit had swept all before us; scoring 79/100, we bettered the second-place team by 20-odd points. If my mother could have seen just how beneficial all those hours staring blankly at B-movies had been, she may have even felt a modicum of pride...
(Footnote: Admittedly, we did stumble badly on the visual clues. Tilly and the Fantastic Planet organising team have kindly supplied the three images that stumped The Collective Nerd. Any ideas....?)