We’re All Going to World’s Fair (CFF) and You Should Join Us
Title: We’re All Going to the World’s Fair
First Wide Release: TBD
Director: Jane Schoenbrun
Writer: Jane Schoenbrun
Runtime: 86 Minutes
Starring: Anna Cobb, Michael J Rogers
Where to Watch: Check out where to find it here (Release Date TBD)
This film’s review was written after its screening in the Chattanooga Film Festival 2021.
Isolated and lonely young teenager, Casey (Anna Cobb) posts a video of her performing the ritual of a role-playing online horror game that requires initiates to complete a challenge. After completing the challenge, she finds herself changing into a person that she doesn’t recognize. Are these changes the result of confirmation bias or has Casey really fallen into the clutches of a predatory entity that controls the game? The only person Casey confides in is the blank screen of a man known only as JLB (Michael J Rogers) who encourages her to continue posting videos to document the changes surrounding her transformation. What and who is real?
A contemplative piece of metaphorical horror, We’re All Going to the World’s Fair is an ambitious, well-thought-out character study.
The story starts out familiar, with a young girl playing an internet game meant to scare her but goes down a different path. With this concept alone there is so many directions this film could have taken, but its execution shows something both solemn and thoughtful while still being horrific. What could be a schlocky technohorror flick instead plays as a darkly tragic coming-of-age tale. We’re All Going to the World’s Fair shows that growing up in a world where it is easy to make connections, but not meaningful ones, can eat away at a person and transform them into someone different.
The portrayal and writing of Casey is both fascinating and unique for the genre. She isn’t strong per se, but she isn’t weak. She isn’t a victim nor is she the villain. Casey exists in this interesting vacuum where the horror that is consuming her is hard to ignore but not real at the same time. I do wish we knew more about what Casey hoped to gain from going to the World’s Fair beyond just hurting for connection. What exactly compels her to make these disturbing and intricate videos?
Anna Cobb steals the show, and I cannot wait to see what she does next. Her mannerisms, vocal inflections, and physicality perfectly embody the vulnerability and menacing nature of the horror behind the film. Michael J Rogers’ JLB is less interesting but adds depth to the plot without taking away from Casey’s story. It’s refreshing to see this dynamic play out in a way that centers Casey’s spiral over JLB’s concerned yet enabling adult character arc.
Social media can realize personal horrors if you let it. The idea of something changing her into something bizarre and fantastic is appealing, even if that has deadly consequences for herself or others. It’s very clear that Casey is a hurt child. Her home life is rough, she doesn’t have any friends, and it’s clear that she is very lost. This sets up and makes it so easy for JLB to take advantage of her, even though we as the audience know those aren’t his intentions.
Aside from its superior storytelling, We’re All Going to the World’s Fair is a technically adept film too. From its unsettling score, strong editing, and trippy visuals, it executes everything with a style and panache that is lacking from other experimental indie horrors out there. The visuals are especially mesmerizing. Glow paint, dimmed lights, bedroom wall stickers are just some of the common things are used to showcase Casey’s internal struggle between good and evil while also proving to be memorable and appealing too. Little things like video buffering icons and ASMR videos ground the morbidly fantastic into the real world.
More somber and restrained, We’re All Going to the World’s Fair is a hypnotic, slow-burn that packs an emotional punch. I did, however, want to like this feature more than I did, but there is so much to enjoy from a technical perspective. We’re All Going to the World’s Fair is a wonderfully weird psychological horror that makes algorithms and their consequences scary. Scrappy but still boasting solid production values, it has a very dreary and almost dream-like quality to it that differentiates itself from its contemporaries. It is definitely an interesting and unique piece of horror that deserves a chance when it drops onto HBO Max next year. Whether we want to or not We’re All Going to the World’s Fair eventually; are you?
Overall Score? 6/10