We’re All Going To The World’s Fair

Written & Directed by Jane Schoenburn


Rating: 3 out of 5.

There’s a world where oddness is not only coveted but valued for its creative intentions – an aspect cinema has praised and lavished for decades finds a new home in the liberating world of social postings online, from the dark depths of 4Chan to the Creepy Pastas of Reddit. We’re All Going to the World’s Fair constructs itself more align to a social experiment than traditional Horror, skirting the peripheries of horror imagery and building dread to remain one foot in the genre.

For the uninitiated, Creepy Pastas are the advancement in community storytellin, usually structured around the more gruesome and fearsome tales, leaving behind the hearth for the cold screens of endless laptops and phone scrolling. And as such, We’re All Going to the World’s Fair slides remarkably fittingly as that obscure piece of impermanent and inconsequential clickbait storytelling one may stumble upon in the small hours of sleep defiance.

Casey, played by newcomer Anna Cobb, is a teen who finds solace and a form of expression in the fantastical avenues of taking part in this new occultism horror game, The World’s Fair challenge, where the watcher is to record themselves starting the game and then document the supposed changes they undergo. Inviting the world into her bedroom, the fragmented experiences of players across the world, failing to interact in person, desperately looking for communication provides the film’s alienation and sense loneliness.

Structuring the narrative with one main character, along with a handful of one-time extras to broaden the conseqeunces of the World’s Fair challenge, Schoenborn initially seems to do themselves no favours – but the film hinges on Cobb’s enigmatic yet engaging performance. Remarkably able to hold the audience, whilst simultaneously maintaining an edge of something unfamiliar and unnerving, Cobb spends a significant portion of the film with little more than the powers of suggestion to work with – the supposed effects of the World’s Fair challenge having a visceral reaction with some of the contestants, where Casey’s alterations seem to embed themselves on a psychological scale.

Drawing on various aesthetics to meet cross-roads of digital liberations, aspects bubble together to form a unique realm where absolute freedom becomes a shackle of its own, unable to stop clicking and scrolling. Trans film-maker Jane Schoenborn draws on the adolescent alienation of the merger of lockdown Facetimes, gaming aesthetics and the online video-art communities.

But this reflection of endless rabbit holes and doom-scrolling takes a heavy toll with pacing, one which will undoubtably turn away those looking for jump scares or shock imagery. Schoenborn and executive-producer David Lowery’s film is unnerving, bearing no qualms in taking its time with entrusting Cobb’s performances, as she begins to lose herself to both dreamscape and reality, aided by Alex Giannascoli’s musical score which leans into the transitions between the two.

The dynamic twists as a stranger reaches out to Casey, stating he can see something special in her videos, an additional dimension of digital worries – and the intentions of those behind the avatar. Daniel Patrick Carbone’s cinematogrphay proportaionally told from the lens of Casey’s camera, only varying slightly with outdoor shots, always slightly off-centre, enough to allow suggestion to the do a significant part of the uneasy feeling of what might, if anything, happen.

But it all becomes draining. Easy to ebb in and out of the film’s lengthier quiet segments, thankfully Cobb’s performance and the overall intentions of the piece are enough to enrapture the dedicated fans who can see the horror under the surface, one where the scars and gore of monster and killers are coded over, more fearful than ever, in the exploitation of isolation, and the allure of an understanding community of people with less than favourable intentions.

We’re All Going to The World’s Fair is in UK cinemas now.

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