We're All Going To The World's Fair - New Release Review
Director: Jane Schoenbrun
Starring: Anna Cobb, Holly Anne Frank, Michael J. Rogers
Written by: Jane Schoenbrun
Produced by: Sarah Winshall, Carlos Zozoya
Cinematography by: Daniel Patrick Carbone
Original Score by: Alex G
Alone in her attic bedroom, teenager Casey becomes immersed in an online role-playing horror game, wherein she begins to document the changes that may or may not be happening to her.
We all have our own ways of dealing with isolation. Having come through two seperate long term lockdowns and social distancing being the norm for a very long time over the past two years, I think it's safe to say we all now know the importance of being able to connect with real people in our real life. Jane Schoenbrun's stunning debut feature film really helps to reinforce this.
'We're All Going to the World's Fair' is a hauntingly beautiful but intensely sad coming of age film about Casey, a teenage girl who becomes trapped in her own delusions about who she really is and who she wants to become. It's anxiety driven identity horror in its purest form and it's deeply unsettling.
Schoenbrun seems to be taking a dig at the ongoing and increasingly damaging obsession with social media internet trends and how young people seek assurances through viral relationships. Casey, being a horror film fan, elects to take part in an online trend called The World's Fair in which the participants have claimed to have been changed both mentally and physically after playing.
Staring at the screen, almost expressionless, Casey repeats the mantra "I want to go to the World's Fair" then slices her thumb in a bizarre ritualistic offering and assures her "viewers" that she will record any changes that she might endure.
The body of the film is Casey recording videos through her webcam and interfacing with other people who have taken part in this online horror game. We see people who have been transformed into plastic or who can't feel their own body. It's essentially Schoenbrun's take on a creepypasta story and the effects of internet folklore on impressionable young people. These "transformations" work as a metaphor for the dangers of blindly aligning oneself with online communities, almost comparing trends and the incessant obsession with going viral to cult-like behaviour. I would've liked to have seen even more body horror than what was teased to signify this further.
There's a real sense throughout this film that Casey is on the verge of ending her life. Unfortunately we don't get much insight into Casey's real life before she plays the game but it's heavily implied that Casey is a lonely child with only her Father as family. It's clear that Casey is unhappy and that whatever hardships she's endured has had a significant effect on her. She is very lonely and her dark thoughts are making her seek out something else through her computer screen. This isn't an entirely foreign activity for any teenager to participate in. We've all been there in internet chat rooms or message boards or discord chats. And it can all get a bit much at times.
It's not just a commentary on how "Momo" like trends can spread like a disease but also a subtle look into the simplicity of online grooming. Casey befriends a player who is significantly older than she is and who takes a deep interest in her state of mind in the aftermath of her initiation into the game. He repeatedly requests her to keep posting videos and although his intention seems sincere by the end it's a stark warning that loneliness and vulnerability really are dangerous qualities to bring into the virtual world.
This is a horror film that even some horror fans won't enjoy and I get it. It's overtly simple and very experimental with stretched out scenes and long bouts of silence. It's almost Lynchian in many respects and despite the monotonousness it's extremely hypnotic at times. The drawn out sequences create a sense of dread and uneasiness and there's some limited exterior shots that made me think of Kevin Philips eerie 2017 coming of age drama 'Super Dark Times'. It could easily fall apart but it's all held together by the amazing performance of first timer Anna Cobb. Her fascinating face, bursting with innocence like a young Carolyn Jones, is insanely captivating and she really brings you into her reclusive little world. She has so much genuine charisma and also knows when to reel it in too. A future star for sure.
- Gavin Logan
'We're All Going to the World's Fair' arrives in UK cinemas from April 29th, Digital Download May 9th and Blu-ray May 23rd.