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Movie Review: ‘We’re All Going to the World’s Fair’ Holds Back on its Mystery

Movie Review: ‘We’re All Going to the World’s Fair’ Holds Back on its Mystery

Director: Jane Schoenbrun

Writer: Jane Schoenbrun

Stars: Anna Cobb, Holly Anne Frank, Michael J. Rogers

Synopsis: Alone in her attic bedroom, 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

 

Back in the day, when YouTube was rising to the top of the social media food chain, the term creepypasta was all over the website. The content creators doing these types of videos told stories about death and violence of the supernatural and existential horrors “lurking” around us in the dead of night. The primary purpose was to scare viewers, mostly younger ones, and cause the stories to be shared worldwide. Throughout the years, many tales of these “demons” have been created; however, the ones that have stood out are the Smiling Man and Slender Man, which later got formed into both a videogame and film. Although the word creepypasta is not said or mentioned during Jane Schoenbrun’s festival favorite, We’re All Going to the World’s Fair, it helps to understand the world it is creating and interpret its themes in-depth. In addition, it also benefits that the film is set amidst the pandemic’s confinement and the modern generation’s social media uprising. 

The film opens with Casey (Anna Cobb) doing some audio and screen tests before she starts filming her YouTube video in her attic bedroom, just to make sure everything goes right. Casey is almost quivering; there’s a tear hanging in her eye. She says that she will attempt to do the world’s fair challenge, which seems to be an internet-game trend, and that game is supposed to cause changes of some sorts to the people who play it. By this point, we don’t know anything about the challenge itself or the main protagonist. She says the phrase “I want to go to the world’s fair” three times and causes a puncture in her finger with a pin so that she can wipe the blood across her screen. This is the process that needs to be done in order to begin said challenge. It is followed by a series of strobing lights, indicating that the game has initiated. Casey needs to explore and encounter what’s left of this creepypasta-esque trend. As these changes begin to appear, she documents them via various uploads to her channel and does research by watching other videos of the diverse experiences players have gone through. 

There are mentions about losing the sensation of one’s body or bodily modifications, like a slowly growing fungus in the arm (which is a quick yet great sequence of slight body horror). Casey doesn’t know if she wants to keep the act of the game going, but another player, JLB (Michael J. Rogers), tells her to continue–to go deeper into the rabbit hole of the world’s fair. Reality and fiction begin to intertwine once Casey’s videos become more worrisome because she keeps interacting with the trend. The viewers don’t know if it’s an act or if she’s actually suffering from the symptoms of this trend. Due to having limited resources, Schoenbrun had a significant obstacle to overcome in terms of delivering its spooks. On occasion, it does provide some unnerving moments that dwell within the aching isolation of being a young soul, particularly during the days of confinement, as well as some intriguing concepts about individuality – how we are perceived by others versus ourselves. Some scenes linger for the right amount of time so that they can be soaked in atmospheric dread. 

Those sequences where we simply witness Casey undergoing the strange effects or when she’s having some personal conversations with the camera are the most exciting and effective because of their meditative sensation, Alex G’s transient score, and Anna Cobb’s refined performance. However, the rest of it doesn’t reach satisfying or engaging grounds for the most part, primarily because of its lack of tension, slow pacing, and unpolished screenplay. It is far more interesting and creative than some of its contemporaries like Paranormal Activity. Yet, it doesn’t come close to the low-budget success of The Blair Witch Project, even though they are two different styles. Another problem that hurts the We’re All Going to the World’s Fair experience is that it holds back too much of the mystery. So, there is much to explore and analyze, albeit when the film restrains too much without the required suspense, it gets hard to be wholly immersed in its narrative. Schoenbrun’s vision is distinctive, so I will give points where they are due, and I will be anticipating their next project. Unfortunately, the World’s Fair doesn’t amount to its potential thematically and narrative-wise.

 

Grade: C+

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