April 25, 2022

We’re All Going to the World’s Fair

3 min read
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By: Lillian Crawford

Of all the genres used to tackle isolation and lockdown over the past two years, horrors have been the most successful. From the Zoom-based phenomenon Host to outdoor projects like In the Earth and X, a handful of directors have used distanced conditions to create some a propos films that speak directly to our collective anxieties. And for indie filmmakers like Jane Schoenbrun, these conditions lend themselves to low-budget closet dramas.

If a global pandemic has taught us anything, it’s that we are all frightened of being alone. We’re All Going to the World’s Fair opens in teenage Casey’s bedroom with her staring into the camera of her laptop. She is taking an internet challenge, a series of trends that range from the good-humoured to the downright life-threatening.

What they offer is an opportunity to be part of a community, albeit one which exists online in a sea of anonymity. Like Candace Hilligloss stumbling through the title Carnival of Souls in Herk Harvey’s 1962 horror classic, there’s something chilling about going to the World’s Fair alone. With a similarly brisk runtime under 90 minutes, Schoenbroem has crafted something equally punchy in We’re All Going to the World’s Fair – the brilliantly enticing title even sounds like a Shirley Jackson short story.

The fears of the film go beyond the immediately contemporary, however. Casey interacts with a mysterious figure called JLB, played by Michael J. Rogers, whom only we can see. When talking to Casey on Skype, he hides behind a hand-drawn ghoulish icon reminiscent of memefied supernatural figures like the Slender Man. There’s a terrifying sense that you never know who you’re interacting with on the internet, and of who may be watching you.

That’s especially true when it comes to posting videos online. Anna Cobb gives a startling debut performance as budding content-producer Casey, sharing updates of her descent into the ‘World’s Fair Challenge’ through a series of videos she knowingly refers to as being similar to the found footage of Paranormal Activity. Cobb is excellent at toeing the lines between calm and unhinged, often fluctuating between them and never really settling on either.

In some ways that’s Schoenbrun’s weakness, never quite knowing what style to stick to in carrying out her intriguing thesis. We’re All Going to the World’s Fair is at its best when Cobb is allowed to improvise and experiment in front of a static camera, and its worst when flicking through series of online uploads. Very often stillness is the most effective way to explore the anxieties of isolation.

It remains unclear throughout the film exactly what the World’s Fair is and where it exists. It’s at once a real-world challenge requiring a small blood sacrifice to be smeared on the computer screen, and an MMORPG bound to the confines of the internet. The point seems to be that these aren’t mutually exclusive – that our online behaviours and interactions are not removed from our tangible realities. Perhaps that’s the greatest terror of all – of losing control over ourselves.


Another lockdown horror film out of Sundance could go either way.


Anna Cobb is mesmerising, although Jane Schoenbrun should maintain some stylistic consistency.


Plays a little too well to modern anxieties for comfort.


Directed by

Jane Schoenbrun


Anna Cobb,

Michael J. Rogers

The post We’re All Going to the World’s Fair appeared first on Little White Lies.

Originally posted on Little White Lies

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