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we’re all going to the world’s fair

we're all going to the world's fair

A teenage girl gets caught up in a mysterious online game in Jane Schoenbrun's fascinating tech-horror debut.

A teenage girl becomes trapped in a mysterious online game in the fascinating tech-horror debut of Jane Schönbrunn.

Of all the genres used to deal with isolation and lockdown in the last two years, horrors have been the most successful. From Zoom-based event hosts to outdoor projects like In the Earth and X, a handful of directors have used remote conditions to create motion films that directly speak to our collective concerns. And for indie filmmakers like Jen Schönbrunn, these situations lend themselves to low-budget closet dramas.

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If a global pandemic has taught us anything, it is that we are all afraid of being alone. We Are All Going to the World Fair opens in teen Casey’s bedroom, staring at her laptop’s camera. She’s taking on an Internet challenge, a series of trends that range from good-humored to downright life-threatening.

What they offer is the opportunity to be part of a community, even if it exists online in a sea of ​​anonymity. Like Candace Hilligloss stumbling upon in Hurk Harvey’s 1962 horror classic titled Carnival of Souls, there’s something cool about going to the World’s Fair alone. With a similarly speedy runtime of less than 90 minutes, Schoenbrom has crafted something equally punchy in We’re All Going to the World’s Fair – the brilliantly enticing title that even Shirley Jackson’s short Sounds like a story.

However, the fear of the film goes beyond the immediate contemporary. Casey interacts with a mysterious figure named JLB, played by Michael J. Rogers, who only we can see. While talking to Casey on Skype, he hides behind a hand-drawn terrifying icon reminiscent of memorable supernatural figures such as Slender Man. There is an awful feeling that you never know who you are interacting with on the Internet, and who is watching you.

This is especially true when it comes to posting videos online. Anna Cobb gives a shocking debut as budding content-producer Casey, sharing an update of her descent into the “World’s Fair Challenge” via a series of videos, which she uses to make sense of found footage of paranormal activity. Tells the same. Cobb is excellent at crossing the lines between calm and unsteady, often fluctuating between them and never really settling.

In some ways this is Schönbrunn’s weakness, never knowing what style to follow in completing his interesting thesis. We Are All Going to the World Fair is at its best when Cobb is allowed to improvise and experiment in front of a stationary camera, and it is at its worst when flicking through a series of online uploads. Calmness is often the most effective way to address separation concerns.

It is not clear throughout the movie what the World Fair is and where it exists. It’s at once a real-world challenge that required a small blood sacrifice on a computer screen, and an MMORPG bound by the confines of the Internet. It appears that these are not mutually exclusive – that our online behavior and interactions are not far removed from our actual realities. Perhaps this is the greatest horror – of losing control of oneself.

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Ketya Cerny