Featured image: Anna Cobb as Casey in We’re All Going to the World’s Fair. (Courtesy of Fantasia.)
Directed and written by Jane Schoenbrun. Starring Anna Cobb, Michael J Rogers. Runtime 1h 25 min. This film had its Canadian Premiere at Fantasia on Sunday, August 8, after premiering at Sundance earlier this year.
In We’re All Going to the World’s Fair, Casey (Anna Cobb) is a socially awkward teen joining in on The World’s Fair, a new online role-playing horror game. Once started, participants track their wide variety of symptoms through video diaries.
This is an intimate journey as we see Casey’s arc through these video diaries, which feel like they should be “unlisted” vids only shared with friends. Much like last year’s Zoom séance Host, this film is most immersive to watch on a laptop. We’re taken through the reaches of the Internet; at times feeling like we’re on FaceTime with her, which is unnerving.
Director, writer and editor Jane Schoenbrun has a knack for making comfortable things uncomfortable. For instance, an ASMR video that Casey watches on a projector screen. I’m a headphones user and this scene triggered my fight or flight response.
The woman in the video tells us we’re safe and pets the screen, and all I could think was, “Stop petting me.” It’s chilling because of Schoenbrun’s creepy atmosphere in the film. Of course, if you go to the real ASMR video, there’s nothing in the comments but positivity about how much the video helped them. It’s a safe place.
There’s no such thing as a safe place in We’re All Going to the World’s Fair. Schoenbrun uses a fear of the unknown to her advantage, expertly lingering on images that are uncomfortable and unexplainable. Some are simply creepy, like a CreepyPasta Skype profile picture staring at us… until I had to look away.
This skill makes up for perhaps what the plot lacks in “substance.” The focus is on the unique character study that’s infused with horror, anchored by a compelling Anna Cobb. It’s an anxiety trip that can be a bit much, but those elements make this at least worth the price of admission.
We’re All Going to the World’s Fair had its Canadian Premiere at Fantasia on Sunday, August 8.