We’re All Going To The World’s Fair is categorized as a drama, but feels more horror than anything. A mix between the found footage—though not in the traditional sense—connecting with people online, the need for inclusion, and the mind-bending manipulation desperation can wreak, this film may have you scared of what’s going on within yourself.

Written and directed by Jane Schoenbrun, the film follows a young girl, Casey (Anna Cobb) as she becomes immersed in an online role-playing game. As she starts to feel different she begins to record herself more and more, as well as binge videos of supposed other players. The one person she talks to online is JB (Michael J Rogers) who claims to know about the World Fair and seeks to help her. The initial thoughts within the first 15 minutes of the film was excitement because the scene of her in the attic doing the World’s Fair Challenge and the music that plays after she begins gave me Foxfire vibes. I was a big fan of that film which starred a young, and still fairly new, Angelina Jolie, and the soundtrack had a similar alternative, indie sounds so, needless to say, that reeled me right in. 

Acting From Anna Cobb Is Effectively Eerie

The creepiest part is the sense of isolation it’s clear this girl is going through. She is clearly not close to her father who, upon our first hearing him, sounds like a loud, angry, abusive person who has little to no interaction with Casey. There’s also the feeling of isolation given where they live, as it appears sometimes, due to extreme weather, Casey is snowed in. Whether she has any friends at all in real life, we have no clue. Every video is her alone, never interacting with anyone and, though there is a whole house, she quickly retreats to the attic when her father arrives home. 

The film relies heavily on the acting of Anna Cobb, who delivers the shy, nervous, lonely teenage girl effectively reeling in the audience. She handles the other parts, delivering on the chills, with ease. The overarching question of reality has so many nuanced layers throughout the film. Was her experience genuine or was it acting? Was JB trying to help her or is he a creepy pedophile using claims of a “deeper knowledge” to reel in unsuspecting victims? These questions will resonate in your mind as you watch and only adds to the unease that builds throughout the film. 

The Buildup Is A Tightrope Of Suspense

The claustrophobic feeling, particularly as Casey is mostly up in her attic, is a credit to the direction by Jane Schoenbrun. Jane deftly builds that tension and unease and doesn’t release it, ever. That combined with Anna Cobb’s performance and there is no reprieve in sight. I look forward to both Jane Schoenbrun’s next film and Anna Cobb’s next role. Another amazing fact is, as previously stated, the music and sound effects. It’s rarely over the top and even when a sound is somewhat dramatic, it’s used so sparingly that it becomes muted yet feels jarring each time, like Casey’s life. Again, this is a soundtrack I would love to have, both on my Spotify and vinyl. The music was by Alex G and I will be scouring online for them. 

The other part is witnessing us witnessing her witnessing other World’s Fair players. We are all online, we are all watching; giving a dream within a dream within a dream feel. The bereft feeling is also easily relatable as we watch this film online, during Sundance Film Festival because of the pandemic. Films such as these, not only feel all too real at this moment but create uncertainty that remains riddled throughout the mind long after the end credits cease. 

This film explores the dangers of impressionable kids left in isolation and seeking solace online, the detriment of believing what we see and hear online, the hazard of interacting with unknown people online. And while my interpretation is negative, given the downright creepy factor of JB wanting her to keep making videos, there will be others who see something different. But how reliable is our initial storyteller, Casey? It’s all here and, depending on how you interpret the film’s ending, there is no clear resolution—just discomfort that hangs like an albatross—or Casey’s stuffed toy Po—around your neck. 

Rating: 4/5

Feature photo Anna Cobb appears in We’re All Going to the World’s Fair by Jane Schoenbrun, an official selection of the NEXT section at the 2021 Sundance Film Festival. Courtesy of Sundance Institute | photo by Daniel Patrick Carbone.

1 Reply to “Sundance Review: ‘We’re All Going To The World’s Fair’ Is Hair-Raising Creepy”

  1. Thanks for your review of the film, “We’re All Going to the World’s Fair”. Another excellent piece of writing from DarkSkyLady. Do enjoy how your pull everything together.

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