Friday, April 29, 2022

We’re All Going to the World’s Fair


We’re All Going to the World’s Fair
Jane Schoenbrun

We’re all living in a horror movie.

Casey (Anna Cobb) is a young woman who spends her days playing an Alternative Reality Game (ARG) called The World’s Fair Challenge, in which people perform a particular ritual and documents the results which are supposed to change that person forever. Casey’s videos catch the attention of JLB (Michael Rogers) another player who is concerned about her behavior. Is Casey really under the sway of some unknown evil or is she simply playing the game along with everyone else? What exactly are his motives?

We’re All Going to the World’s Fair is about the horror of isolation and how we use the internet to create narratives for ourselves and others to film those spaces in our lives. The story itself is fragmented much like our day-to-day interactions on the internet, we see Casey create her videos, we see her isolated quiet life, we jump to the videos of other people playing the World’s Fair Challenge, and we see JLB in his vast nearly empty home. Casey never appears on screen with another character, JLB only in brief moment is seen with another person in frame.


OK, but that bedroom is pretty cool.

There isn’t much in the way of a traditional narrative or even traditional horror. Instead, the film is an exploration of tone and void. Set around Xmas, the film forgoes the usual festive settings for a bleak gray and windswept world that is as alien as anything Casey reaches for in her game. The look of the film is sparse, as it should be. Relegated to just a few locations, and the drizzly bleak outdoors. Her waking life and her ARG blur together. The blending of worlds is normally a common trope in horror films but We’re All Going to the World’s Fair takes it one step further, as the viewer is never sure just how much of this is Casey playing a game, actually falling under the influence or something, or even having a narrative constructed for her by JLB and by extension the viewer. While her world feels haunted and empty, Casey feels the real horror from within, there is a fracture in her personality. She is reaching for something missing about herself, but there is nothing online or in the bleak world around her that offers any help. The film becomes about a person to contextualize themselves while another outside observer attempts the same thing.

"Stupid Windows updates...
I want to get back to my bleak existence."


We’re All Going to the World’s Fair does contain a couple of frightening scenes but it largely trades in dread from an oppressive world and an unknown destination. I can see this being a divisive film because it offers no answers to its questions, the audience is as lost in the hunt for concrete meaning as much as the characters are, but if you also allow yourself to be swept up in the emotional side of the journey as you will find a film that is as haunting and desperate as marginalized lives in this era can be.

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