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If there is one thing we can all agree on in this constantly bickering, attention-craving and increasingly mad mad world, it is that the internet is no longer a place to escape. Those days are very much over. This world of ours throughout time may have contained so much beauty, but some of its age old horrors persist, however our new tech-driven world has allowed some of those horrors to multiply by ten online, and even some new ones to form. It is in this distorted and disturbing headspace that writer/director Jane Schoenbrun’s We’re All Going To The World’s Fair dwells.
Anna Cobb is lonely teen Casey, who spends her time uploading videos to her YouTube channel and trying to find her voice. Though, she soon finds herself dangerously immersed in a viral horror experience called “The World’s Fair Challenge”, as she begins changing in some alarming ways, so much so a well meaning anonymous online follower reaches out to help.
We’re All Going To The World’s Fair is a methodical film that is certainly not for all tastes. Its approach is decidedly slow n’ steady and contemplative, as the film straddles the line between Host or Unfriended “screen shot” horror and found footage, while also pulling back from the screen and becoming an indie drama about identity, emotion and feeling lost amidst society or even isolated from it. Schoenbrun tackles the internet age of video making/sharing obsession and its slow, degenerative, impact on the human psyche, by way of Creepypasta sinister online mythmaking.
We’re All Going To The World’s Fair has a handful of genuinely unsettling moments (the most hair-raising being a sleep video snapshot) and some visually effective ones too, not to mention a great central performance from newcomer Cobb, that could well be a breakout role for her.
Sadly the film does get lost in its own artistic stretches and ultimately leaves a feeling of frustration, as many set ups are not delivered upon and some stylish/writing deviations further muddy the waters of a thought-provoking if irritatingly flawed piece of work. For instance, a mid-film detour into Slenderman-esque online pop culture myth feels randomly inserted, and the whole concept does not come to a rounded conclusion, nor do some of the sub-plots, there are ideas at work. Unfortunately, i doest feel distant, and leaves the journey only half walked by the end.
This is a film with a lot to think about but also one that feels a little cold in retrospect, and you feel like you never got to the heart of its dark contemplations. Though, maybe that is the point, after all this is a strange world of many mysteries and emotions, and likewise this is a strange film. But still, certainly a memorable one.