- Movie Rating -

We’re All Going to the World’s Fair (2022)

| April 15, 2022

Sometimes, just for laughs, I go YouTube and watch those videos where armchair eggheads like myself take a piece of filmmaking and trying to intellectualize it – in all honesty, I’ve seen enough analysis on The Shining to last me the rest of my life.  I love hearing film analysis which either gives me a perspective on a classic film that I may not have devised on my own OR helps me understand a film that seems to have gone over my head.

Jane Schoenbrun’s We’re All Going to the World’s Fair is a movie that lands somewhere in the middle.  It is a psychological horror exercise for the creepypasta generation.  It is also so cryptic that it might pass in front of you and seem to be about nothing at all.  Most of the film is made up of videos made by Casey (Anna Cobb, which the opening credits proudly note is making her film debut) a fresh-faced teen who spends much of her time locked away in her attic bedroom taking The World’s Fair Challenge, an online RPG horror experience that allows the participant to live inside a horror scenario.

The five minute opening sequence is one of the most unnerving that I can remember.  Casey faces her camera and starts and restarts her introductory video several times before she is comfortable with what she has.  Then she quietly slices her thumb open, smears blood on the camera and performs a weird 21st century version of Bloody Mary, repeating “I want to go to the World’s Fair” into the camera over and over.

The game itself doesn’t manifest in the ways that you might expect.  There’s no Slenderman, no Candyman, no Bloody Mary, not spectral psycho killer.  The changes take place in the mind.  Through the videos, participants claim to be going through changes both mentally and physically.  Some have claimed a sort of demonic possession.  Some a weird sense of crushing paranoia.  Others have claimed that they’ve been hypnotized by their computer.  So then, we wonder, what will be Casey’s experience?

What was most interesting to me wasn’t the horror element but simply observing this young girls, lonely, spaced away from friends and parents.  The only parental figure is heard once when she makes too much noise and there are apparently no friends other than those who check in on her videos.  Occasionally, she takes trips outside, to a remote spot in the woods or to a quiet cemetery, and always with her trusty camera.  At one point she takes a trip into town, which seems barren and quiet, a sad landscape of small shops and nothing to do.  Wherever it is, it is bitter cold with the ever-present promise of an eventual snowfall.  This is Casey’s world, so it is no wonder that she looks for entertainment in a cryptic RPG game in which she records the changes to her sanity.

The trips outside are few and far between.  Much of the film remains in that attic bedroom as we are witness to a girl whose isolation probably bends her brain more than any internet game.  She is so dependent on her internet community that at one point, she is lulled to sleep by the flashing lights and noise coming from her computer.  Through the monotony of her experience we note shifts in her behavior – largely effected by her desire to effect some measure of change in a surrounding world that is not changing.  The game is something to do.

What I found potentially interesting was that eventually Schoenbrun introduces another element: the man who seems to running the game who intrudes on her space by telling her “I’m worried about you.”  He is a middle-aged man known as JBL, who invades on her space when the changes to her personality become too much.  But the film’s third act kind of drops the ball as the confrontation between Casey and JBL is revealed.  The movie ends on him rather than on her and that, I felt, was a mistake.  We have invested so much time and energy to Casey’s lonely world, why shift it to another person that we don’t care about?

That’s too bad because what had come before was kind of brilliant – a head-trip for the creepypasta community, a portrait of a lonely soul looking for some measure of movement in her life and her experience.  Why gum it up with a plot right at the end?  I want to see the YouTube video that justifies that.

About the Author:

Jerry Roberts is a film critic and operator of two websites, Armchair Cinema and Armchair Oscars.
(2022) View IMDB Filed in: Horror