Regrettably this is not a period piece about how amazing world fairs can be. Or a film version of the great Simpsons Episode. If anything We’re All Going to the World’s Fair is closest to The Devil in the White City, which was about a worlds fair and a serial killer. Ok, there’s no serial killer in We’re All Going to the World’s Fair, but there is a lot of tension, creepiness, and blurred reality that will definitely unsettle more than a few viewers.
I definitely would NOT take the World’s Fair Challenge, the online challenge of the moment. But teenager Casey (Anna Cobb) has nothing better to do, alone in a big house with aloof parents and endless internet time. Plus, this challenge brings her in touch with her deep seeded horror obsessions, being a fan of Paranormal Activity and Blair Witch. She goes on an internet deep dive after she partakes, eventually ending up being reached out to by World’s Fair believer JLB (Michael J. Rogers), who helps her deal with her fear about what paranormal effects might consume her from taking this Slender Man like challenge.
In the 1970’s men had to go deep into the South American jungles to descend into madness. In 2022, you don’t even have to leave your bedroom. The Internet is home to thousands of South American Jungle equivalents, especially if you’re a teenager. The scariest part of We’re All Going to the World’s Fair is how believable this all is (someone got murdered because of Slender Man). Anna Cobb is incredible displaying the baby steps a person slowly takes as their actions and behaviors become more and more extreme. Things get most scary when reality and fantasy blur: as JLB becomes more interested in Casey’s transformation, even he can’t tell, giving him a real crisis of conscience when it comes to breaking down the online wall and trying to meet Casey in person to make sure she’s ok. So parents, consider We’re All Going to the World’s Fair a lesson in maybe spending some time with your kid instead of yelling at them from the living room as you sit on your butt and watch TV.
Writer director Jane Schonebrun also unsettles the audience with some smart choices at key points in the movie. We get countless harbingers of doom for the shy sorta sad Casey, like a hidden weapon in a barn, YouTube reaction videos, and sinister Skype profiles. Then, there’s a perspective switch about halfway through that completely unmoors the story and changes the type of dread We’re All Going to the World’s Fair starts with. That change also instills new fears and dreads as we see what is happening to Casey from afar, and maybe become more worried about what actions will be taken from either side of the computer screen. Schonebrun’s goal isn’t exploitation though, she’s smarter than that, keeping the audience guessing as to what type of fair we are all going toward.
What a debut for both Anna Cobb and Jane Schonebrun! We’re All Going to the World’s Fair shows the great promise of 2 new talents finding new ways to scare a new generation. Jason Blum, I hope you’re paying attention, give Schonebrun $20 mil and let’s see what she can do with a bigger budget. Hell bring along Anna to play the lead too!