We're All Going to the World's Fair
we're all going to the world's fair | jane schoenbrun | anna cobb | holly anne frink | michael j rogers | desktop horror | found footage | drama | united states | nightmares film festival
Film: We’re All Going to the World’s Fair
Director: Jane Schoenbrun
Writer: Jane Schoenbrun
Starring: Anna Cobb, Holly Anne Frink and Michael J Rogers
This is a movie that caught my attention was it was being shown at the Nightmares Film Festival. I couldn’t attend, but I kept my eye out for it. I did hear others seeing this at festivals which sparked my interest even more. When I saw that the Gateway Film Center was showing it, I made it a point to see.
Synopsis: alone in her attic bedroom, teenager Casey (Anna Cobb) becomes immersed in an online role-playing horror game, wherein she begins to document the changes that may or may not be happening to her.
We start this movie off meeting our lead, Casey. She has her own channel for videos, like on YouTube. She has decided to the World’s Fair challenge. We see her trying out a couple introductions before getting into it. It then has her saying, “I want to go to the World’s Fair” three times and then stabbing her finger with a pin. She wipes the blood on the screen.
From there she watches other videos of people have taken this challenge. She believes she is going through similar symptoms. As she questions to keep making videos, she encounters JLB (Michael J Rogers). He is an expert on this challenge and grows concerned for Casey. What is odd though is how much older he is than this high school girl. Despite this difference, they are both lonely in their own ways.
Casey’s thoughts turn darker the more videos she makes and we see that she might be unstable. There is a history of sleepwalking, where she would do odd things. There also seems to be depression and a lack of self-esteem as well. Casey in one of her videos says she is going to do something violent which makes JLB consider alerting the authorities about what he is seeing. She mocks him though when confronted.
That is where I’ll leave my recap. This movie doesn’t have a lot to the story. We get introduced to our lead and to this challenge that she is doing. From there is it mostly a character study of her. We also get to see a bit from JLB’s point of view as he is concerned with what she might do. Interspersed are different videos that others have done for this challenge that she is taking on as well.
Now I don’t normally like to start with a negative, but I wished we would have gotten more to this ‘game’ of the World’s Fair. We hear its name and JLB points out that it is on open world RPG. He says it is a massively multiplayer online game. We don’t see that though. We do see an old 16-bit version. I would have liked to see more of the game, because what we see is more of a challenge that would go around social media platforms. What I did like was seeing a few different videos of others who have taken on this challenge and the effects it had. It took me with this second viewing to realize that the ‘game’ is a MMORPG, but instead of creating an avatar in a made-up world, you are the character you playing as and you create creepy videos. After picking up on that, it is more creative than I realized.
With that out of the way though, I do like most of what we are getting here. As I was saying, this is more of a character study of Casey. What I like here is that she is like many of us. I see part of myself when I was around her age and meeting people in chatrooms. She is doing a bit more with having these videos. She wants to have an online presence. That wasn’t necessarily a thing when I was her age. You could be in your corner of the internet, but nothing like today with social media. She is putting herself out there, but I also like that we see she is lacking confidence and self-esteem. This is Cobb’s feature film debut. She does an excellent job at conveying both sides of this role. I would bet there is something natural there for her age as well.
Going along with this character, I think there is mental illness here. It almost feels like a commentary on the pandemic and how it isolated people. We never get to see her father. We hear his voice once and him coming home. I’m guessing that her mother had passed away from a video we see. Another thing to look at is those that live through their online personality only. There is depression there. This is what is leading to the dark thoughts I’ve brought up. This is a relevant problem that fits for the world we live in. Something else that I picked up on is that Casey makes threats that she is going to hurt her father or herself. JLB gets scared and wants to help. Casey is embarrassed when she confronts him and lashes out. I like including this. This is another real problem in the United States. With how often it happens, I can’t blame JLB for wanting to step in. Sometimes, people like Casey just need that. How this movie ends makes sense as a possible outcome for sure.
That should be enough for the story. There isn’t much more to go into for the acting. I’ve given credit to Cobb who played her role very well. I did want to give credit to Rogers. He is the only other actor whose character gets fleshed out. JLB is a character I don’t fully trust. It is a bit weird that he is contacting Casey. He calls her through Skype, but he doesn’t turn his camera on. She does. I get an uneasy feeling from this and what he’s doing overall. That never gets resolved for me. I did want to give him credit with his performance to build that feeling. He could be a harmless guy who is looking out for Casey’s well-being. I think the movie leaves this open-ended thanks to the world we live in. The rest of the cast are through videos and I thought they worked for what was needed.
The last things then to go into would be the filmmaking. I’ll start with the cinematography and we get some interesting ways of filming this. This is partially a Desktop Horror in that we are seeing Casey through her computer camera. We are seeing what it is seeing. It also is like watching her video on these platforms. That does make some of this eerie. She uses a camera which gives it that found footage, intimate feel at times. This also has a camera recording other things. I’d give credit to how this was shot. The movie is limited on effects, but what we got was fine. What I did want to give credit to the soundtrack. The use of music helps to build the atmosphere that this movie needed. The sound design also worked well. Putting this all together, I’d say this is well-made.
In conclusion, this is a movie that I had something in my head and that isn’t necessarily what we got. I don’t want to hold that against the movie though as that isn’t fair. We are getting an interesting character study of Casey. She might be troubled or she might just be going through some things. She is using her videos and this game as an outlet. I would say her performance was good. I wanted a bit more about the World’s Fair, but in the end that isn’t the focal. We get good cinematography and a solid soundtrack. I thought this was above average the first time. Now that I’ve seen it, I have come up on my rating. I still don’t love it. It is one that I appreciate more with a second watch.
My Rating: 8 out of 10