_We’re All Going the World’s Fair _contains flashing images which may affect viewers who are susceptible to photosensitive epilepsy.
Found footage and the unique anxieties of the internet age may not be entirely new prospects for horror but We’re All Going the World’s Fair, the fiction debut from writer-director Jane Schoenbrun, feels refreshingly original, very timely, and, perhaps most intriguingly of all, strangely tender.
Anna Cobb (in what the film’s opening credits tells us is her “debut film performance”) plays Casey, the teenage vlogger who is introduced taking part in a mysterious online game called “The World’s Fair”. The preparations for playing the game are the stuff of classic horror movie incantations; repeating the phrase “I want to go the world’s fair” three times, Casey pricks her finger and watches a mysterious video. It’s a clever opening sequence (which recalls Bo Burnham’s masterful Eighth Grade) and the film is mostly presented in this way, a collection of Casey’s vlogs as she dutifully documents the strange “symptoms” she starts to exhibit, with Cobb’s mercurial performance the anchor around which the entire film revolves.
We’ve all seen filmmakers try (with varying degrees of success) to capture the danger, the frisson and the communicative powers of the internet, but Schoenbrun (whose previous film, A Self-Induced Hallucination, was a documentary about online phenomenon Slender Man) clearly understands the realities of online life and the role it plays in the lives of young people. Following the likes of web series Marble Hornets and Rob Savage’s Zoom-set shocker _Host_¸ We’re All Going to the World’s Fair pushes horror storytelling in new directions and is a tantalising glimpse of where the future of the genre may lie. Deliberately ambiguous to the last frame, this is a film which invites discussion about what’s really going on beneath its mysterious, disturbing and consistently surprising surface and is one of the most exciting horror films of the past couple of years.