WE’RE ALL GOING TO THE WORLD’S FAIR (Fantasia 2021) – Review by Alexandra Heller-Nicholas

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It’s paradoxical that sometimes going into a film completely cold, with no knowledge about it whatsoever, is the best way to experience it. This admittedly renders reviewing it a somewhat redundant task; does that mean I don’t want you to read this review? I am still, frankly, undecided, so I write if only purely for selfish reasons: think of this less as a review, then, than as a simultaneous a recommendation and an informal self-exorcism.

Directed by Jane Schoenbrun, We’re All Going to the World’s Fair premiered earlier in the year at Sundance and is currently playing Montreal’s Fantasia International Film Festival. Hinging emphatically around an extraordinary performance by newcomer Anna Cobb, she plays Casey, a loner teen in Anywhere U.S.A who tackles the current online viral challenge fad, a Bloody Mary-esque social media ‘game’ called We’re All Going to the World’s Fair. Not knowing what to expect, but – based on other videos from fellow game-players – knowing to expect something, the initially meek Casey goes on a journey both emotional, psychological, spiritual and physical that leads her to an unexpected relationship with a fellow online traveler.

Low-key, dark, and emphatically superb, We’re All Going to the World’s Fair flirts with the internet horror of films like the recent Zoom indie smash Host, but where that film stayed impressively loyal to its central formal conceit, Schoenbrun dazzles with this unrestrained foray well beyond the boundaries of any particular horror subgenre and into much more abstract terrain. Swirling around the plug hole of a digital abyss, we’re never sure what lies down the drain even after the film has ended, making it the rarest of gifts; a horror movie that becomes more disturbing the more you think about it, long after it has ended.

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Alexandra Heller-Nicholas

Alexandra Heller-Nicholas is a multi award-winning film critic from Melbourne, Australia. She was an editor at Senses of Cinema from 2015 to 2018, and is a Rotten Tomatoes approved critic for ABC Radio in Australia, She has written for Film International, Diabolique Magazine, Vulture, Overland, The Big Issue and her own website, The Blue Lenses. She has written eight books on cult, horror and exploitation cinema and co-edited collections on Elaine May, Hélène Cattet and Bruno Forzani, Peter Strickland, and Alice in Wonderland in film. She frequently contributes commentaries, liner notes and video essays to home entertainment releases from companies such as Arrow Video, Kino Lorber, Eureka Entertainment, Second Sight and Severin Films. She is a Research Fellow at RMIT University and an Adjunct Professor at Deakin University, and a member of the advisory board of the Miskatonic Institute of Horror Studies (LA, NYC, London).