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 and author who has published nine books on cult, horror and exploitation cinema with an emphasis on gender politics, including the 2020 book ‘1000 Women in Horror, 1898-2018’ which was included on Esquire Magazine’s list of the best 125 books written about Hollywood. Alexandra is a contributing editor at Film International, a columnist at Fangoria, an Adjunct Professor at Deakin University, and a member of the advisory board of the Miskatonic Institute of Horror Studies (LA, NYC, London).