“Today I’m going to be taking the World’s Fair Challenge.” She has practiced saying the words but on camera in her barely-lit attic bedroom now seems uncertain as she steels herself to make the blood promise which will apparently induct her into an online fellowship of those who have similarly braved the unknown. “I’ll update you if I start to notice any changes.”
Described as “the Internet’s scariest online horror game,” Casey admits that she does not know what to expect, searching for videos uploaded by others who have participated in the challenge and sharing her own thoughts and impressions, her love for horror movies cited as a motivation for taking part, wanting to know what it feels like to live in one.
Much of We’re All Going to the World’s Fair shot in unforgiving single takes focused entirely on Anna Cobb’s teenage loner Casey, self-aware and unselfconscious yet apparently without friends or parental supervision other than a single admonishment shouted from the next room, she is never seen in the company of anyone or anything save her omnipresent laptop, existing in a vacuum and reaching out because there is nobody there to listen.
Written and directed by Jane Schoenbrun and interspersed with recordings from other “players” of the game, We’re All Going to the World’s Fair is not a found footage film per se but falls into the traps of that genre; staring sadly and silently directly at the camera does not magically confer depth or sincerity, and random inconsequential footage padding out what is at most a short film does not a feature film make.
Perhaps intended as a commentary on feelings of abandonment or disconnection, the need to be heard and understood, the appeal of Internet fads to those who wish immediate recognition and gratification, for Casey in her isolation every feeling is magnified, leading her to form a co-dependent friendship with the only person who responds to her even though the first contact from faceless heavy breather JLB (Michael J Rogers) borders on threatening.
So far, so Hard Candy, but where that film pushed forward courageously into dangerous territory We’re All Going to the World’s Fair falters, less Cobb acting than Casey acting out for attention and clicks; twice referencing Paranormal Activity as the goal to which a horror aficionado should aspire to and with Schoenbrun also listed as editor, perhaps a better inspiration might have been a film where something actually happens.
We’re All Going to the World’s Fair will be released in cinemas from Friday 29th April and on Digital Download and Blu-ray from Monday 9th May