We’re All Going to the World’s Fair – SUNDANCE 2021 Review

Each day we Internet users navigate a labyrinth of fictions which demand our discerning eye; here on the Internet, it’s easy to believe lies and doubt reality because the data we consume insists on its own authenticity. In particular, Creepypastas actively play on the Internet’s murky reality, aiming to disturb us by making us question our own reality. Those hastily-written little horror stories kept me up at night as a tween, my mind unconsciously rationalizing those apparent fictions.

We get to know Casey, the protagonist of We’re All Going to the World’s Fair, through her Internet habits. She fills her otherwise silent world with YouTube-adjacent videos and her own video persona while quickly spiraling down the rabbit hole of the distantly threatening “World’s Fair Challenge.” The challenge exists in a constructed reality along the lines of Slender Man – there is even a glimpse at a World’s Fair video series like Marble Hornets in this world. Director Jane Shoenbrun captures her inability to differentiate reality from fiction through a chilly digital haze – often, it feels like Casey’s entire being is grafted onto each speck of MacBook Photo Booth digital noise. Small digital affects like perpetually spinning loading screen wheels or the boot-up jingle of a digital camera bring the film into the realm of uncanny horror. However, underneath the dread-soaked atmosphere is an empathetic look at somebody lost to the tides of Internet noise. Anna Cobb’s performance is riveting at all times; she carries the film along with a mysterious personality she meets played by Michael Rogers. He further enables Casey’s obsession with World’s Fair, and their relationship tightens as Casey’s mental state unfurls. We don’t get to see much else of Casey’s life, and the tight focus can be claustrophobic in the best way. 

We’re All Going to the World’s Fair is like a post-internet Paranormal Activity, where the demons might just be our own. It successfully plays in the realm of horror while never judging or condemning its characters and allowing them to breathe naturally in a deeply familiar world. It’s as uncomfortable as it is cathartic, and feels like an appropriate response to the cascades of information we face on the Internet each day. [B+]

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