Review: ‘We’re All Going to the World’s Fair,’ starring Anna Cobb and Michael J Rogers

May 3, 2024

by Carla Hay

Anna Cobb in “We’re All Going to the World’s Fair” (Photo courtesy of Utopia)

“We’re All Going to the World’s Fair”

Directed by Jane Schoenbrun

Culture Representation: Taking place in an unnamed U.S. state, the supernatural drama film “We’re All Going to the World’s Fair” features a predominantly an all-white cast of characters representing the middle-class.

Culture Clash: A teenage girl participates in a mysterious online game that seems to change people who play the game. 

Culture Audience: “We’re All Going to the World’s Fair” will appeal primarily to people who are interested in watching a low-budget psychological thriller with good acting.

Anna Cobb in “We’re All Going to the World’s Fair” (Photo courtesy of Utopia)

The first thing that people should know about “We’re All Going to the World’s Fair” is that even though it’s advertised as a horror movie, it’s not a movie with jump scares. It’s not really a horror movie but more like a psychological drama about the effects of a mysterious online video challenge. Anna Cobb gives a compelling performance in this slow-paced movie.

“We’re All Going to the World’s Fair” is the feature-film debut of writer/director Jane Schoenbrun. It’s not a movie like 2002’s “Fear Dot Com” or 2014’s “Unfriended,” which are horror films about people who experience terror because they logged onto a website and made contact with an evil force. “We’re All Going to the World’s Fair” has some elements of that concept, but don’t expect to see serial killing in this movie.

The protagonist of “We’re All Going to the World’s Fair” is a teenage girl named Casey (played by Cobb), who lives in an unnamed U.S. state where it snows. (“We’re All Going to the World’s Fair” was actually filmed in New York state.) Casey has her own YouTube channel and appears to be a very lonely and isolated person who mostly interacts with people online. She is not shown interacting with anyone in person.

“We’re All Going to the World’s Fair” has a very small number of people in the movie’s cast: Only four or five people actually speak on screen. And none of them is ever in the same room as Casey, whose bedroom is in the attic of the house where she lives. The movie takes place during the winter season, because there is snow on the ground where Casey lives, which is in a remote wooded area.

Casey’s family life is vague. Viewers of “We’re All Going to the World’s Fair” will find out that Casey lives with her father, who is never seen in the movie. He is only heard yelling at her once, late at night when she is playing something too loudly on her laptop computer. Casey’s mother is not seen or mentioned in the film. If Casey has any relatives, they aren’t mentioned either.

“We’re All Going to the World’s Fair” begins by showing Casey doing a livestream for her YouTube channel, where she announces a little nervously to her audience that she’s going to take the World’s Fair Challenge. She logs onto an unseen website and says three times in a row: “I want to go to the World’s Fair.”

Then, she takes a pin button with a drawing of a skull and pricks the index finger on her left hand until a small amount of blood comes out. She smears the blood on the computer screen and plays a video that cannot be seen by viewers watching the movie. However, pulsating noises can be heard from the video that is being played.

The rest of “We’re All Going to the World’s Fair” consists of Casey becoming aware that many things about her are changing. Is it real or all in her imagination? That’s for viewers of the movie to decide. However, Casey sees videos on the Internet that show other people who took the World’s Fair Challenge have had things happen to them too.

“We’re All Going to the World’s Fair” is a “mood movie” that doesn’t have much of a plot but is very effective at creating a certain atmosphere and getting people curious about what will happen next. There’s one scene in the movie that can definitely be considered something from a traditional horror movie, but this scene comes and goes with no further explanation.

Casey has an ardent YouTube subscriber named JLB (played by Michael J Rogers), a middle-aged man who can be described as an obsessive fan of Casey. JLB (who uses a skull illustration as his online avatar) frequently checks in on Casey and expects her to communicate with him. JLB becomes increasingly worried about Casey when he notices changes in her.

Just like Casey, JLB also appears to be a lonely and isolated person, even though he doesn’t live alone either. There’s a scene in “We’re All Going to the World’s Fair” where a woman is briefly seen in the background of JLB’s home. It’s implied that this woman is JLB’s wife or live-in partner, but he never mentions her, and she is not shown speaking to him.

“We’re All Going to the World’s Fair” is a portrait of a slow descent into madness. It’s not the type of movie that will be enjoyed by viewers who are expecting a lot of action. But this very low-budget film has some striking visuals and a creepy tone that might be enough to unsettle some viewers, which seems to be the main intention.

Utopia released “We’re All Going the World’s Fair” in select U.S. cinemas on April 15, 2024. The movie was released on digital and VOD on April 22, 2024. “We’re All Going the World’s Fair” is available for streaming on Max.

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