Together with her eyes of wide-set innocence “We’re All Going to the World’s Fair”, younger Casey (debuting actor Anna Cobb) stares at her webcam late one night time and repeats to herself, “I want to go to the world’s fair,” whereas gently slicing her thumb and smearing blood onto the display screen. Centered and devoted, she doesn’t as a lot as blink. Neither does the digital camera because it stays fixated on Casey’s porcelain face in a single lengthy take, captured from the POV of her monitor.
This “Candyman”-is like a ritual we witness within the opening moments of Jane Schoenbrun’s (“A Self-Induced Hallucination”) elusive, unnerving “We’re All Going to the World’s Fair,” a low-key psychodrama in regards to the uncanniness of the digital world entangled with an uncommon coming-of-age story, is the truth is an initiation ceremony that’s alleged to plug Casey into an internet role-playing recreation known as World’s Honest—apparently, the scariest of its variety. A lover of horror, Casey desires of residing inside one (“because it would be fun”) and welcomes no matter cryptic modifications may enter her life from this level on; transformations that many who took the identical problem declare to have gone by way of through varied on-line movies they contribute to the sport’s creepypasta group portal. Some really feel possessed, some really feel a sensation as if a recreation of Tetris is being performed inside their physique (presumably the weirdest one), and a few get swallowed up complete by their computer systems. It’s anybody’s guess what could be in retailer for Casey.
Slowly, Schoenbrun’s slick and visceral (however generally, gruelingly monotonous) experimental outing introduces frights within the younger woman’s existence which are a number of shades darker than no matter what World’s Honest guarantees. Casey is lonely—so lonely the truth is that we don’t ever get to fulfill her pals or mother and father, although one among them makes an aural-only look and yells on the child to maintain it quiet after hours. They’re simply inconsequential presences in her budding adolescence, one she prefers to navigate alone, amid the darkish waters of the web. If her environment is any indication—a nondescript, sparsely populated frosty city of empty roads and soulless strip malls—you possibly can hardly blame her to search for pleasure and a way of belonging elsewhere. In that regard, Casey spends most of her time in her attic-level room, embellished with cozy glow-in-the-dark stars. When she will sleep, the flashing lights and soothing voices of ASMR (autonomous sensory meridian response) movies preserve her firm. In a quietly heartbreaking sequence, one such video even helps put her to sleep, filling in for the comforting bedtime tales of a delicate parental determine.
Amid blinking lights, fluorescent colors, and Daniel Patrick Carbone’s unsettlingly stalker-y digital camera angles (every time Casey is captured from a POV aside from her monitor’s), Schoenbrun slowly reveals their distinctive coming-of-age story with “World’s Fair,” one which doesn’t happen out in the actual world, however within the bottomless on-line universe that frames Casey’s ever-shifting id. Skeptically, we get to look at these more and more menacing shifts in small doses, by way of the inventive self-made movies she provides to the World’s Honest website. An account known as JLB that belongs to a lot older man (Michael J. Rogers) rapidly notices them and befriends Casey. What follows awfully seems like a spine-tingling account of grooming—“I’m worried about you,” claims JLB, insisting that he desires to guard Casey. However who precisely is this man behind his alarming black-and-white avatar that appears like a hand-drawn death-metal album cowl? Is he a threatening presence with an abusive agenda?
In a surprising and reasonably intelligent transfer, Schoenbrun decides to carry the curtain on him to indicate to us a lonely man residing at a generic home of white moldings and marble loos that couldn’t presumably be extra atypical or suburban. An analogous vacancy visibly permeates his life. Possibly he’s that groomer we feared him to be; however, Schoenbrun provides us sufficient causes to additionally assume, perhaps not.
It’s irritating that “World’s Fair” doesn’t shut the loop there and deviates from Casey at instances for unwelcome intervals—both to indicate us others’ nonsensical World’s Honest movies or to spend extra time with JLB. However whereas their movie manages to generate solely an obscure sense of disquiet on the entire, Cobb’s arresting efficiency holds our gaze and a spotlight. She isn’t fairly the final word awkward teen of cinema like Kayla of “Eight Grade”; however reasonably, an enigmatic chameleon along with her dollish expression, pensive gaze, and inner screams we understand greater than we hear. By way of Cobb, we take an alarming and up-to-date look into the life of any common modern teenager that grows up and establishes a voice largely online, struggling to shut the hole between the actual and digital. It’s that efficiency that elevates a movie that usually rings to be lower than the sum of its components.