Final Girls Berlin Film Festival: We’re All Going to the World’s Fair Is Truly Frightening

A lot of the time, when filmmakers try and tackle the idea of the internet and internet culture, be it through laymen or content creators/influencers, it is usually depicted poorly or just plain wrong. One dark hidden corner of internet culture is ARGs, or Alternate Reality Games. Things like alantutorial, Charlie Charlie (The Gallows), and Darren Lynn Bousman’s The Tension Experience are all wonderful examples of what an ARG can be, and the different forms an ARG can take. Charlie Charlie took social media by storm by creating the Charlie Charlie Challenge, while something like Ash Vlogs takes the game style in a completely different direction. What happens when you take a teenager with clear mental health issues and have them stumble upon something that they think is real? You get the extremely disturbing film We’re All Going To The World’s Fair.

World’s Fair, for short, is a film that I was somewhat familiar with, as I had seen the poster pop up all over, but I had no clue what it actually was. When I found out it was on the schedule for the Final Girls Berlin Film Festival, I immediately knew that I had to cover it. A poster can say more than a trailer sometimes, and if there is a movie I am super excited to see, I will try and avoid trailers and stick to looking at the poster to keep the excitement. The poster for World’s Fair is haunting, to say the least. A young woman covered in a type of glow-in-the-dark paint holds an eye from something up to her own and stares down the barrel of the camera. It is truly unsettling.

A sleep deprived Casey stares at the camera while being frightened from the online horror game she is playing

This film is about a young girl Casey (Anna Cobb) who struggles with some mental health issues but powers through and continues making and uploading videos to YouTube (or a version of YouTube). One day, she decides to partake in a popular internet challenge called “The World’s Fair.” To start playing the game is pretty simple. You must repeat “I want to go to the world’s fair” three times, prick your finger, wipe your blood across your computer screen, and then watch an epilepsy-inducing video; boom, you’re playing the game. There are other creators on Casey’s platform that are documenting their progression, so she decides to do the same.

One night during a bout of insomnia—or mental health-related sleep issues—Casey goes out to a barn, hoping she could get some shut-eye out there, and turns on a projector that is playing videos from her platform. There is an interesting juxtaposition from Casey’s professed love of horror when she watches ASMR videos to go to sleep. Immediately after this ASMR video comes a video titled, “A message for Casey from JLB.” This is an incredibly weird and chilling deep-fry video giving Casey messages that say, “I need to talk to you.” These messages are accompanied by an ever-distorting image of her face that is just truly scary. This is where we learn of the existence of JLB (Michael J Rogers).

Casey watches a video for her from someone online named JLB, the image slowly distorts itself in front of her eyes.

From the very opening frame to the final talking head, there is nary a moment of ease. World’s Fair exudes unsafe chaotic energy. It’s one of those films where it feels the actors are let loose to explore their characters, and that really feeds into the deeply disturbing performance from Cobb. Believe it or not, this is Cobb’s feature film debut, which means that, if she decides to pursue it, there will be a great deal of success in her future…and let’s hope she sticks to horror! Her screams seem painfully real, and the dance/rap scene is one of the most truly unsettling moments in recent genre films that I have seen.

The dance/rap scene directly plays into one of the main ideas behind this film, which is the duality of the internet and mental health. One of the least discussed things when it comes to content creators is the lack of mental health support that places like YouTube offer. Granted, you technically work for yourself when you are a content creator, but without you, there would be no content on YouTube, so you would think that would be one thing the site would focus on providing to their creators. This also plays into the idea of addiction to fandoms and the internet, what it can do to a young mind, and the negative effects that can come from it. Sometimes it’s hard for people to realize when they need to close their laptop or look away from their phone, but we are slowly becoming hardwired to thrive off of the dopamine of endless scrolling.

Casey watches the video uploaded by JLB as he tries to make contact with her about the World's Fair

World’s Fair seamlessly switches back and forth between diegetic and non-diegetic camera work, taking us from casual viewers of a film unfolding to witnessing a complete mental breakdown. The camera work, in both regards, is ominous and raw and is complimented in every way by Jane Schoenbrun. Their directing feels incredibly precise and fully realized but gave enough room for the actors to act around. There is also something that must be said about getting a performance like Cobb’s out of a first-time actor; it’s truly impressive.

We’re All Going To The World’s Fair is one of those movies that feels like an of-the-time movie. It perfectly executes its ideas and tackles many ideas that are relevant today, while adding a dash of madness and a pinch of chaos. This feels like a feature-length NoSleep or creepypasta on crack. We all use the internet, whether it’s for fame, fortune, or fun, and I think there is something that everyone can take away from this movie. Movies like this should make us all happy for the future of our genre; this lets us know that there are still ideas out there, there are still people who try (and succeed) to make groundbreaking pieces that subvert our genre expectations. It will be very interesting to see what happens [hopefully] when Schoebrun gets a large[r] budget and full creative control.

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Written by Brendan Jesus

I am an award-winning horror screenwriter, rotting away in New Jersey.

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