We’re All Going to the World’s Fair
★★★1/2 out of ★★★★★
Take two wholly unreliable narrators and place them in the anonymity of an Internet horror game, and you have the springboard for writer/director Jane Schoenbrun’s We’re All Going to the World’s Fair. This eerie descent into the mind of young teen girl Casey (Anna Cobb in an absolutely super performance) as she takes the titular challenge — which involves pricking herself with a sharp object and subjecting herself to a video of flashing lights to see the effects — recalls the height of the creepypasta era. Casey broadcasts videos of her psychological and physical changes to the world — though relatively few are actually watching — and draws the interest of a mysterious stranger known as JLB (Michael J Rogers), who the film’s viewers learn is an older man. Most of the tension comes in worrying what his intentions are and how much danger Casey is placing herself in, though there are some body horror elements at play, as well. Schoenbrun has crafted an intriguing film that is heavy on mood and creepiness, but the main draw of We’re All Going to the World’s Fair is Cobb’s star-making turn. She owns the screen with a wide variety of facial expressions and emotional displays.
★★★1/2 out of ★★★★★
Writer/director Rasmus Merivoo’s Estonian horror comedy Kratt takes the legend of that country’s mythological creature crafted in a Faustian manner out of tools and household wares to perform difficult labor — which invariably results in the creation turning on its master when work runs out — and puts a satirical modern spin on things. Young siblings and city kids Mia and Kevin (Nora Merivoo and Harri Merivoo, respectively; children of the director) aren’t finding rural life with Grandma (Mari Lill) very pleasant when their parents drop them off with her to attend a retreat. With no internet access and given plenty of chores requiring elbow grease, the siblings set out with similarly aged local twins Juuli (Elise Tekko) and August (Roland Teima) to build a Kratt. Their hearts are somewhat in the right place, as they mean to relieve not only themselves but also their grandmother of the daily tasks. Naturally, things don’t work out as planned, which leads to a good deal of madcap situations. Rasmus Merivoo throws in plenty of subplots — involving everything from local government to preserving nature and even some military conspiracy — and wacky supporting characters, and manages to balance out the proceedings in a light, entertaining manner. The social commentary never gets too heavy, and sometimes leans toward the obvious, but that works in favor of this offbeat offering that almost passes itself off as a family comedy, if not for a plethora of “F” bombs.
★★★1/2 out of ★★★★★
Aficionados of puzzle box mystery thrillers are sure to find director Rob Schroeder’s dark science fiction noir Ultrasound quite a treat. This is the type of film that needs to be seen with viewers knowing as little as possible going in, so here is my spoiler-free synopsis of the opening sequence: A man named Glen (Vincent Kartheiser) gets a flat tire while driving late at night during a hard rain; luckily, there is a house nearby and the couple who live there offer help and hospitality. Middle-aged Art (Bob Stephenson) and his younger wife Cyndi (Chelsea Lopez) suggest that he spend the night and then Art will take him to the nearest garage, which is a bit of a haul away. Things start to get weird when Art suggests that Glen sleep in the master bedroom — with Cyndi. Conor Stechschulte’s screenplay only gets more enigmatic and head-scratching as layers are peeled back until the third act, when seemingly disparate elements begin to flesh out more. The cast members all give terrific performances, including Breeda Wool as Shannon and Tunde Adebimpe as her boss Dr. Conners, both of whom work at a highly specialized research facility, with Stephenson absolutely shining as an amiable man who is much more than he seems. Bobb Barito’s sound design and Zak Engel’s score play important elements in Ultrasound, and Schroeder skillfully helms his debut feature, giving the proceedings a sinister edge and keeping viewers enthralled and guessing from its opening act.
Reviews by Joseph Perry
We’re All Going to the World’s Fair, Kratt, and Ultrasound screen as part of Montreal’s Fantasia 2021, which runs online from August 5–25, 2021. For more information, visit https://fantasiafestival.com/en/.