Guillermo Del Toro again brings in his signature style of exploring the thin line that divides monsters from men. It is where his psychological thriller Nightmare Alley dwells in sordid style.
Nightmare Alley is a re-evaluation of William L. Gresham’s 1946 noir classic: a movie full of frauds, petty swindlers, and impostors who find their mark and make absurd decisions in a dated setting.
Bradley Cooper comes in as an ethically dubious protagonist in a cautionary and instructive tale. Blanchett has a hell of a wild time. The characters, though, don’t have overall as much charm as Toro’s gothic-like spectacle of weirdness.
Stanton Carlisle (Bradley Cooper) looks to dump the dregs of his inconsequential past behind and jumps onto a train headed for an unknown destination, sometime in the 1930s, ending up at an itinerant carnival.
Nightmare Alley Is Inhabited By Weird Creatures And Bizarre Settings
Much like the other patrons, Stanton is eerily drawn to the geek show. Nightmare Alley depicts a partial human-like creature who does beastly acts such as biting of heads of other animals and getting paid by the public even as he satiates his addiction. He gets work doing sundry jobs given by the wild-eyed loud-mouth Clem wants doing.
Stanton comes under the spell of Zeena, the psychic seer. He helps her when Pete, her addicted husband, loses it all. He discovers that the husband-wife duo has a prosperous act going, and the first seeds of darkness are sown in his mind.
Stanton gets the idea of a con job for which he allures Molly, with her electrifying sideshow. The lovebirds move on to fame and fortune.
Nightmare Alley jumps forward to 1941 and Stanton is now promoting a mentalist act. Molly is his assistant. They entertain high-class people. Stanton meets psychoanalyst Lilith Ritter. He moves down a darker path, unable to veer away from a poisonous path.
Nightmare Alley is a lot bleaker than The Shape of Water, Del Toro’s earlier award-winning movie. The visual flair of Del Toro is fully present in Nightmare Alley right from the carnival setting with its trademark weirdness.