In Nightmare Alley , Guillermo del Toro trades his wondrous magic for false, violent fantasies that expose the darkest recesses of the human soul. And this time the director doesn’t need any imagined monsters.
While searching for a better place, poor Stan (Bradley Cooper) arrives at a traveling circus. The company of dark guys reluctantly accepts him into their family. Thanks to psychics (Toni Collette and David Strathairn), the guy discovers his talent for imagination, a gift that quickly turns into devastating manipulation. Because Stan has smelled big money and spares no one to achieve his goal.
After an immersion in carnival life full of sizzling delusions, eerily clean mazes and the brightest of character minds (including William Dafoe and Ron Perlman), Nightmare Alley turns halfway into the big city in art deco, where lies slither around even more lavishly than in the circus. It’s two movies for the price of one. First a genuine del Toro, followed by a film noir with the intoxicating stage appearance of Cate Blanchett.
Nightmare Alley is a movie without sincere love
Whether it be the discovery of a fish beast in The Shape of Water , the move to a haunted house in Crimson Peak , the antics of the devil child in the comic book adaptation Hellboy or even the confrontation between kaiju and robots in Pacific Rim , a kind of magical romance bonded over time. Guillermo del Toro’s monster movies again and again. Nightmare Alley marks a hole in his track record with its total absence.
No matter how many swoon at Stan’s smile (not hard with Cooper’s aura), there is never genuine love behind it. No, he abuses the affection of so many people that he doesn’t even recognize when he is being abused himself.
Sincere as always is del Toro’s dedication to his craft and style. For two hours and a half – and yet not a minute too much – the circus director plays you with cleanly lit grievances and grisly beauties. So do not be afraid of the horror that has been created, but of its makers.
With Nightmare Alley, the fantastic filmmaker has made his most earthly film. Stripped of all supernaturalities, the latest del Toro remains as usual a good-looking cinematic experience that takes you on a trip with only the abyss as its final destination would become his 11th feature.
What if they remade something like the old Nightmare Alley, Perlman suggested.
Based on the 1946 novel, written by William Lindsay Gresham, the original Nightmare Alley was directed by Edmund Goulding and starred Tyrone Power, one of Fox’s biggest matinee idols of the period. Power himself was the driving force behind the project, wishing to break out of his typecast persona as a swashbuckling romantic lead by playing a darker, more dynamic character.
A quick study, he learns the tricks of the trade from the carnival’s colorful collection of grifters, eventually running off with the sideshow’s prettiest girl to establish his own mentalistic act in the big city. a high-stakes con on the city’s most dangerous industrialist.
analyzing all 53 of the director’s films — so the idea instantly appealed to him.
“I was absolutely blown away by the book,” del Toro remembers. “a certain aspect of the book’s genius.”
Although still an industry neophyte, del Toro understood enough to know that as a Fox library title, Nightmare Alley could be remade only with the studio. So he and Perlman, puffed up by the idea behind their first collaboration and the audaciousness of youth, pitched Fox on a remake. The conversation didn’t last long.