Nightmare Alley snuck up on me when I first saw the trailer earlier this year. The more I learned about it the more I wanted to avoid any other trailers that might be made. I did learn that this was the second adaptation of a book. I don’t know if I could recommend this movie enough.
Nightmare Alley was directed by Guillermo del Toro. It was written by del Toro and Kim Morgan and based on Nightmare Alley by William Lindsay Gresham. This is the first project that I’ve seen that Kim Morgan has worked on. I was only tangentially aware of William Lindsay Gresham before this. I am a huge fan of Guillermo del Toro and his work. I’ve seen as many of his movies as I could find, which isn’t everything but a lot. Nightmare Alley plays to his strengths as a filmmaker. He’s able to make a movie that looks like a classic filmmaker has been brought to present day.
The cast is something else. I wasn’t aware of everyone in the cast so the more I watched the movie the more I was surprised by how star-studded it is. Nightmare Alley stars Bradley Cooper, Cate Blanchett, Toni Collette, Willem Dafoe, Richard Jenkins, Rooney Mara, Ron Perlman, Mary Steenburgen, and David Strathaim. The cast is filled with del Toro’s usuals, but it has others sprinkled throughout. Bradley Cooper is fantastic in the movie. I’m not well versed in his roles, but I think he does great here. Rooney Mara is also great in the movie. I don’t want to try to mention everyone in the cast, but the entire cast is fantastic.
The plot of Nightmare Alley takes place in the early 40s. It picks up as Stan Carlisle leaves his home, as he burns it down, and travels to the end of a bus line where he ends up taking a job as a carny. He first meets the owner of the carnival, Clem, and stays with him at first. Stan then starts working with Madame Zeena and her husband Pete, who is an alcoholic. He becomes infatuated with another performer named Molly. They end up leaving the carnival to do a two man show.
The production design for Nightmare Alley is something to marvel at. The carnival sets are something that I haven’t seen in a very long time, since the HBO show Carnivale. The costume design is also absolutely fantastic. The practical and CG effects used throughout the movie helps elevate the movie. There’s some gruesome stuff that really makes everything pack an extra punch. The music from Nathan Johnson is fantastic. His score also elevates the entire movie.
Nightmare Alley is a fantastic movie that more people should see. The main thing going against it is that opened against Spider-Man: No Way Home. Having the misfortune to open the same weekend as one of the biggest movies in years doesn’t mean anything except, they should have moved it to a different weekend. I do recommend seeing it in theaters if you can. I give Nightmare Alley 10 fetuses in a jar out of 10.