Guillermo Del Toro Turns the Carnival Into a Madhouse with His New Film: Nightmare Alley


Kenzie Herrick, Contributing Writer

Nightmare Alley is a new age movie that holds hands with old fashion noir themes of danger and defeat. Del Toro’s cast features big-name actors such as Willem Dafoe, Toni Collette, Cate Blanchet, and Bradley Cooper who all play a role in making an unhinged narrative feel like a warm embrace of human understanding.

Del Toro decided to take on the challenge of crafting a film adaptation of William Lindsay Gresham’s original 1946 novel Nightmare Alley, being the second to do so since 1947.

This intimate film has a little bit of something for every viewer. It combines aspects of dark cinematography, naive romance, heart-racing action, and even feel-good friendships found in unlikely faces.

Within 150 minutes, del Toro takes his audience on a tour throughout the madness of a gloomy 1930s traveling carnival, while closely exploring the imaginary difference between those who live the glittering high life- and those withering in the slums.

This film is rated R with poignant nudity and crucial gore. Bradley Cooper plays the main character, Stanton Carlisle, and doesn’t shy away from these types of scenes. Cooper’s commitment to portraying a troubled drifter obsessed with fantastical promises o3f the limelight is inspirational. Del Toro allows the character of Stanton Carlisle to symbolize insecurity as a dormant beast that quickly morphs into a destructive ego.

Carlisle begins his story as a desperate hire looking for work, but quickly becomes fascinated with the practices of illusion and clairvoyance he finds in the carnival. This film does something incredible in that it allows viewers to see their own hardships and flaws reflected in Carlisle as he’s followed on a journey of delusion.

Nightmare Alley was released on December 17th, 2021, but is being promoted in select theater locations throughout the early months of 2022.