Nightmare Alley is a 2021 American neo-noir psychological thriller film directed by Guillermo del Toro from a screenplay by del Toro and Kim Morgan, based on the 1946 novel of the same name by William Lindsay Gresham, being the second feature film adaptation of Gresham’s novel, following the 1947 version. (Wikipedia)
As any fan of Del Toro’s work will tell you, the Mexican director is first and foremost a geek – not the kind that begins and ends Nightmare Alley, mind you – but a fanboy of the first order. Thus, his films are lovingly crafted in homage to the original works, style or genre that inspire him, for example: Pan’s Labyrinth is a tribute to fairy tales, Hellboy is a love letter to comic books, Crimson Peak is a celebration of gothic horror and of course, The Shape of Water is a salute to the Creature from the Black Lagoon.
Thus, Nightmare Alley is Del Toro’s paean to film noir – stylish Hollywood crime dramas from the 1940s and 195os – a genre that emphasised the darker elements of the human condition but in an elegant fashion. And of course, this remake is a nod to the source material and the original adaptation, which starred Tyrone Power, 75 years ago.
The premise remains largely unchanged – in 1941, an ambitious carnival mentalist with a talent for manipulating people with a few well-chosen words hooks up with a female psychiatrist who is even more dangerous than he is. (IMDB)
Sadly, Del Toro’s prowess in crafting an engaging film story seems to have gone missing in Nightmare Alley. Despite the star-studded cast – Bradley Cooper, Cate Blanchett, Rooney Mara, Ron Perlman, Toni Collette, Willem Dafoe et al – the narrative is ponderous especially at a 150 minute duration. The slow pacing is exactly what you don’t need if and when your film is supposed to be a thriller! These numerous long shots and pointless expositions take the viewer right out of the story completely. This movie needed to be taut, tense and dramatic but there’s just too much filler for that.
Disappointing to report that Nightmare Alley might be Del Toro’s worst film yet!
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