Nightmare Alley

Nightmare Alley ★★★★½

I walked into this movie with a high degree of trepidation. After watching Stuart Gordon’s Trailers From Hell commentary track for Edmond Goulding’s Nightmare Alley while in high school, I immediately jumped at watching the movie as soon as I could, purchasing it DVD under the Fox Film Noir banner (if I had known at the time that Criterion would release a blu-ray only a few years later I might’ve held off). Needless to say, I thought the original film was a masterpiece, it appeased a great deal of the film noir sensibilities I relish (along with a good dash of carnival horror too), and shortly thereafter decided to read William Lindsay Gresham’s original novel out of curiosity to discover what morbid oddities were cut out of the original film due to the censorship regulations of the time. I also loved the book. So when I found out that Guillermo Del Toro was remaking (or “readapting”) Nightmare Alley, I was more than skeptical. Is the new Nightmare Alley as good as the original film or it’s source material? Not quite… but really damn close. It’s a beautifully crafted, elegant piece of lush pulp, and it might be my favourite Del Toro film. Everything about this film is immaculate. The shot composition, set design, wardrobe, music and cinematography. A lot of the scene traditions edited into the film were clearly meant to mimic films of Hollywoods golden age. Bradley Cooper seemed a little bit too old to be playing Stanton Carlyle, but his performance is so good that I didn’t care. The rest of the supporting cast was spectacular as well. Where Nightmare Alley truly succeeds is it’s final act, the movie really goes for it without jumping the shark, and by the time Carlyle’s fate is revealed, much like the original film, we’re already far ahead of him, although this time it feels much more bitter. 

Watched in Theatres.

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