Guillermo del Toro is one of the most wondrous and distinctive filmmakers that seems to have boundless imagination. From Pan’s Labyrinth to Crimson Peak to Hellboy to Pacific Rim to the Oscar-dominating The Shape of Water, the visionary storyteller has always crafted bone-chilling and moving tales of emotion and discovery. Based on the 1946 novel of the same name by William Lindsay Gresham, Nightmare Alley marks a significant change for del Toro – unlike nearly all of his previous work, this film will feature no supernatural elements.
Nightmare Alley is more a straight psychological thriller than the usual kind of horror fantasy that del Toro is famous for, and it features his most fascinating and star-studded cast yet. The film follows Stan Carlisle (Bradley Cooper), an ambitious carny with a talent for manipulating people with a few well-chosen words, hooks up with Dr. Lilith Ritter (Cate Blanchett), a psychiatrist who is even more dangerous than he is. It also stars Toni Collette, Willem Dafoe, Richard Jenkins, Rooney Mara, Ron Perlman and David Strathairn.
Del Toro stated: “Well what it is is that book was given to me in 1992 by Ron Perlman before I saw the Tyrone Power movie, and I loved the book. My adaptation that I’ve done with Kim Morgan is not necessarily—the entire book is impossible, it’s a saga. But there are elements that are darker in the book, and it’s the first chance I have—in my short films I wanted to do noir. It was horror and noir. And now is the first chance I have to do a real underbelly of society type of movie. No supernatural elements. Just a straight, really dark story.”
The film underwent a lengthy and arduous production due to difficulties with the COVID-19 pandemic and working around the schedules of its cast, but if the teaser is any indication, none of the quality seems to have suffered. It’s very likely that this could be del Toro’s most nail-bitingly tense film of his career, even without any terrifying monsters or magic.
‘Nightmare Alley’ will be released in theaters on December 17th.