It’s not a horror movie.
Despite the film’s title and a reputation that follows its director, Nightmare Alley is not a new period-piece monster flick from Guillermo del Toro. In truth, he says, it’s his first foray into film noir. It’s also the filmmaker’s first effort since winning Academy Awards for Best Picture and Director for 2017’s The Shape of Water, but it won’t involve anything related to gory sci-fi.
Starring Bradley Cooper as a big city nightclub performer in the 1940s, Nightmare Alley is the story of Cooper’s Stanton Carlisle, a charlatan mind-reader who targets millionaires. Cate Blanchett co-stars as Dr. Lilith Ritter, the psychiatrist who tries to expose his scam before getting tangled up in it. (See the First Look photo gallery below.)
Given del Toro’s track record, he understands that the title may cause people to think it’s a horror story. It’s not, he insists, telling Vanity Fair:
- “This has no supernatural element. It’s based completely in a reality world. There is nothing fantastic. It’s a very different movie from my usual, but yes, the title and my name would create that [impression].”
That said, Carlisle’s background as carnival worker would suggest that the style and tone explores the bizarre fringes (a very del Toro place to go), so don’t be surprised if Nightmare Alley still bends towards the weird and gothic.
Based on the 1946 novel by William Lindsay Gresham, this isn’t the first time that Nightmare Alley has been adapted to the screen; Tyrone Power stared in a 1947 version. Del Toro, along with screenwriting partner Kim Morgan, started from scratch, adapting their new version strictly from the book and not the movie. ““We…didn’t want to do a remake as much as a new adaptation,” del Toro says.
To learn more about Nightmare Alley and its plot details, read Vanity Fair’s first look feature by Anthony Breznican. To see the first teaser trailer, click here.
Co-starring Rooney Mara, Willem Dafoe, Toni Collette, David Strathairn, and del Toro alums Richard Jenkins and Ron Perlman, Nightmare Alley opens exclusively in theaters on December 17, 2021.
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