Nightmare AlleyExplained: What’s Up With the Ending?

Nightmare Alley is a neo-noir thriller from Guillermo del Toro starring Bradley Cooper, Cate Blanchett, Willem Dafoe, Rooney Mara and Toni Collette. Unlike other films by the famous director, there are no supernatural elements here. Guillermo del Toro manages without them, frightening with the dark side of human aspirations that lead to a tragic outcome.

Nightmare Alley

Genre drama, thriller
Directed by Guillermo del Toro
Cast: Bradley Cooper (Stan Carlyle), Willem Dafoe (Clem Hotali), Cate Blanchett (Dr. Lilith Ritter), Toni Collette (Zina Crumbain), Ron Perlman (Bruno), Rooney Mara (Molly Cahill), Richard Jenkins (Ezra Grindle), David Strathairn (Pete Crumbain) and others.
Компании Fox Searchlight Pictures, Double Dare You (DDY), Searchlight Pictures
Year of issue 2021 (in Ukraine 2022)
IMDb website
Where to watch cinemas

Nightmare Alley is a novel by American author William Linzey Gresham. In 1947, Hollywood turned the work into a full-length film, and this happened under very interesting circumstances.

Actor Tyrone Power, who became famous thanks to light entertainment films, decided to improve his reputation. Power bought the film rights to play the lead role in the film. The film’s writers toned down the ending described in the book, ending the story on an optimistic note. But the reaction of critics was mixed, only years later the picture was called a film classic.

When Guillermo del Toro took on the film adaptation of the novel, he added a lot more violent moments to the script, so the film received an R rating. The director chose to re-adapt the work rather than shoot a remake of the old tape. He also admitted that there is a black-and-white version of his Nightmare Alley, which Guillermo del Toro hopes to present to the audience one day.


The color version of the tape, which got into the world distribution, just captivates with its visual solutions, which are often dominated by red tones. Before us is revealed the colorful world of a traveling circus, where rides and theatrical scenes coexist with seances. Here, to the applause of the audience and the loud laughter of children, the carnival manager invites onlookers to follow into a huge tent, where they will be shown a geek – either a man or a monster who bites off the head of a chicken, greedily drinking her blood.

No less spectacularly is the upper world revealed, where more refined performances take place. Expensive gentlemen’s suits and elegant ladies’ evening dresses adorn the spacious, subdued halls. In such an atmosphere, the rich willingly lay out money for the opportunity to be deceived – here, despite the glitz and luxury, an ominous spirit also hovers.


The protagonist Stan (Bradley Cooper) is on the run from his past. He runs into traveling entertainers who offer him temporary physical work. Agreeing, the silent man gradually merges into the life of the circus. He meets the medium Zina (Toni Collette), listens to the tricks of the carnival manager (Willem Dafoe), and falls in love with actress Molly (Rooney Mara). Stan is quick to pick up on the basic principles of the show, designed for a gullible audience, which changes his future dramatically.

Perhaps it is worth stopping here. The less the viewer knows about the plot of the film, the more interesting it is for him to reach the final. In truth, Nightmare Alley has been a mystery for a long time. It is difficult to understand what the main character is like, where the story is going and what it can lead to.


The film is two and a half hours long, and in the first half of “Alley of Horrors” the plot unfolds very slowly, only short flashbacks from the past become a sobering shake. However, they remain a mystery for some time. However, the second part of the tape unexpectedly captures with its turns, the events heat up and become much gloomier.

Guillermo del Toro, who is famous for his paintings about monsters, this time shows a more mundane story – it is not at all fantasy creatures that frighten, but very real human aspirations. The director has put together an amazing cast, and it’s not just Bradley Cooper who leads the cast. Cate Blanchett, who does not appear immediately, is magnificent in every movement of her character. She adds intrigue and tension to the film, which was not in the plot.


But the most important role in the film is played by cinematographer Dan Laustsen (Silent Hill, The Shape of Water, John Wick: Chapter Three), as well as the lighting team. They hone all the visual features of the neo-noir, paying special attention to scenes in a semi-dark office. The light falls on the faces of the heroes, and behind them it is snowing – it can be seen through the huge windows. It is very, very beautiful.

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Pros: Great cast, with Bradley Cooper and Cate Blanchett stand out; lighting and camera work; in the second part of the film, an intriguing tension emerges; dark tone Cons: slow story development in the first half of the film, which lasts two and a half hours Conclusion:

It’s interesting to see how Guillermo del Toro works with material that doesn’t have any supernatural elements. He makes a beautiful neo-noir picture, where the key direction of the story remains a mystery for quite some time.

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