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Guillermo Del Toro Turns to Dark Crime in New Trailer for ‘Nightmare Alley’

Bradley Cooper creeps up behind Willem Dafoe — just two of the star-studded cast in Guillermo del Toro's "Nightmare Alley."
Bradley Cooper creeps up behind Willem Dafoe — just two of the star-studded cast in Guillermo del Toro’s “Nightmare Alley.” Searchlight Pictures

From trolls to vampire hunters and from giant, robotic sea monsters to mythic Amazon River deities, director Guillermo del Toro’s name is associated with some of the 21st century’s most fantastic screenplays. Don’t look for any spooky specters in the Sept. 16 Nightmare Alley trailer, though. According to the director, the new film will stay true to its dark crime roots, even if there remains a hint of magic.

“This has no supernatural element,” del Toro told Vanity Fair. “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].”

After his The Shape of Water won Oscars for Best Picture and Best Director, it’s no surprise the noir thriller set at a carnival features del Toro’s most star-studded cast yet.

Nightmare Alley’s trailer opens with Willem Dafoe introducing “one of the unexplained mysteries of the universe,” “man or beast” Stan Carlisle (Bradley Cooper). Turns out, Carlisle is a carny whose silver tongue and grifting tricks con millionaires out of their money. 

Carlisle fixes up with psychiatrist Dr. Lilith Ritter (Cate Blanchett), whose devious ways turn out to be far more dangerous than Carlisle’s scams. While Nightmare Alley may not feature any fantastic creatures, the dark trailer suggests a noir tale that follows a man gone off the rails. 

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The movie is based on William Lindsay Gresham’s 1946 novel of the same name. While the story was turned into a 1947 film, del Toro (along with co-writer Kim Morgan) draws primarily from Gresham’s graphic, psychological thriller elements, noting that he would not be using the movie as a source.

“I wanted to do the universe of the novel, which is a little gritty, but also strangely magical. It has a very strange, mystical allure — and mythical. I was very attracted to that possibility,” he said.

Given that we find Cooper-as-Carlisle asleep in the midst of flames at the end of Nightmare Alley’s trailer, the bleak thriller is sure to follow a twisted and R-rated storyline.  

“Nightmare Alley” opens in theaters only on Dec. 17.

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Matthew Denis
Former Digital Trends Contributor
Matt Denis is an on-the-go remote multimedia reporter, exploring arts, culture, and the existential in the Pacific Northwest…
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