Rated: R
Release Date: 12/17/2021
Production Company: Searchlight Pictures

Bradley Cooper, Cate Blanchett,, Toni Collette, Willem Dafoe, Richard Jenkins,
Rooney Mara, Ron Perlman, Mary Steenburgen and David Strathairn.

Director: Guillermo del Toro. Producers: Guillermo del Toro, Bradley Cooper and J. Miles Dale. Executive Producer: Guillermo del Toro.
By: Lana K. Wilson-Combs

Director, producer, and co-writer Guillermo del Toro puts his signature stamp on “Nightmare Alley,” the dark, twisted, and sprawling follow-up to his 2017 Oscar-winning movie "The Shape of Water.”

“Nightmare Alley” is an adaptation of William Lindsay Gresham’s 1946 novel and remake of the 1947 film noir classic of the same name.

Del Toro’s version is a visual feast and boasts a remarkable cast of characters. Bradley Cooper (“Licorice Pizza”) stars as Stanton “Stan” Carlisle, a man with a checkered past. The movie opens with him inside his house burying a dead body in the floorboards and setting the place on fire.

Looking for a fresh start, Stan winds up at a roadside carnival run by the shyster Clement Hoately (Willem Defoe, “Spider-Man: No Way Home”).

Stan can be incredibly charming, but beneath those steely blue eyes, the guy is really rotten to the core and if he can’t get what he wants from you, it’s probably not going to end well for you.

Naturally, Stan feels right at home among the carnival crowd of freaks and geeks who have their own agenda too. There’s the circus psychic, Zeena the Seer (Toni Collette, “I’m Thinking of Ending Things”), her mentalist and alcoholic husband, Pete (David Strathairn, “Nomadland”) and strongman Bruno (Ron Perlman, “Don’t Look Up”).

Stan’s a quick learner and soaks up all the tricks of the trade. Thanks to Pete, he becomes a masterful mentalist. Stan has a plan that could make him wealthy and when he locks eyes with magician assistant Molly Cahill (Rooney Mara, “Mary Magdalene”) he believes they could do so much better away from Clement and on their own. So, they hit the road with their little slick show. That’s when Stan meets the seductive and corrupt psychologist Dr. Lilith Ritter (a fabulous Cate Blanchett, “Don’t Look Up”).

Lilith and Stan are a match made in hell. They join forces and find ways to rip off several of her clients like Ezra Grindle (Richard Jenkins, “The Humans”). However, Ezra turns out to be far more complicated than Stan thought, and things take a major turn for Stan.

“Nightmare Alley” runs a hefty 150 minutes long, and almost wears out its welcome. However, Del Toro manages to keep this spectacle engaging. It’s a departure from the sort of creature features he’s made, yet die-hard del Toro fans, still may find this dark, seedy tale right up their alley.

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

Editor's Note: Be sure to catch my movie talk segment on the Kitty O'Neal Show Fridays at 6:20 p.m. on radio station KFBK 93.1 FM and 1530 AM.

Watch This Trailer For "NIGHTMARE ALLEY"

Lana K. Wilson-Combs is a member of the Broadcast Film Critics Association (BFCA), The Black Film Critics Circle (BFCC), The American Film Institute (AFI), and a Nominating Committee Voting Member for the NAACP Image Awards.


Book Of Numbers Title: Book Of Numbers
Year Released: 1973
Running Time: 81
Production Company: AVCO Embassy Pictures
Director: Raymond St. Jacques
Director of Photography: Gayne Rescher
Screenwriter: Raymond St. Jacques
Author: Lana K. Wilson-Combs

REVIEW: As a kid growing up in San Bernardino, California, I remember this cute, curly-headed, green eyed young guy coming over my family’s house with his handyman/electrician father to do some repair work. Little did I know the shy teen would become an iconic TV star.

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