Guillermo del Toro is most commonly associated with his horror and fantasy films, so does Nightmare Alley fall under his typical horror genre?
Guillermo del Toro’s upcoming film has hints of his typical horror touch in the trailer, but what genre does Nightmare Alley really fall into? Del Toro is known for hopping between genres, taking interest in superhero movies, horror, fantasy, drama, fairy tales, and even family-friendly children’s movies. While he can blend genres with his own aesthetic like no other, del Toro is particularly associated with his talent for horror films like Crimson Peak and Blade II.
Premiering on December 17, Nightmare Alley tells the story of Stan Carlisle (Bradley Cooper), a carny whose gifts include deception and a manipulative way with words. Stan fixes up with psychiatrist Dr. Lilith Ritter (Cate Blanchett), whose devious ways are far more dangerous than Stan himself. With Nightmare Alley’s dark trailer, the title itself, and del Toro’s notoriety within the dark, twisted horror genre, it was unclear whether the 2021 movie would fall into more of a horror or thriller category.
According to the Searchlight Pictures description and Guillermo del Toro himself, Nightmare Alley is not a horror movie. Instead, del Toro will dive into the unfamiliar genre of a psychological thriller with the classic film noir style. Nightmare Alley is based on the novel of the same name from 1946, which is the time when film noir was at its height and dark thrillers and mysteries ruled much of Hollywood. To no surprise, the novel had already been adapted into a film in 1947 starring Tyrone Power, which also identified itself as film noir. While the film still provides a basis for del Toro’s film noir style, the director has noted that his 2021 version of Nightmare Alley will be solely adapted from the novel and not a remake of the 1947 movie, where he will be primarily pulling from the darker, more twisted elements of the book.
As with nearly all of his darker films, there are still apt to be some of del Toro’s classic horror calls in Nightmare Alley even if it doesn’t strictly fall under the genre. His visual style is what makes his sense of horror and fantasy so unique, and Nightmare Alley’s trailer shows it’s clearly in the same vein as his previous prestigious films. Del Toro told Collider that as an upcoming filmmaker with his short films, he particularly focused on horror and noir, and now that he’s accomplished so many successful horror movies, he’s moving into crafting a thrilling well-backed noir with Nightmare Alley.
In 2017, his romantic monster fantasy and sci-fi Best Picture-winner The Shape of Water earned him the Academy Awards for Best Picture and Best Director, but he won’t be using these recurring genre elements of his in Nightmare Alley. While many of his other dark fantasy or horror films have included supernatural elements like superpowers or monsters, del Toro maintains that Nightmare Alley will feature no supernatural marks, simply telling a very dark, twisted story that will have an R rating. The supernatural or horror styles of del Toro would have still worked well with the carnival setting and characters, but the director wants Nightmare Alley to be faithful to the dark crime book and completely align with the classic psychological thriller structure.
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