Despite the subject material and the director, apparently, it’s a straightforward noir movie. “This has no supernatural element,” del Toro previously 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].” But then he also said, “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.”


There’s no reason for him to lie about it being “normal, but it’s really hard to imagine the man who directed The Shape of Water, Pan’s Labyrinth, Crimson Peak, and Pacific Rim would make a film about clairvoyants and mentalists where their powers don’t come into play in some fashion. He certainly could, of course, but it feels more likely to me he’s hiding the fantastical elements of the film from the audience. I suppose I could read the 1946 novel by William Lindsay Gresham that serves as the film’s source material to find out, but I don’t see that happening.

Nightmare Alley premieres in theaters on December 17.

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