Guillermo del Toro’s Nightmare Alley was one of our favorite movies of 2021. Its mix of damaged people and carnival hucksterism left us haunted for a good long while after the lights came up. The look of the movie is, of course, one of its strongest elements. That’s why cinematographer Dan Laustsen; costume designer Luis Sequeira; set decorator Shane Vieau; and production designer Tamara Deverell have all received Oscar nominations. Well deserved, we think. Specifically impressive are the scenes at the actual carnival sideshow.
In our exclusive clip ahead of the movie’s 4K Ultra HD, Blu-ray, and DVD release on March 22, del Toro, Deverell, and actor Willem Dafoe discuss the creation of the heightened reality of the traveling carnival.
We love the director explaining that a circus tent outside, versus on a soundstage, bellows and breathes like a lung. Truly, the atmosphere of the dreary, dustbowl amusements feels at once completely alive and completely surreal. In our review of the film we talked about how this felt like an especially Guillermo del Toro-y story and setting, and it’s fun to hear Deverell explain that was exactly her goal.
I think Nightmare Alley is perhaps del Toro’s most handsome production. Everything about the visual presentation is outstanding. Laustsen, who also shot Crimson Peak and The Shape of Water, does a masterful job of weaving the camera around the settings, never straying far from its central, flawed main character. Nathan Johnson’s score also lends itself to the heavy feeling of longing and dread that permeates the entire story.
On paper Nightmare Alley is the director’s least fantastical film, but it feels the most laden with dark magic. The carnival sideshow setting completely embodies this.