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  • Writer's pictureSteve

Nightmare Alley (2021)

There are few directors working today that make every scene quite so sumptuous as Del Toro does, without seeming to make an effort. He creates moving art, quite simply, delighting in garish imagery and enveloping us in his grotesque fascinations, just beneath our waking moments, like a delicate, blind ballerina, pirouetting on upturned knives.

This neo-noir thriller dressed in shades of softened amber hues cannot get away from what it is, an ode to the darkest sides of humanity, that has thrilled and sickened audiences in equal measure for as many decades as there has been sound and pictures. Like slowing down for accidents, the people will always silently, helplessly, revel in the grisly.

With outstanding production design and excellent performances throughout, this is more than enough to keep the average viewer entertained and Del Toro's vision shines especially brightly when his inventive, elegant mind's eye has the opportunity to slink into your psyche. This happens most often at the start of the film and the myriad images he creates in the freak show he has assembled.

When we escape the carnival, we enjoy a brief sense of fresh unencumbered air before our lead finds himself deeper entrenched than he ever was before, as if his own personal shadow of fate has followed him, counting down like a clock that he cannot tell the time with, only the nagging ticking a perpetual reminder of who he truly is.

The Shape of Water left me as cold as any of his work has ever done and whilst this may not be as signature as the projects that have come before, this is understandable due to the story and the nature of its telling, which Del Toro presents lavishly before us to greedily consume.

Mesmerising as fear, enticing as trust and as thrilling as murder.

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