Guillermo del Toro’s The Shape of Water won Best Picture at the 2018 Oscars for its moving story of love against all odds. It’s a celebration of those treated as monsters by society and a desperate call for empathy.
Things take a turn when Stan and Molly go on the road with their own mentalist act, quickly running into psychiatrist Dr. Lilith Ritter (Cate Blanchett). Ritter sweeps Stan into a con involving some of her wealthy clients, which soon spirals out of control.
You might have noticed that description is devoid of monsters or any fantastical elements whatsoever. In Nightmare Alley, del Toro leaves his usual subjects behind to focus on plain old human beings — though it would be fair to call many of them monstrous.
This change in genre serves del Toro incredibly well. Nightmare Alley is noir through and through, and the director’s experience of probing loneliness, depravity, and existentialism makes it a perfect match.