Nightmare Alley caught my eye in the first few minutes with it's distinct visual style. Think Shape of Water, but more sinister. The weight of this dreadful tale is first delivered through it's visuals. Though it's not long before darkness creeps into the story. Bradley Cooper plays Stan, the classic man running from his past trying to blend in set up works here thanks to the colorful cast he's merging with. Dafoe, Collette, Perlman, and of course Mara, create a dynamic setting for us as a traveling circus crew. Their personalities range from delightful to insane with Dafoe leaning more towards insane. He's the leader of the crew. The business man who "trains" geeks to be shown off as beastmen. He explains the process. You take a homeless drunk, one real bad off, and you offer him a job with a shot of alcohol - drugged with morphine. He thinks he's in heaven for a minute and a week later he's locked up in a cage half mad and eating chickens raw for entertainment. Unfortunately, its way more detailed in the film. Stan doesn't act on anything so foul, but he takes advantage of the human heart in another way - Mentalism. Through this stage act he gains power over people's emotions leading him down a dark path of his own. The film feels split down the middle. The first half being this circus spectacle that makes you feel grimy just by watching. The second focuses on Stan's scheme to get rich through his mentalism act. I enjoyed the first half way more with all the different characters. Bradley was great but I didn't find Stan to be well fleshed out and when he took the spotlight it only served as aggravation for me. He's not someone you're going to root. There is plenty of foreshadowing to the end of the film and by the time it got there I was happy for it to end. This is a very well acted and brilliantly shot film that will make you feel sick to your stomach by the credits. I appreciate it. I even recommend it, but I don't see myself watching it again.