Nightmare Alley – 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray Review

Nightmare Alley

Guillermo del Toro has made a career off of monsters. From Hellboy to The Shape of Water, del Toro has showcased the beauty and horror of these creatures. This time, del Toro steps back from the fantastical to display a different kind of monster: Human beings. Based on William Lindsay Gresham’s 1946 novel, Guillermo del Toro’s Nightmare Alley is a dreary story about despicable people and their lack of humanity. The film isn’t a crowd-pleaser by any means. 

Del Toro uses monsters in his films as misunderstood creatures with indications of humanity in them. However, in Nightmare Alley, most of the film’s characters have no sense of humanity. As such, there are no redeemable characters in the movie. Instead, we have to look at this similarly to a Scorsese gangster flick. At its core, Nightmare Alley is a film about the rise and fall of a seedy character—just like a Scorsese gangster flick. At the same time, the film runs as long as a Scorsese mafia movie. 

The performances by the cast are all precise and calculating and perfect for this neo-noir backdrop. Bradley Cooper is a crafty charming con man, and Cate Blanchette is a sensational sensuous femme fatale. Toni Colette, Ron Perlman, and David Strathairn are heartfelt and enrich the world beyond the foulness of the primary characters. Rooney Mara is the heart and soul of the movie and is the only main character with humanity in them.

Overall, Nightmare Alley is unlike any del Toro movie you’ve seen before by telling a different kind of monster tale. He shows that he can create a film that doesn’t involve fantasy or supernatural elements. Of course, the movie isn’t perfect and is not his best film by any means. However, Alley is still a stellar neo-noir thriller anchored by some excellent performances.

Movie Rating: 4/5 atoms

Nightmare Alley - Rooney Mara and Bradley Cooper

Video

Nightmare Alley hits Ultra HD Blu-ray with an HDR10 transfer and a 1.85:1 aspect ratio. There’s a stark contrast between the shadows and light—even during daytime scenes. The light illuminates and pops off the screen. The picture has a superb-looking inky black that never crushes any shadow details. Even in the darkest of scenes, the details in the dark never get lost. The palette is minimal in terms of the range of colors, but the colors are still bold and intense. Red, such as Dr. Lilith’s lips or the copious amounts of blood, is notably vibrant. As for the detail clarity, the picture is incredibly crisp. Guillermo del Toro and his production team put a lot of effort into giving the film some texture and life. This Ultra HD release gets really showcases all these details in stunning clarity. While it looks like there isn’t any film grain in the video transfer, it’s there. It complements the picture while looking incredibly smooth.

Video Rating: 5/5 atoms

Nightmare Alley - Cate Blanchett and Bradley Cooper

Audio

Nightmare Alley hits Ultra HD Blu-ray with a Dolby Atmos and a core 7.1 Dolby TrueHD Master Audio track. This review will reflect Nightmare Alley‘s Dolby Atmos track. Between The King’s ManWest Side Story, and now Nightmare Alley, it’s becoming more apparent that the 20th Century Studios’ team has a different approach to the Atmos mixing than Disney’s. On the whole, though, his particular Atmos track isn’t the best out of the three. Then again, it doesn’t have to be. Nightmare Alley‘s Atmos mix provides a really nice sense of authenticity to the period nature of the film. The film hits strong when needed but isn’t afraid to be quiet to add to the impact of a scene.

The sound effects and atmospherics are accurate and lifelike as the Atmos track can seamlessly track both on-screen and off-screen movement across the soundstage. Both complement each other well and don’t compete with one another. Nathan Johnson’s score subtly plays over the film and never seems to overpower the other audio elements. The dialogue is rendered clearly and cleanly.

Audio Rating: 4.5/5 atoms

Nightmare Alley - Richard Jenkins and Bradley Cooper

Special Features

Nightmare Alley‘s Ultra HD Blu-ray disc doesn’t have any special features on it. However, you can find the following special features on the 1080p Blu-ray disc:

  • Del Toro’s Neo-Noir
  • Beneath the Tarp
  • What Exists in the Fringe
Features Assessment

Unfortuantely, there’s a disappointing amount of bonus features included in this Ultra HD release. Neo-Noir has Guillermo del Toro and his stellar cast (Willem Dafoe, Toni Collette, Ron Perlman, Cate Blanchett, Richard Jenkins) talk about the dark and complex world of Nightmare Alley. The filmmaker reveals that his take on noir may be more accessible to modern audiences, but it’s also rooted in cinema classics. Beneath the Tarp features production designer Tamara Deverell and her team talking about the set creation and the film’s overall design. They also touch upon how these designs support the world del Toro wanted to create. What Exists in the Fringe has costume designer Luis Sequeira and del Toro talking in-depth about the effort it took to develop era-accurate costumes for the film.

Special Features Rating: 2/5 atoms


Overall, Nightmare Alley is another gem from Guillermo del Toro, albeit not his best flick. The video and audio presentations are excellent, but it’s a bit disappointing to see a lack of bonus features in this release.

Overall Rating: 4/5 atoms

Nightmare Alley hits stores on 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray on March 22nd.

This Blu-ray was reviewed using a retail/advance copy/unit provided by Walt Disney Home Entertainment.

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