How ‘Nightmare Alley’ led Guillermo del Toro back to the Oscars

Ron Perlman and Mark Povinelli in "Nightmare Alley."
(Kerry Hayes/20th Century Studios)

If the dark mysteries of a 1939 carnival, as reconceived by Guillermo del Toro and Kim Morgan, can’t lure you to “Nightmare Alley,” then maybe the macabre production design or a rousing endorsement from Martin Scorsese might do it.

The draw for Times critic Justin Chang was Bradley Cooper, whose “moody, chilly beauty — to say nothing of the movie’s — keeps us glued as he strides away from the smoky ruin and makes his way by bus to a traveling carnival.”

One of the last films to be released during the mania of awards season, “Nightmare Alley” overcame particularly poor box office to score four Oscar nominations — for best picture, cinematography, costume design and production design. Collectively, they point to a visual feast.