Searchlight Pictures’ ‘Nightmare Alley’ Reboot Is Neither A Dream Nor A Nightmare

Courtesy: Searchlight Pictures

How could a man sink so low? He reached too high. Those are the last two lines of Twentieth Century Fox’s 1947 noir thriller, Nightmare Alley. The lines are a fitting finale for the movie, which is one of many lesser-known noir flicks from the studio, now known as 20th Century Studios. That is because not only do they bring the lesser-known noir flick full circle, but because they also collectively help describe Searchlight Pictures’ new reboot of the classic flick, which is scheduled for release Tuesday on DVD and Blu-ray. Interestingly enough, Searchlight Pictures is a division of 20th Century Studios. The reboot reaches high but never really succeeds in itself in attempting to bring renewed attention to the original movie. On the positive side, the story at the heart of the movie does help make the movie worth watching at least once. The story’s execution meanwhile offsets the engagement and entertainment generated through the story and must be addressed. The movie’s cinematography rounds out the most important of the reboot’s elements and works with the story to make this presentation at least somewhat more worth watching. It will also be discussed later. Each item noted here is important in its own way to the whole of the new Nightmare Alley. All things considered, they make the reboot a presentation that is almost as engaging and entertaining as its source material.

Searchlight Pictures’ reboot of 20th Century Fox’s 1947 noir flick, Nightmare Alley, is an interesting new take of a lesser-known classic from the silver age of cinema. It is a presentation that comes up short in comparison to its source material, but still proves itself worth watching at least once. The value in the reboot is exhibited in large part through the movie’s central story. The story in question centers on Stanton Carlisle, a fake psychic who learns how to trick not only audiences, but women, too. The catch is that while he thinks he is tricking so many people, things don’t turn out quite so well for him in the end. Not to give away too much, but the old adage that what goes around comes around plays out relatively well in this reboot/period piece almost as well as in the original movie. Audiences will be interested to see as the story progresses that the same thing that happened to Pete in the long run happened to Stan. Again, the full story will not be revealed here so as to not spoil things for audiences who have not yet watched the movie. That item in itself makes the movie worth watching at least once.

While the story featured in Nightmare Alley gives audiences at least some reason to give the movie a chance, the execution of the reboot’s story detracts from the story’s overall engagement and entertainment. The original story runs just under two hours at one hour, 51 minutes. The reboot runs two and a half hours. The increased length comes from the fact that some scenes from the original have been moved around while at other points, the writing staff of writer/director Guillermo del Toro, Kim Morgan, and William Lindsay Gresham added things that were not in the original movie. What’s more, certain amounts of explicit content were added to the movie that were not in the original movie and not needed, either. One of the changes that the writers made in the reboot was to limit the use of the tarot card scenes. The original story incorporated their use at least twice early in the story and midway through. In the case of the reboot, it is used only once in the story’s final act. What’s more, the scene in the reboot in which Stanton (played by Bradley Cooper) backs over Anderson (Holt McCallany) and then runs him over was an added and completely unnecessary moment. The same can be said of the moment early on when the geek (which is apparently another word for a circus sideshow freak) bites the head off of a chicken. That is a scene from the original movie, but there really is no need for the explicit nature of the scene in the reboot, what with all of the blood. It’s like the movie’s creative heads did that just for shock value, which is concerning. In yet another case, the scene in which Pete dies is changed and extended from the original movie. In the case of the reboot, what was originally a private moment becomes a longer public scene in the carnival, and the more extended sequence in which Stanton teaches Molly (Rooney Mara) about the electrocution chair and how it works adds to the movie’s run time. The original movie did involve this element, but did not add all of the unnecessary extra content used in the reboot. There is also added content late in the movie in which Stanton talks with Judge Kimball (Peter MacNeill) about his sordid past. The extra content here is way more than was in the original scenes from the 1947 take of the movie. Simply put, between this item, the others addressed here, and so many others incorporated into the reboot, there is a lot changed from the original to the reboot that did not need to be changed in so many ways. Yes, the reboot’s content largely does strive to stay true to the original, but there are just so many changes that it makes the movie not necessarily the original and in turn not as engaging as the original movie.

While the amount of changes that occur between Nightmare Alley‘s original movie and its new reboot are concerning, they are not enough to completely ruin the reboot’s presentation. The cinematography works with the story to make for at least a little bit more engagement. The cinematography uses so many specific angles that help enhance the tension of certain scenes. At others, the close ups and the cuts help to keep the sense of steady pacing moving even with the movie’s extensive run time in mind. That plays into the general look of the movie (which is too spit shined even as it takes audiences back to the 1930s and 40s) to help immerse audiences that much more into the movie. Considering that along with the appeal in the movie’s story, the two elements together make Nightmare Alley neither a dream nor a nightmare in itself.

Searchlight Pictures’ new reboot of 20th Century Fox’s classic 1947 noir thriller Nightmare Alley is an interesting presentation. It proves worth watching at least once because of its story. Unlike so many reboots past and present, this movie actually sticks to the story of the original movie. That in itself will appeal to audiences and hopefully encourage audiences to take in the story in the original movie. While the story does form a stable foundation for the reboot of Nightmare Alley, its execution detracts from the overall appeal. That is because of how much content was added, removed, and moved around. There is plenty of content in the story that was either not needed (especially explicit content) or needed in other places throughout the story. It is concerning, but not enough to completely doom the movie. The cinematography works with the story to make for even more engagement. That is because it helps enhance the mood of given scenes, and in turn help viewers look past the reboot’s two hour, 30 minute run time and feel like the movie moves at a relatively stable pace. Each item noted here is important in its own way to the whole of Nightmare Alley‘s presentation. All things considered, they make the reboot neither a dream nor a nightmare.

Nightmare Alley is scheduled for release Tuesday on Blu-ray and DVD. More information on this and other titles from Searchlight Pictures is available at:




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Anchor Bay’s The Midnight Game Is A Fright Filled, Fun Indie Horror Flick

Courtesy:  Anchor Bay Entertainment/Starz

Courtesy: Anchor Bay Entertainment/Starz

Anchor Bay Entertainment’s new horror flick The Midnight Game is a surprisingly entertaining work for an indie horror flick.  The central point of the movie’s success is its script.  One watch of this fright-filled story shows that it’s not just another teen slasher flick.  For that matter, there’s barely any blood shed throughout.  It will however leave audiences guessing right up to the end.  Another reason that horror fans will appreciate The Midnight Game is the acting on the part of the movie’s cast.  The cast knows that this movie is an indie flick.  And while the cast doesn’t necessarily ham it up per se, each cast member’s acting does come across as lightly poking fun at the whole teen horror sub-genre of the horror realm.  Last but not least of all worth mentioning about The Midnight Game is the fact that while it obviously lifts from certain other horror flicks, it doesn’t go so far as to blatantly rip off said movies unlike far too many movies out there regardless of their genre.  These three factors each play their own role in the overall success of The Midnight Game.  Together, they make this indie horror romp one that any fan of the genre will want to watch at least once now that the movie is officially available in stores and online.

The central point of The Midnight Game’s success lies in the movie’s script.  At first glance, one might think that this movie is going to be just another run-of-the-mill gore fest loaded with lots of references to people taking part in satanic rituals.  The reality of the movie is that it is anything but.  Sure, it is essentially another teen horror flick.  But at least it isn’t just another one of the standard gore-filled slasher/evil spirit flicks that are all too common nowadays from the world of horror.  Yes, there is some blood shed at points in the movie.  And there is one very brief moment of nudity.  But both elements have been kept to a minimum.  For that reason alone, the movie’s writing staff is deserving of a certain amount of credit.  There’s no denying that there is at least some predictability at certain points in the story.  But the writing staff makes up for that by throwing in a rather interesting twist ending, which will not be revealed here for the sake of those that haven’t yet seen this frightfully fun teen horror flick.  It is a twist though, that will leave audiences wondering and talking.  And that it will have that lasting effect is a fitting final testament to the talents of those behind the movie’s script.

The talents of those responsible for crafting the script behind The Midnight Game are definitely worth noting in the overall enjoyment of the movie in whole.  The work of those charged with crafting the story’s script goes a long way toward making the movie work.  The same can be said of the acting on the part of the movie’s cast.  The cast—Renee Olstead (The Secret Life of the American Teenager13 Going on 30Still Standing), Shelby Young (The Social NetworkDays of Our LivesEverybody Hates Chris), Guy Wilson (Little Black BookDays of Our LivesThe Open Door), Valentina de Angelis (As The World TurnsGossip GirlBereavement), and Spencer Daniels (Star TrekThe Curious Case of Benjamin ButtonThis Is 40)—doesn’t necessarily ham it up.  But it’s obvious that the cast members had fun with their roles throughout the movie’s filming.  They did take their roles with a certain level of seriousness.  But they didn’t take them so seriously that they went over the top.  Their acting could be argued to have even been a little bit of a spoof of the teens in every teen-centric horror flick ever released to a point.  That’s really what made this aspect work so well.  They were just that spot on in their depictions of the stereotypes used in all the other teen horror romps already out there.  Audiences will know in watching the cast at work that they are watching a movie.  Yet thanks to that acting, audiences will still want to watch what happens to each “teen” next, even going so far as to laugh at their characters at some points.  Again, herein lies one more reason that any horror aficionado will want to see this movie if only once.  There is still more worth mentioning even after considering both this aspect of the movie and its script.

The script and acting that went into The Midnight Game are both key to the movie’s overall enjoyment and success.  Anyone that is familiar with the world of horror will note in watching though, that this movie bears quite the similarity to a number of other horror flicks out there.  Those flicks include the likes of: Fear Dot ComThe Ring, Shadow People and others of that ilk.  Audiences that give The Midnight Game will see the comparison rather early on and even in the story’s final minutes.  The catch is that while the similarity is there, The Midnight Game doesn’t go so far as to directly rip off those works.  Despite being loosely related to said movies, it still maintains its own identity against them, thus helping to maintain at least a certain sense of originality.  That is the final touch to this movie that makes it one of this year’s more surprising entertaining indie flicks.  It’s a movie that any horror aficionado should watch at least once whether this Halloween or any other time of the year.

The Midnight Game is available now on DVD in stores and online.  It can be ordered directly online via the official Anchor Bay Entertainment website at  More information on this and other titles available from Anchor Bay Entertainment is available online at,, and  To keep up with the latest sports and entertainment reviews and news, go online to and “Like” it. Fans can always keep up with the latest sports and entertainment reviews and news in the Phil’s Picks blog at