Nightmare Alley Explained: What’s Up With the Ending?

Tickle your nerves, imagine yourself in the place of the protagonist in an extreme situation and be able to find a way out of it – this is precisely the main point of watching films with elements of mysticism and horror. Nightmare Alley is a contemporary horror film with the fascinating story of a Midwesterner who finds work as a carnival owner.

Some information about the painting

The story is full of breathtaking details, thanks to the professional work of the screenwriter and director, the whole action looks in one breath, not allowing the viewer to be distracted from the screen for a minute. And this is not surprising, because carefully selected performers of the main roles and full compliance with the reality of that time allow you to fully feel the atmosphere, enjoy the vicissitudes of the plot.

Being a gloomy carnival-crime drama, Nightmare Alley takes the viewer back to the 1940s. The film is based on the work of Lindsay Gresham, which in 1947 was regarded as a classic film noir. Which is not surprising, because it perfectly plays unexpected twists with a pronounced gloomy tinge that will please even the most demanding horror gourmets.

Storyline of the painting

The development of the plot takes place inside the circus environment, which is due to the fact that the process of writing the novel by the author took place under the influence of the author’s work in that period of time. Gresham was a crime editor for a magazine, but he drew inspiration for his novel from conversations with a former circus employee.

Therefore, the picture shows the whole wrong side of such a beautiful outside circus environment, the viewer is presented with many completely unsympathetic details upon closer examination. And in the film there are not only easily recognizable circus heroes such as “freaks”, palmists and clowns, but also a significant part of the darkness.

Analyzing the film, one can understand why the beautiful American dream familiar to everyone is shattered in it. The picture can be called a primary source, which vividly describes the gloomy depths and underside of the society of that time, and primarily mass performances and circus shows.

Sequence of events

The film begins with a scene in which Stanton Carlyle takes a job with the owner of the circus carnival, Clem, after setting fire to his own house in the Midwest. At his new job, Carlisle meets a freak man who is forced to live in the mud like an animal and eats live chickens for the amusement of the public.

The freak man got to Clem by deceit, the owner of the show lured him into moonshine, in which he mixed opiates. He promised that such a frightening role would only be temporary. Stanton, a man with a dark past, in the process of mastering a new job, learns all the tricks to become an experienced and successful con man. At the same time, he meets his love here.

Quiet and smart Molly already has her own idea when a spark of love flares up between the main characters of the film. After some time, the couple decides to leave the circus show to start their own, with two members.

Further, the film takes the viewer two years ahead, and we see that the couple’s project turned out to be very successful: Stanton has a resounding success in the Great Stanton show, and Molly is his obligatory and indispensable assistant. One day, the unexpected happens: Stanton is interrupted at night by psychologist Lilith Ritter, who seeks to expose the presenter of deceiving the audience. Subsequently, he learns that Lilith was hired by Judge Kimball, whose goal is to be able to communicate with his dead and beloved son. Stanton agrees to such a role, although Molly strongly opposes it.

Further events develop more and more rapidly. Stanton, when visiting Ritter in her office, becomes her lover, and the couple decide to deceive Kimball. Ritter has incriminating information about the judge. At the same time, Molly finds out about Stanton’s affair and decides to leave him, but promises to help him one last time by playing the part of a ghost. The production is extremely unsuccessful, in its course Stanton kills his customer, and Molly leaves him to return to her family.

The meaning of the film’s ending

Subsequent events are not in favor of the protagonist. His mistress Ritter turns out to be treacherous and cunning, she has her own far-reaching goals. Having successfully implemented them, Ritter no longer needs Stanton. He tries to settle accounts with her and strangle her, but the attempt fails due to the arrival of the police.

Stanton is forced into hiding, he becomes homeless and eventually approaches the image of his own father: slipping into alcoholism. Out of desperation, Stanton tries to get a job as a clairvoyant at a new circus show, but the owner won’t hire him. He treats the poor fellow with a drink and offers him a humiliating role and the animal life of a “freak”. And Stanton has no choice but to agree. As a result, he comes to what he has been running from all his life.

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