Progressively Horrified

There are freaks and geeks and Cate Blanchett's chic. This week the Horror Squad is talking about Nightmare Alley with special guest, Julia McCarthy.

Show Notes

Scare Level: Existentially disconcerting
Trigger Warnings: body horror, gaslighting, manipulation, gore, dead fetuses,

Nightmare Alley is Guillermo Del Toro's stab at doing a classic noir and Cate Blanchette is here to show all of you how it's done. Get ready for a devious psychiatrist named Lilith with femme fatale hair that doesn't quit.
  • Director: Guillermo Del Toro
  • Writers: Guillermo Del Toro and Kim Morgan based on the book by William Lindsay Gresham
  • Stars:Bradley Cooper, Cate Blanchett, Toni Collette, Willem Dafoe, Richard Jenkins, Rooney Mara, Ron Perlman, Mary Steenburgen
  • IMDB says: An ambitious carny with a talent for manipulating people with a few well-chosen words hooks up with a female psychiatrist who is even more dangerous than he is.
  • Julia - Carnivale
  • Emily- The X-Files Episode "Humbug"
  • Ben - Basic Instinct
  • Jeremy - Diabolique
Need the transcript?  Visit our website at!

Follow our guest Julia McCarthy on twitter: @thejumbles

Follow us on twitter @proghorrorpod

Follow Emily on twitter @megamoth
Emily's Website:

Follow Ben on twitter @benthekahn
Pre-Order Ben's new book, Renegade Rule.

Follow Jeremy on twitter @jrome58
Visit his website at

RSS Feed:

Join our Patreon at: to support the show, get bonus episodes, early access to upcoming episodes, and a cool Progressively Horrified t-shirt.
★ Support this podcast on Patreon ★

What is Progressively Horrified?

A podcast that holds horror to standards horror never agreed to. Hosts Jeremy Whitley, Ben Kahn, Emily Martin and guests watch, read, listen to, and check out movies, tv shows, comics, books, art and anything else from the horror genre and discuss it through a progressive lens. We'll talk feminism in horror, LGBTQ+ issues and representation in horror, racial and social justice in horror, disability and mental health/illness in horror, and the work of female and POC directors, writers, and creators in horror.
We're the podcast horror never agreed to take part in.

Alicia: Hey, just a quick heads
up the episode you're about to

listen to Nightmare Alley directed
by Guillermo del Toro is an episode

that contains descriptions of body
horror, gore gaslighting, emotional

manipulation, and miscarriage.

Our host ranked this as existentially
disconcerting after the spooky music.

We'll talk about the movie
in full, so expect spoilers.

Oh, and while I've got you here,
you can become part of our show

by heading over to Patreon at

As a show patron, you'll get extra
episodes, all episodes a week early,

and most importantly, you'll get
to help us keep the lights on.

Now let's get to the show.

Jeremy: Good evening and welcome to
Progressively Horrified, the podcast

where we hold horror to progressive
standards that it never agreed to.

Tonight, we're talking about Guillermo
Del Toro's stylish noir, Nightmare Alley.

I am your host, Jeremy Whitley, and with
me tonight, I have a panel of cinephiles

and Cenobites: first, they're here to
invade your house and find queer content

in all of your favorite movies, my
cohost and comic book writer, Ben Kahn.

Ben, how are you tonight?

Ben: Y'all, did Guillermo Del Toro
just bring back the erotic thriller?

Because I'm here for it.

Tell me the version of this movie made
in 1994 doesn't star Michael Douglas.

Emily: Okay.

Oh, yeah.

Jeremy: Is Bradley Cooper
our Michael Douglas?

We'll discuss.

And we picked her up at the
spooky crossroads of anime and

sexy monster media, it's co-host
and comic artist: Emily Martin.

How are you tonight, Emily?

Emily: I really want to talk
to Guillermo Del Toro about his

preoccupation with fetuses in jars.

Jeremy: I really don't want to, but I
can understand why that would be a thing.

Ben: I want to take him The
Mütter Museum in Philadelphia.

Jeremy: I'm sure he's been donated
to it and our special guest tonight,

wonderful editor at Athenaeum and
friend of the podcast, Julia McCarthy.


How are you?

Julia: I am so excited to
be here long time listener.

First time, caller.

Ben: So happy to have you here.

Uh, And I am very excited
to talk about this movie.

Guillermo Del Toro never fails to.

Just never fails to bore us- hold on.

I met, I mincing my words

Jeremy: Never fails to pour...

Ben: Nope.


Hold on.

This is bad.

I'm bad at English.

Cut this.


This, got cut.

The whole thing.

I'm excited to talk about this movie.

Guillermo Del Toro does
directing good sentence over.

Jeremy: I love Guillermo del Toro because
I think I've said on here before, like I

am a fan of movies that take a big shot.

Like they really try to do something.

Even if they fail, I would much
rather see, you know, something

that really doesn't quite do it.

But really tries like
say a Jupiter Ascending.

I'd rather watch that 10 times
over than watch a movie that

succeeds at being mediocre.

Ben: My example of that was going to
be Cloud Atlas, which just makes me

think, oh no, the Wachowski Sisters.

Emily: Bless them.

Ben: I will say I fucking
love Matrix: Resurrections.

I know it's neither here nor there,
we're talking about Nightmare Alley.

Just going to say Matrix
Resurrections, fucking love it.

Jeremy: There's not a single Wachowskis
movie that I don't think starts

with them just walking up to the
plate and pointing at the stands.

Like it's going to go.

It's going to go so deep and
it doesn't always quite get

there, but it's always a shot.

Ben: It's the creative spirit
I want to bring to things.

Just that sense of like, we're
going for it - go for broke.

Jeremy: Absolutely.

There are plenty of directors who have
put out, dozens of mildly successful

movies that will be forgotten long
before the matrix is forgotten, you know?

Emily: Yeah.

And this movie, yes, I will also say
is Guillermo Del Toro doing it, the

thing that he does best it's a bit more
of a slow burn that some of his other

films, but it's gorgeous to look at.

All of the actors are
bringing their a game.

Jeremy: So yeah, Guillermo
del Toro directed it.

He also co-wrote it along with
Kim Morgan and it's based on a

book by William Lindsey, Gresham,
which has been adapted before.

And this is not like a remake of
that, but like a re adaptation

of the book in that it's, it's
pretty different from the original.

Ben: My understanding is that this
Guillermo Del Toro version is closer

to the book than the original, because
the original came out in the era of,

Hey, no unhappy endings in movies.

Whereas this movie is like, what if we
just did the bleakest shit imaginable-

Emily: But it's so good.

Ben: It's so good.

This is one of my favorite endings
of any movies I've ever seen.

Like I love this final scene.

Julia: But I have to say, so I
made the mistake, maybe not mistake

of watching the, I think it was
1944 film um, a few weeks ago.

So I was kind of in conversation with
that as I was watching this movie,

which, for better or worse, cause I
kept being like well, that's not how

it was, but I thought the ending when
I saw the 1944, when I was like, and

this is where they should end it.

And then Del Toro ended it there
where I had been like, this would have

been the perfect, like painful place
to stop this as opposed to the more

Hollywood ending that they gave it.

So I was really appreciative that
it ends on that miserable note.

Yes, that's what I wanted out of this.

Ben: Yeah.

Another big takeaway I had of this
movie is if that Oscar Isaac Metal

Gear Solid movie gets off the
ground and we get a whole franchise

going Cate Blanchett as the boss.

Jeremy: Speaking of Cate Blanchett,
this movie stars like a murderer's

row of actors and actresses.

The main character is Bradley Cooper.

There's Cate Blanchett, there's
Toni Colette there's Willem

Defoe being his Willem Defoe-est.

uh, There's Richard Jenkins.

There's Rooney Mara.

There's Ron Perlman.

There's Mary Steenburgen.

And I'm not even, there's still like
award winning actors that I'm not

naming in that, like in this movie
like David Strathairn is in this movie.

Ben: Tim Blake Nelson
with an incredible cameo.

Julia: That was, I wrote
that I underlined it.

I was so excited about that one.

Ben: I will say for this movie, in
terms of queer content, this movie

stars, Cate Blanchett and Rooney Mara,
and they have no scenes together.

So that feels a little homophobic.

Julia: I have to say all of the, the
ladies only being allowed to have

their scenes with B Coops himself was
a little bit of a bummer for me, but at

least, you know, they, they gave them a
little more agency than I was expecting.

Jeremy: So the IMDb description of this
is an ambitious carnie with a talent

for manipulating people with a few
well-chosen words, hooks up with a female

psychiatrist who is even more dangerous
than he is, which is a description

of the last half hour of this movie.

Ben: This movie feels so much like
a play and that there is act one

with it's sets and cast of actors.

And then there is a very different
act two with its different sets and

cast of just new supporting actors.

There's such a, and now
here's your intermission.

Go get refill your drink.

Have some new snacks, use the bathroom
and now for act two of the film,

Julia: And then they switched all the set
pieces to really shiny, beautiful things.


Ben: There is an hour prologue
and then a 90 minute film.

Jeremy: And they literally could have
closed with a curtain on the like car

driving away in the middle of this.

Speaking of which let's talk a little
bit about what happens in the movie.

We're going to go through
our kind of recap here.

We meet Stanton Carlyle.

He will also be called
Stan throughout this.

This is Bradley Cooper, a man who likes to
drag bodies into holes under the houses,

and then set the whole house on fire.

It's a little confused as to the
logic of that, but uh, this is, this

is what we get to know about him
before he just goes and wanders into

a circus is that he has dragged some
sort of body into a hole and then set

the whole house on fire, which seems

Julia: very dramatic.

Ben: So I really like Bradley Cooper
in this movie, but I definitely had

a little issue with him being the one
in this role because everyone treats

this Stan character like he is in
his like young, like mid twenties and

Bradley Cooper is extremely 46 looking.

Not to say he isn't like gorgeous and
an incredible 46, but very much 46.

Julia: I hate to be the one to be
like well, in the original movie,

but there was a lot more attention
to Stan's character because you

could tell he was a little seedier.

He was already a little more manipulative
and no one would give him information.

No one would let him in.

And in this one it felt like they
just immediately were like, oh

here's the, here are the codes.

Come learn.

Welcome to the circus here, have this
thing, oh, here, I'm going to kiss you.

Here's my boob.

Here's a hand job.

And then I was just like,
oh, they're really giving him

kind of everything without him
having to ask for it that much.

And it frustrated me, but now I'm
seeing it as maybe, oh no, that is

probably, an indictment of the basic
guy who just walks in and gets handed...

Ben: He fails upwards and
thinks he climbed a mountain.

Emily: Sure does.

And he doesn't talk for like the
first 20 minutes of the movie.

Like for a while I thought like he was
mute and he was like traumatized because

of this fire thing and he was mute.

But no, I haven't seen the original movie.

I haven't read the book.

So I was going into this cold I kind of
appreciated the movie that way, because

I felt like everything was considered,
you know, like here's this fucking crazy

carnival, like fun house full of demons.

And these incredible, like sets like you
still have some really good interactions

with the folks at the uh, at the carnival.

And then you have like the, the sort
of art deco metropolis paradise,

Jeremy: I don't know if you guys
watch the HBO sort of behind the movie

making a bit that went with this, but
like they built a whole ass circus.

There's a hole.

That circus is not like
one cut here one bit here.

It is a whole circus that
they built on location.

So when they like walk through the
circus, like it's all one big set.

That's awesome.

Julia: I feel that so much in every
del Toro movie, where there's this

level of consideration and love for
everything, but it's just really palpable,

Ben: The circus feels like such a natural
setting for a Guillermo Del Toro movie.

It's almost weird he's never
done a circus until now.

Jeremy: Yeah.

It's actually weird watching this.

I think it was weird to me, the
amount of not paranormal this movie

was because I feel like Guillermo
del Toro always takes it, that extra

bump over into weird and paranormal.

And there's never really a question in
this movie of things being paranormal.

In fact, like they go out of their way
to explain how being a mentalist works.

Ben: I think it's now that he won the
Oscar, he can stop chasing after that

genre movie Oscar bait and get back to
his a character driven period piece.

Julia: I thought it was so clever in the
sense that, you know, I saw the trailer

for this and it was before I knew anything
about, you know, the original movie.

And I was like it's del Toro, it's going
to be supernatural, blah, blah, blah.

Like the real monsters of the humans.

And it was still very much that but
stripping away, there's no monster.

It's literally just you're with
yourself and your humanity and nothing

supernatural is happening and it's
still the worst, most depraved thing.

And I thought that was really clever.

And I don't know if it was intentional
for him to be like, I'm not going to do

any supernatural, but I thought it was.

Ben: Or I think definitely the
marketing played into that.

Like you said, the trailer definitely
played it out that this is all real

and going across into the supernatural.

And it reminded me of the marketing
for The Prestige where all the

trailers for The Prestige where like
Christian Bale is an evil wizard.

It's magic is real.

And Christian Bale is doing
some real evil wizard shit.

And then you watch the movie.

It's like, no, that's
not the movie at all.

And that's kind of the point
is that we tricked you.

But yeah, everything is grounded and
realistic until David Bowie Tesla

invents some crazy shit that only
David Bowie Nikola Tesla could invent.

I love movie, The
Prestige cover it one day.

Emily: that's a good one.

I feel like this movie did remind
me a lot The Prestige and like, the

Illusionist, but this movie was a lot
more decisive about its character arc.

It had memorable women characters and, and
the twists and turns of these characters.

I was very impressed.

I don't know how much in the book,
these characters have this much agency,

Ben: I will say, it's funny, you
mentioned the Illusionist cause this

movie didn't really remind me of that
because The Illusionist was not memorable

enough for me to be reminded of it.

Take that Edward Norton and Jessica Biel!


From this fucking piece of shit
asshole with my asshole opinions.

Emily: Edward Norton's crying
right now because of you.

Ben: I have really, really liked Rounders.

Rounders is one of my favorite movies!

Emily: Yeah.

Ben: Feel better Edward Norton!

Jeremy: You liked Primal Fear, right?

Primal Fear's great.

Emily: God, I haven't seen
that since like I was a child.

Jeremy: That's the first movie where
Edward Norton plays what seems to be a

nice guy who turns out to be a psychopath.

Emily: Yeah.

He's like the late nineties James Spader.

Ooh, sorry.

This is my hot take.

Ben: Okay.

Jeremy: So Stan comes to the carnival.

He wanders around seemingly aimlessly
for awhile, goes to the geek show

where he sees a man eat a live chicken.

And there's real is he
a man or is he a beast?

And I really enjoy Willem Defoe here,
slipping the if you don't leave the

show, there is an extra 25 cents.

You're going to need to pay me
to watch this man need a chicken.

Now that you're here into his pitch
for the thing which was fantastic.

He tries to call you
and gets called up by,

Ben: Like trying to sell them
by being like this is science.

This is important science
you're witnessing.

Julia: His character would have
had a great time on Facebook.

Jeremy: So eventually he gets
called out by The Major who's

played by Mark Povinelli and Bruno
who's played by Ron Perlman both

are fantastic uh, sideshow acts.

They're going to throw them out cause
they are mutual heavies and Clem decides

to recruit him to come do some work,
breaking down the carnival tent and

eventually ends up taking the money he
should have paid for the geek show out

of the money he's supposed to pay him.

And then eventually invites him to
come along to the next place and

help them set up here because, so
he's just taken a taken Stan under

his wing under his creepy batwing.

Ben: And you could just walk into a place.

Not say a word and just get offered a job.

Why am I suddenly envious of the
economy of The Great Depression?

Emily: Yeah, this was like right
at the beginning of WW Two,

Julia: I did appreciate how they
were like, we have to remind

you guys occasionally they'll be
like, oh, there was an invasion

of Poland or like, oh the war.

And like, you don't really
feel it at all in the movie.

Like very obviously clearly with the
trauma and, just the situations of these

folks, obviously there's war there,
but I just thought it was really funny

that they almost had to pop in and
remind us, like there's a war going on.

Emily: Yeah.

Ben: I appreciate that.

No matter the era and no matter the war
we get to see stories of rich American

people not giving a fuck about it.

Julia: Yeah.

Some things never change.

Emily: Willem Defoe, his line.

That was like that Kraut that looks
like Chaplin just invaded Poland.

Ben: I love that line!

I took a Charlie Chaplin class
in college where one of the final

assignments was we had to recreate it.

So we did the one where he was
the angels and stuff like that.

We all like, dressed separately
and then met up like at the place

where we're going to film outside
the library cause it's UPenn.

It's like there's flowers,
flat grass, giant metal piece

sign, great place to do heaven.

So I'm the first one there for my groups.

I'm like, okay, let me just
do some pratfalls and whatnot.

And at one point I just look over
and suddenly there's 30 people

just crowded around the library,
windows staring out eventually.


Just staring at me.

And eventually someone comes
out like, is this a protest?

Like, why are you dressed as fairy Hitler?

Jeremy: What does it mean?

Julia: It's performance art baby.

Ben: I, excuse me.

I'm doing this for a grade.

This is part of my educational experience.

Emily: What better, though?.

Jeremy: I just did this movie
and waiting for Clem to say I am

something of a con man myself.

We all seen Spiderman

Emily: because

Jeremy: I'm something of a
scientist myself in that I lost it.

I lost it.

Julia: I have to say, that was
like the movie with the most fan

service that still was just like
excellent and pulled it all off.

And I was like, I mean, maybe I'm
saying that because I am the fan

that was being serviced, but I
thought it was just really anyway.

Jeremy: Yeah.

So speaking of people being serviced
Stan does take a bath at Zeena's-

Zeena is played by Toni Collette,
she is the fortune teller character.

She has sort of a whole cabin
with a bath tub and everything.

She's charging people
a dime to take a bath.

Ben: I was a little confused about that.

Does she, how she has the cabin if she
travels with them or if she stays there

and just various circuses come through and
she is the fortune teller at all of them.

I was a little confused how
that cabin situation worked.

Emily: Julia, if you've read the book
and you know the story, please tell us,

Julia: I haven't read the book.

In the original movie.

I think what happens is that she
travels with the circus, but then

they rent like a hotel room rather
than this like entire building.

So that was confusing to me.

I didn't understand how they had this
whole beautiful space with a bathtub and

no doors, but I did appreciate that the
first person to show skin was Bradley

Cooper rather than one of the ladies.

So, progressive?

Ben: Bradley Cooper in the bathtub.

Good stuff.

Emily: And this house is like, it's not
just like a cabin, you know, that you

set up, like, this is an installation,
there's a neon sign on it, which I'm

like, why are you having a neon sign
on this thing that is surrounded by

a carnival in the middle of nowhere?

But whatever.

Ben: Like who is going to this carnival?

Emily: My idea is that they have
this home base and this is where

they go when they like, are they
do a tour and then they come back

here and then they do their thing.

Jeremy: That's a fair ground.

I mean, you can There's
spaces like that all over now.

And I'm sure there were a lot more than
you know, where you can just go set up

and put all this, put this stuff up there.

Ben: Um, Carnival that came to my town
every year, growing up, it was built.

It was put up five minutes
away from the downtown.

I have no idea where the fuck
they are in relation to the town.

It looks like they are just in, I
don't know what the Australian Outback

Emily: they're definitely like
in a series of Andrew Wyeth

paintings out there especially that
first house where it's like out.

Ben: I hope it just how much I liked
this movie and that the nits I'm

picking are where's this circus set up.

This is a very stupid thing I'm making
jokes about, but it's all I've got.

It's a very good movie that I liked a lot.

Jeremy: Yeah.

All the interviews I've read about this
Bradley Cooper seems legitimately had been

excited to get his Dick out in this movie.

He was just like, I was very excited
when I saw the script that, you know,

it's felt like it was really called
for, and I was, wanting to get into it.

Ben: I've gotta be honest.

I'm less interested in Bradley
Cooper's reaction to that

scene that I am Toni Colette's.

Julia: I mean, yes.

Speaking of agency, right?

Jeremy: This is where a Zeena who is
played by Toni Colette and her partner.

Pete who's played by David
Strathairn and he was an older man.

They're clearly together, but it's
often unclear in what capacity.

But they, they live here.

And as soon as, Pete goes to go
do his stuff Toni Collette uh,

sites to greet greet Stan in
the most friendly way possible.

Just give him a bath tub hand job.,

Emily: It's funny cause Pete also kind
of suggests that like the bath is going

to have some sort of a climax perhaps.

Yeah, cause he's like, maybe she'll
read your fortune after your bath.

Ah ha.

Anyway, I'm going to
speak French and leaf.

I love to Pete.

I loved Pete so much.

I love him as an actor and I love
the, I just love the character too.

Jeremy: It's interesting.

You were talking about Julia, how
everybody sort of lets him in and this

movie and I think that's, I think that's
Guillermo Del Toro to some extent,

because I think he really paints these
two different worlds as the civilized

world of the second half of the movie.

Nobody has each other's backs.

Everybody hates each other.

They're all sniping at each other.

Everybody's horrible.

And then the circus where all the freaks
live, everybody's got each other's

back, which feels really inspired less
by nightmare alley and more by movies

like Freaks were weird found circus.

Julia: I'm really glad you mentioned
that because I actually, and I looked

up beforehand like an interview with
del Toro talking about this and at

one point he talks about how he's
very empathetic with characters.

And so it's very difficult for him
to put them in tragic situations.

And I really felt that with Bradley
Cooper's character where like, even though

he's doing these horrible things and he's
going over the top and putting this man

on the ground, setting it on fire, even
though it's in the middle of nowhere.

So it's clearly very unnecessary, but
character is treated with a lot of

love and generosity in a way that I
wasn't present in the original film

and not to go back to that, but it does
create this very different dynamic.

And to me, it kind of lessens the tension.

But you're right.

I think it does open you up to kind
of that the duality of, the openness

of a carnival and people accepting you
as you are versus the, yeah, proper

society just full of nasty people.

Ben: Yeah.

I have a topic that I want to throw out
to the round table we have assembled here.

Emily: Yes.

Ben: The human headed spider.


Emily: Dope.

Julia: Get it girl.

Emily: Oh my God.

Like this carnival?

That's the thing about Guillermo del-
you talk about Guillermo Del Toro

and the amount of consideration and
the love that he has for these ideas.

And you can tell when his love is there,
like in these carnival sets and the ideas?

Cause that fun house
and the spider lady...

Jeremy: The fun house, having
lived in the south for a good

chunk of my life, feels very real.

That feels very much like something that
somebody has been in, in real life and was

like, you know what I want to put in this?

The spider lady feels like a
dream Guillermo Del Toro had.


Like, you going to put that in
the background of the scene?

Emily: I wanted more of that crazy shit.

Like I wanted the spider lady and then
like the lion guy and like there was

a snake guy who was like contortionists
with the kind of very 1940s,

Julia: And that's the only
person of color in the film.

So there's that too.



Ben: Noticeable to me that there
weren't very many animals in it

and I don't know if that's like, on
screen intentional, like anything

thematic there it's about like humans
are the vampires to other humans.

Or if it's just the practical, ethical
considerations that really, I think

any filmmaker doing films about the
circus needs to consider in that man,

there was a lot of animal cruelty.

How do I depict that animal cruelty
without myself doing a shitload

of animal cruelty Tiger King also
showed us there's really no ethical

way to make a movie using big,
like large mammal, large animals.

Julia: I do wonder how much of that is,
just the history of carnivals versus

circuses and that idea of Barnum and his
animal and his like abusing the hell out

of elephants versus these more traveling
shows that are more focused on making

the humans the spectacle and the freak.

And I thought that was really
interesting and something I don't know

a lot about, but I wonder, you know,
again, leaning into like the humans

or the actual monsters it's that it
lends itself to that you're right.

I think it was the only
animal we saw at a chicken.

Of course.

Jeremy: A series of chickens.


Ben: Again, I do think whatever themes
there are in choosing not to show animal

cruelty aside from just, sometimes it's
really nice to not have animal cruelty.

In general, I side on on
the side of do CGI animals.

I will give you an extra benefit
of the doubt and not judge it, not

seeming totally real if it means
we're not doing an animal cruelty.

But I think it all is just part of the
theme of humans being predator to humans.

Jeremy: Let's get into that cause
we're about to get a lot more of

Clem here because everybody else
has sort of their own skills, their

own trade or their own uh, some,
something about them that they perform.

Clem on the other hand uh, is,
is sort of a ringmaster, but also

runs the freak show side of things.

He has his jars full of dead babies
which usually a freak show like this

would have animals of some sort.

It would have, you know, whether
they were alive or dead three

headed sheep and things like that.

And this is very specifically
like deformed humans.

And he's in this section just, be warned
about that if you watch the movie yet uh.

Ben: Also that del Toro
touch, I don't know.

I don't know if there's anything
textually support that, but that

just felt like some del Toro shit.

Emily: Yeah.

Jeremy: Yeah.

I mean, we've seen the
geek already at this point.

And in, in this section he gets loose.

He is a man who's who acts and seems in
some ways, subhuman, who is we don't know

what's going on with him at this point,
but he gets loose in is running around

the circus and they need to catch him.

And Clem gets Stan to help him with this.

And Stan ends up tracking him down into
this place and is trying to talk nicely

to him when Clem shows back up and the
geek freaks out and Stan decides to stop

him by beating him half to death which
is a real Stan solution to a problem.

Ben: I figured out why I associate
del Toro with babies and jars it's

because Del Toro and his likeness
were in Death Stranding, and that

game had the baby and the jar and all
of the marketing and trailers where

Guillermo Del Toro's character running
around with the baby in the jar.

Julia: I love that game.

So wild, but-

Emily: Also Devil's Backbone.

There's a whole thing that
The Devil's Backbone title

comes from this baby in a jar.

Jeremy: He's real, he's really
fascinated with babies in a jar

in a way that I do not understand.

Emily: I mean, it's goth.

Jeremy: It's not appealing to me.

Emily: He's goth and I love him.

I want to hug him.

He's like...

Jeremy: He does seem like
he would be a good hug.

Emily: Oh my God.

Jeremy: Guillermo del Toro seems
like he'd be a great hugger.

Julia: Man.

You know what of all the
directors and all the, yeah.

He's number one for hug.

Jeremy: he's number one, David.

Lynch's at the bottom.

Stan sort of.

infiltrates Zeena and Pete's act.

To some extent they invite him
along and he's worming his way

into doing more and more of it.

They've got him sort of working the crowd
and they'd tell him to, put on a Southern

accent in The South and put on a Northern
accent in The North and they'll be fine.

Which that totally works.

But uh, yeah they're, they're doing sort
of a fortune telling sort of mentalism act

to some extent, but they've specifically
do not go with what they call a "spook

show", which is they don't pretend to
see dead people or communicate with the

dead and manipulate people in that way.

They just pretend to know things
that they, they ascertain through

a series of tricks and signals
back and forth with one another.

Ben: Yeah.

They just want to keep it
to pretending to be Xavier.

Once you go past Xavier shit gets fucked.

Emily: Yeah.

They did go a little bit you know, ghost,

Jeremy: Zeena does it too, to make
up for Pete screwing up at one point,

she things on her feet and ends up
manipulating this woman into thinking

she's talking to her dead child and
then the woman seeks her out later on.

She's like, no, I'm not, I
didn't actually talk to her.

I just like I panicked and
had to, have to pretend.

Emily: Well, I wanted to talk about
that because becomes this really

big point at this part of the film
where they talk about shut eye

and how dangerous "shut eye" is.

And there's a phenomenon with mediums,
and this terminology goes way back.

And I learned this from the
podcast "Oh No, Ross and Carrie!"

Available on Maximum Fun.

But the open eye mediums will be
pretty honest about, we're doing

an act, this is a performance.

Jeremy: It's like a lot of magic
shows where it's like, we're doing

a trick, but you're not going to be
able to figure out how we're doing it.

And that's part of the game.

Ben: Yeah.

Emily: And then the "shut eye" psychic
believes that they have power and

therefore they're not in control
of their power because they are,

they are now deluding themselves.


Ben: I thought there was, I think
what's so interesting is that.

It's not really the shot, the "shut
eye" that Stan gets, like at one point,

he hooked up to the lie detector test.

They're like, do you have powers?

And he's clearly lying
and knows he's lying.

And yet what he's showing is that
he is just so supremely confident

in being able to read people.

He's just confident in these, in himself
to the point of being super powered, not

but I think it's an interesting moral line
that the movie draws, and I think it's

the correct one where it's look, it's all
fun and games when we're acting like we

can predict what's in people's pockets.

Messing with the grief is when
things get real and fucked up, and

it felt like a gambler's escalation.

Jeremy: And it's so telling
in this, that Stan's immediate

reaction is like, but why?

Like, why wouldn't you do that?

Why would you not tell
them that it was real?

And, you know, you can get a
bunch of money from them for

talking to their dead child.

Come on.

Emily: Yeah.

Julia: For the most part, Guillermo
del Toro stuck more to the book

than the movie, but one difference
was that in the book at one

point, Stan becomes a reverend.

And so it has that shift into
taking advantage of people.

And in with that religious subtext,
there's a bit of that in the

original movie, but in the book, I
was just like, oh I'm, fascinated

why they didn't make that choice.

I think, because it would have been
just another layer to add and would

have maybe taken a little bit longer.

I am so fascinated by the way that
they talked a bit about, you know,

even like the notion of a preacher.

I think Pete talks about like, some
people just want to unburden themselves.

People want to be seen.

And where do you draw the line of, like
you said, like saying what's in someone's

pocket and that agreed upon, this is fun.

We're having fun versus, preying
upon people and their weaknesses.

And the first act of the movie is
this more agreed upon safe space.

And then the second act is just going from
like the fish moving into the bigger pond.

And then Lilith is who you're
contending with rather than, Clem,

who's very open about his manipulations.

And I thought that was really interesting,

Jeremy: I love Pete and Pete's
sort of code of ethics in this in

that, he is like, he's like, oh no,
Started to go up to this line before

and you, you shouldn't do that.

Like, you know, He's got his book.

He doesn't want to share his notebook
with Stan because he's afraid that

if Stan knows these things, then Stan
will take advantage of people and go

too far, which is absolutely true.

Ben: Yes.

It's very correct for you to fear that.

That is a very valid worry.


Emily: And it's really interesting
because Pete feels about this

book like it is magic, it is as
magical as things can get really.

And that's so cool because it hearkens
back to this standing tradition

of you know, alchemists protecting
the secret knowledge with code,

or just, just jealously protecting
that, because if everybody could

do it, they wouldn't be as useful.

Ben: So definitely an element that
reminded me of The Prestige, just like

the magician, who was like, whose greatest
secret and art form is there trick.

Emily: Yeah.

This is about where we are introduced to
all the other characters in the carnival.

You have Miss Molly, who
is this young, innocent,

Jeremy: yeah.

Ingénue who likes to redirect
electricity through her body.

That's her whole trick is she
can get shocked and survive.

Pretty good.

Julia: Electric girl,

Jeremy: Funnily enough, the big sign for
her says "Electra: the Electric Girl!"

on the sign, and then they will
make direct reference to the

Electra Complex later in the movie.

And I was like, was that intentional?

Or is that just a, it's a thing.


Ben: That was another one.

I was confused by where,
when it's first presented, I

thought it was like, oh, okay.

We're praying on regular people
in the 1930s never having seen

nevermind understanding how Tesla
coils work and having any idea that

even though it looks all dangerous,
there's pretty much no actual charge

that she's being electrocuted with.

And then later in the movie
she's like, oh yeah, no, I'm

electrocuted so hard every time.

It's like, what the fuck?

Emily: When you do that a lot.

It'll fuck with your muscles.

Like you get twitchy.

If you're doing it a lot, like I
remember being in middle school and

there was a science presentation and
one of the kids straight up like put

his hand on the Tesla coil and it was
like a big old bolt and it was fine.

I guess they were just shocking us.

And I mean, it was like a small shock.

It would give you
twitches, but that was it.

But I know that, there are performers
out there that perform with Tesla coils

that You know, a lot of electrical
charge will, you know, make your

muscles Twitch and cramp up certainly.

Jeremy: It makes no bones about the
fact that like this circus really

it takes something out of people
like Bruno's got real bad knees.

He has a hard time doing a strong man act.

And you know, you've got
Molly who's dealt with this.

And poor, Pete is incredibly
alcoholic incredibly dependent on it.

And then you know, this is the point
where we get them having to deal

with the geek who he is injured too
badly in retrieving him and is dying.

So Clem gets Stan to come with him to
go drop the geek in an alley in front

of a church uh, so that they can take
care of him and then "peaces out" to

go to the diner to have some dinner.

And they have this discussion
about how to get a man to go geek.

How do they replace the geek?

And this is something that's going
to be very important later on in that

you know, he gets somebody who is a
drunk, who doesn't have anywhere to

live, who is dealing with substance
abuse stuff generally, and gets them

hooked on not just alcohol, but also,
poppy and uh, you know, Get him to

temporarily fill in, in this role as
the geek just because he needs a job.

So he can pretend to be this
wild man for a little while.

And, over time will make him so
dependent on him that he cannot leave.

Ben: I know it's art, it's probably the
most thematically important scene of the

movie, but I spent a lot of time focusing
on just how good that dinner looked,

cause they're having like steak and egg
and hashbrowns and it looks so good.

It just looks like some good old
fashioned hardy carnie dinner that I'm

like, I'm going to make that for dinner.

And then I did, and it was delicious
and I was asleep in like 20 minutes.

Cause that shit was mad hearty.

Emily: Yeah.

They make like steak and eggs and
like, even like the sloppy eggs he

has, like during the rainstorm morning
or whatever, it looks really good.

So good job cinematographers.

I think there's some sort of color balance
there just makes eggs looks really good.

I mean I have enough chickens, but
uh, it's kind of interesting too,

because they leave this poor geek,
this man, this person out in the rain

in front of the halfway house and then
they're like, they'll take care of him.

Don't worry.

I'm hungry.

Are you hungry?

And then they're eating
this, like beautiful affluent

dinner with like silver.

And uh, Willem Defoe tells the
story of this horrifyingly predatory

practice, which, that in and
of itself is really upsetting.

Ben: That he has it down to such
a precise science, really hammers

home, the horrificness of how
often he must've done this and how

often others must've done this.

And like, I never heard of a
geek show before this movie.

And then I look it up and it's
like, oh yeah totally a thing.

Emily: Yeah, absolutely.

It's the etymology of the term,
you know, when you say I'm

a geek for blah, blah, blah.

I mean, originally it was.

The person who bit heads off
chickens, but it's more than that too.

Ben: I mean, I would bite the
head off a chicken for Star Wars.

That is accurate.

Jeremy: I think the big theme of the
movie is and you know, this goes with

what we were talking about with the spook
show, as well as of treating other people

as sub-human to get up to make some
money to push yourself up above them is

something that, they do to, somebody who
is perceived as lesser and homeless in

this homeless and addicted in this case.

And that will, everybody will
then proceed to do to each other.

And Stan in particular has no qualms
about doing this to any and everybody.

Emily: Yeah.

Julia: He's a true capitalist.

Emily: Yeah.

He does create the electrocution scenario.

For Molly.

Jeremy: Yeah he comes up with the idea
of not just having a ball that she grabs.

And it says that she got electrocuted,
but having a whole electric chair

on stage where she can, you know,
really ham it up and play to the

audience and it can be a whole thing.

And The Major is really annoyed by this
like Major and Bruno just hate him because

they've got his number from the beginning.

They know that this guy is a con man and
that he is trying to get in Molly's pants.

And um, Molly for her part is perfectly
happy for him to get in her pants.

It seems like.

But now they're super
protective because they're-

Ben: It is Bradley Cooper

- Jeremy: and the older guys that
knew her dad and everything.

Also he is a scumbag, so...

Emily: The bit where he's like showing
the stage and he's constructed the stage.

I love that.

And then there's a little bit of
character design, 1 0 1 here where

Bruno's or not Bruno, Um, The Major
is like, what is this wheel thing?

And he's like, oh, that's bullshit.

Julia: I lost it at that.

I loved that.

It was bullshit.

Emily: And then they

Jeremy: bring that back through.

It's very short.

Ben: I love that.

He used it.

I mean, it's just such a great way
of showing how theatrical minded he

is and like, you know, and that power
of, oh, I'm good at theatricality

and I can bullshit people.

Therefore I am this unstoppable
master, like puppet master.

Emily: Oh.

And there's a bit of dialogue here
that we talk about how everything

is just given to this guy.

There's this bit where he's talking about
his idea to Molly and he's trying to

like, razzle-dazzle her and he has his
sketchbook and he's like, oh yeah, my mom

put me in a, in I mean, it's no big deal.

You know, I have talent.

I know.

And I could have like won a bunch of
I'll put me on a bunch of contests.

I could've won all the contest,
but it's just something

that I do to like calm down.

Julia: So every guy that I went
to college with, yeah, it just,

it was, oh, this old thing?

Oh, it was.


Emily: No, thank you.

Jeremy: He is absolutely the guy
that brings a guitar to a party.



Ben: Again, this character really feels
like he's supposed to be like 21, 22 and

it's played by 46 year old Bradley Cooper.

Emily: I'm saying in 1941,
this is a very difficult time.

Jeremy: Yeah.

Bradley Cooper is his absolute best.

He does some great acting in this movie.

I think he's incredibly miscast, but he
does everything he's capable of doing.

And he's fine.

Ben: I need to think this should
have been a Timothée Chalamet roll.

Emily: Ooh.

Jeremy: I don't think Timothée Chalamet
is the guy that you would see wandering

around the carnival and be like, Hey,
could you do some manual labor for me?

Ben: Yeah.

That's true.



Emily: No.

And then Zeena has a, quote earlier
where she's like, you're a good looking

and that's, I don't know about that.

And he's like, what are you talking about?

And she's like, you could be trouble.

And he's like, no, I'm fine.

And she's like, you're a maybe,
and I do not like maybes.

Ben: Yeah.

You should trust your gut!

Emily: I mean she got
what she wanted out of it.

Jeremy: She does at this point, lose
her partner in Pete because Pete has

sort of adopted Stan at this point
and Stan really wants his notebook and

he really wants to know everything.

Pete knows, and Pete only wants to
teach him some of what he knows.

Just like in the last movie he
had taught him everything.

He knows.

I teach him everything.

I know.


After Dark er- Near Dark,

Emily: After Dark is the screensaver.

Jeremy: Different one.

That's the scary movie
with the flying toasters.

Pete is then begging him to get him
some liquor and he gets him some poison

liquor instead of the normal liquor.

And we know that he knows which one is
which, because Clem has very carefully

told him, don't drink this shit.

It'll kill you.

It will get you drunk,
but then it'll kill you.

That's the drinking liquor.

And he gets the poison
liquor for Pete instead.

And takes Pete's book.

And Pete is found dead the next morning.

And everybody just assumes that Pete
did all himself drank himself to death.

He's finally done what was
inevitably going to happen to him.

Emily: Both Brett and I were watching
it and he looked away and there

was this, that one second where he
takes that particular liquor and I'm

like, he did poison him, didn't he?


Jeremy: And he checks to see if Clem
is going to catch him and drops the

money in and takes the liquor that's
supposed to be used for embalming and

other things instead and gives it to him.

And he's he's a real
fucking scumbag, Stan.

Ben: Yeah, he's a real
piece of shit, ain't he?

Jeremy: This is the point where it
becomes incredibly clear uh, what side of

this whole thing he is on which is then
followed up by what I think is probably

Bradley Cooper's best scene in this movie,
other than maybe the ending, which is

where uh, Sheriff Jim Beaver comes to town
to shut down the whole thing, which I love

when Jim Beaver shows up in a movie and he
is getting ready to arrest all the carnies

and shut down the carnival and uh, Stan
jumps in and like notices that he has Uh,

an extra rise in his shoe and figures out
from that, and from his walk that he has

polio and notices, you know, the necklace
on his neck with his mother's pendant on

it, and like uses these things that he
picks up about the sheriff to manipulate

him into not arresting everybody by
just totally fucking with his brain.

And the only person who, would
say you shouldn't have done that

is, is Pete who was gone now.

Everybody on the carnival is
like, wow, Stan's the greatest.

We all love Stan.

Stan kept us from getting arrested.


Ben: I love this scene because you
see the reason for the hubris

that will bring him down very
noir- it's very, I don't know.

I feel like there's some essay
to be made about overlaps

between Greek tragedy and noirs.

Emily: Oh, totally.

I mean, hubris tragedy.

Before Pete goes, there's another
line that he has got to love Pete

where he says , when you learn how
to really read people, it means that

you've been trying to deal with abuse.

A lot of the time, people who learned
to read others like that are trying to

stay one step ahead of their abuser.

Ben: Yes.


That is real like.

There has been definitely been
like documented studies on that.

Emily: Absolutely.

Ben: They discussed that on that Tim
Roth show where Tim Roth played the

magical liar he's like, ah, Lie to Me.

That was the name of it.

Where Tim Roth just goes around
and it was like Hey, I bet you

got a lot of abuse as a child.

Come join my super lie solving team.

Julia: I remember seeing
a video a while ago.

That was like, you're not an empath.

You just have a lot of trauma
and you know how to read a room

because you have to, to survive.

And I thought it's funny because I
also wrote down and highlighted that

line in particular because it is true.

I mean, it's, honest and interesting
to show that of this pain came from

somewhere and that ability to, to
then take that pain and use it to

lord your power over others and
how Stan just really eats that up.

And he just loves how he's
now finally able to manipulate

people and play with them

Ben: The way, not just that we
learn, he killed his father,

but how he killed his father.

I mean, cold blooded.

I mean, that's just
figuratively and literally

Emily: Ruthless.

I mean, it was ruthless and it was cruel.

Julia: And again, he's such a
showman, even from the beginning,

this big dramatic, like he didn't
have to do any of that to his father

Jeremy: He could have just bashed
his dad's head in and walked off.

Ben: For all y'all listeners who
aren't going to see this movie,

which see the movie it's real good.

I know it's a long go see it.

He waits until there's a snow storm
going on, then opens the window in the

bedroom and then just takes his father's
blanket and wraps it around himself

and just watches his father fre- his
old, invalid, father freeze to death.

Emily: It's a horrifying it's terrible.

And you know, there is some suggestion
that he had been through some stuff.

His father was an alcoholic and that's
why he doesn't touch liquor at the time.

Jeremy: Yeah.

We'll get to that in the Cate Blanchett
section here very specifically

because we're coming up on the Cate
Blanchett section because now that

he's the hero of the circus, he's
ready to fucking leave the circus

and leave everybody else behind.

So like, he's trying to talk Molly
into basically being the other half

of this mentalism act with him that
he's, you know, stolen from Pete and

Zeena and uh, Bruno catches on to
him and uh, Bruno, beats the shit

out of him, which it doesn't take
much with the size of that dude.

Ron Perlman beats the crap out of him.

Then Molly of course, throws
herself on him to keep Bruno

from beating him to death.

And inevitably in trying to
keep her from leaving, he gets,

he convinces her to leave.

And we end act one with them, riding
away in their uh, in their truck with

all their stuff to leave the circus.

Emily: With the, with that
silent film, like fade out with

the circle, shows like this.

That was good.

Some people can't get away with
that, but this movie really did.

there was also, there's a, There's a
very important um, interaction with

Molly and uh, Stan where Molly's like,
maybe this is good enough for me.

And he's like, it's
not good enough for me.

So why would it be good enough for you?

I mean, it's classic manipulation.

Jeremy: Yeah.

I know.

It's not good enough for you
cause it's not good enough for me.

I'm look at me.

I'm shitty and you- you're great!

Emily: Yeah.

You're better than me.

So therefore you know, you deserve better.

And so I'm going to make things
better for you by making you

do what I want you to do...

which essentially

Jeremy: Is not a set up that will
last very long because he is going

to immediately now that he is in
charge of all these started talking

down to Molly and he's separated her
from the rest of her, found family.

They go on to do their mentalism act.

So they're in the big city
doing this in ballrooms now.

And they're using all the tricks from,
you know, Pete's book to signal things

back and forth to each other uh, so that
it can seem like, you know, he is he's

telling all of this stuff with a blindfold
on she's giving him signals and how she is

describing things and telling them what's
happening without actually saying it.

Until, uh, he is doing this
and Cate Blanchett shows up.

This is Dr.

Lilith Ritter.

Uh, She has total femme fatale
hair, and her name is Lilith.

So if you meet her and you do not
immediately run the other direction,

then you're asking for it because
she's a hundred percent That Bitch.

Ben: She looks like she just
walked into her room and was like,

Hey, I need to talk to you about
this Falcon statue I heard about.

Jeremy: Dramatic lighting
follows her from room to room.

Emily: Like she has like
almost literally the Morticia

light on her all at all times.

I was going to say like, you either run
the other way but then I realized it

would literally be asking for it because
you would want her to step on you.

Which is another thing where
I'd be like, okay, hold on.

This street is too dirty for you.

Ben: I think it's right on, man.

I am just a weak in the knees anytime Cate
Blanchett is like onscreen in this film.

Emily: She is on, she is
like infinite levels of noir.

Julia: She was she's like the um, what?

The nine foot tall vampire lady.

Yeah, I, yeah.

And that's all I got and
I'm in love and it's fine.

I know it's bad.

It's so bad.

It's good.


Jeremy: Ben and I were talking about her.

And I was like, it's like, if Moonstone
from Marvel comics who isn't evil

psychologist, which is what we find that
this character is, was Jessica Rabbit.

She just because she has the hair
that does like the waves that are

inexplicable how her hair works like that.

Julia: That's the only
supernatural element in the

whole movie actually is her hair.


Ben: Cate Blanchett just was just meant
to be in mid 20th century period pieces.

Emily: Yeah.

Ben: Anything from the thirties to
the fifties or even twenties to the

fifties, like put Cate Blanchett in it!

Emily: Yeah,

Julia: I do appreciate that,
despite the fact that like, it's

the most heavily telegraphed, like
she is trouble we're still, like,

I will watch another hour of this.

I'm like, I know what's going
to happen, but I'm fine with it.

Like please!

Let me just...

Ben: Oh God, just the, again, the
hubris of Stan thinking, he's the

one with the upper hand being like,
why don't you hold onto the money?

Like, this is an old con trick I'm
doing on her, like Stan bubala.

You are in so over your head.

Jeremy: Yeah.

Cause he, so she calls his bluff on
this thing and it was like well, if

you're a such a great psychic what's
in my purse, it's the old Bilbo trick.

But he does manage to figure it out
because it's, you know, it's a little

clutch, there's only so many things that
could be, he notices that it's heavy,

that she's single, that she's here alone.

That she's uh, all these things and- and
figures out that it's a uh, revolver.

He makes some predictions there
that are a little wild uh,

and he it's a Pearl handle.

And things like that, it's a
little over the top, but it works.

And he does this just long enough
to, you know, get the upper hand on

her and then moves on to the other
man that's at the table with her.

And then in an attempt to get out of
this cycle with her starts doing a

spook show with this guy predicting
that, you know, is there somebody

that's dead that he's close to.

And it turns out that this guy is Judge
Kimball who does in fact have this and

immediately wants him to do a private
show for him to help him and his wife,

it turns out, contact their dead child.

And so Judge Kimball is
played by Peter McNeil.

And it turns out that he is he is one
of Lilith's patients, and she is a

psychologist and she slips Stan her
card over the course of this thing

before he decides for sure whether
or not he's going to do this reading.

And Molly being the angel on his
shoulder is like, no, you know

you're not supposed to do this.

You should like, definitely not do
this and tell him that it's fake.

He instead decided to go to Lilith's
office and be like, Hey, you gave

me this card for a reason clearly.

You know lots of stuff about
this guy being a psychologist.

Maybe you can feed me some information
and then I can manipulate this

guy into giving me a bunch of
money and then we'll split it.

That'd be great.

Emily: And he's rehearsing for this too.

Like they show him rehearsing for this,
where he's going to, offer her something.

' cause he, he realizes that,
she's going to challenge him.

So of course he needs her in his
pocket and all this kind of stuff,

but she has these connections.

And it's fantastic.

On one hand you have the same kind
of skills at work, classically.

And of course there's a lot of
differences between a mentalist

and, um like a therapist.

Jeremy: You telling me there's
a difference between being

a con man and a therapist?

Emily: Yes.

Jeremy: Hard stance there, Emily.

Emily: Yeah.

I'm gonna make that hard stance as
much as the, um, medical insurance

industry, yada, yada, yada.

But anyway.

Ben: If it's not the same then why
is Monty Three Card helped me with

my emotional problems so much?

Emily: You got me there.

I mean, shit.

Ben: I tell him about my issues
down by the docks, he scams me out

of a wristwatch and I feel better.

Emily: Whatever works for you
really actually no, because there's

a lot of people who don't believe
in vaccines because of that.

But anyway, speaking
of con men, and women.

You still have the kind of skills,
whether they are intuitive or

they are academic, to know people
and it's how you use them, right?

You know, therapists would
help you this therapist

Ben: Well...

this is also a therapist who was recording
her sessions so she can then feed that

information to a con man who is then
using that to ruin her patient's life.

Emily: She was already recording
this session so with the most

incredible setup I've ever seen
that I'm like, I want that shit.

I don't care if it is going to
like last two seconds, cause all

there's magnets everywhere, but

Ben: I'm still not exactly sure if her
angle was more, Ooh, I'm actually going

to get all the money or if it was a Cheryl
Blossom-esque, I'm in the mood for chaos.

Jeremy: Oh, she doesn't
care about the money.

She makes it very clear from moment one
that like, she is not interested in money.

She's got plenty of money.

She has all these rich clients.

Ben: So that's the thing where I'm like,
oh, I don't know if that was part of her

plot or if that was really her whole deal.

It was like, we now I've got
like $150,000 in like 1941 money.

Julia: I feel like it is, she's just
the better version of Stan, where he

gets such a kick out of being able
to manipulate people and he thinks,

ha ha, like, I'm so good at this now.

And I love it.

It's delicious.

And he wants the money.

And then she turns that around
on him and is like you fool, like

you're so small and simple minded,
all you care about is money.

You don't see the bigger picture of like
just the chaos of toying with people.

And I just love how she's like him to 11.

Ben: Yeah.

It feels a lot less your way is harmful
in my way, is beneficial and more, this

city deserves a better class of criminal.

Jeremy: It's really
interesting to me because I.

I feel like I took a stance in
this at some point and watching

it and deciding what was going on.

There's a thing that's never really
confirmed in it, but that I think

like you can interpret, which leads
to Stan working for this guy, Grindle.

He's a rich asshole who has
caused another woman's death by

causing her to have an abortion.

He also says in a last minute confession
that he's hurt a lot of other women

over the course of this obsession.

And we do know that he was at
one point working with her that

she was his therapist and that
he doesn't go to her anymore.

And that she has a large scar
down the down most of her abdomen

that we don't know the source of.

So like my theory is that this
is all a plot where Stan is

just device to get at Grindle.

And Stan was just unfortunate
enough to try and one up her.

And to do it successfully
enough that she was like, all

right, now I've got what I need.

Emily: Yeah, she has her
contingencies and she is good to go.

Like she, she basically like winds
him up kind of a Hannibal Lecter, like

Silence of the Lambs Hannibal Lecter,
like, I'll give you the quid pro quo.

I need a truth if I'm going to help you.

Jeremy: Yeah, she claims the only thing
she wants from him is the truth about

him and lures him into having therapy
with her that she learns to use- or

uses to learn things about him, which
she will then use to manipulate him.


And he's really bad at therapy.

As soon as he starts to come
face to face with some things.

He's like, oh, this is bad.

Ben: You unzipped me, Doc!

You unzipped me!

Emily: I was not going
to drink, but now I am.

Ben: It takes one therapy session to be,
you know, I am drawn to father figures

who I then feel a compulsion to destroy.

Emily: Yeah.

And he tries to flip that on her too.

He's like, oh, all you ladies have
mommy issues or daddy issues or blah.

And she's like,


Jeremy: She gives them all the
information on the Kimball's so that

he can go to their house and basically
pretend to talk to their son who died

in the, in the war, in World War One.

The mom is incredibly
sad that this kid died.

And she specifically did not
want him to go join the army.

Clearly they're rich enough
that they could have, you know,

bought their way out of it.

But the dad okayed, it,
encouraged him to go and he died.

He manipulates them into saying,
they're going to be back together

soon, so it'll all be fine.

And things go so well that they
recommend him to their creepy friend.

this is, uh, Ezra Grindle.

Oh, I didn't mention Mrs.

Campbell was played by the
great Mary Steenburgen.

Always happy to see.

Ben: Yeah, I was so
excited when I saw her.

Like that was such a wonderful surprise.

She is so delightful
at everything she's in.


Jeremy: They recommend him to the
intensely fucked up Ezra Grindle,

who was played by Richard Jenkins,
who is the only person in this movie

that I think is genuinely scary.

He is a scary man, him and
Anderson and his body guard are

like, oh, These are bad people.

Everybody else in this movie is like,
they all think they're bad people.

They're good people just trying to get by.

There is no question in Ezra Grindle
or our mind that he is awful.


Ben: More it fantastic casting Anderson
has played by Holt McCallany who you

might recognize from Mindhunter as
Agent Bill Tench like, he is wonderful.

And I'm so happy.

Anytime he appears

Jeremy: He's built like a brick wall too!

Emily: yeah.

I don't know if it's because I've seen
him in Mindhunter, but like he's playing

the goon role, but he also has like this
incredible pathos, which is another one

of those things that I think Guillermo del
Toro does where he has these characters-

that even though they're background
characters, they still have pathos.

Julia: The fact that he was
like, I care about my boss.

I was like, really?


Jeremy: We don't ever find out what the
deal is with Anderson, but he is like, I

owe him more than you could ever imagine.

I mean, there is no question
that he is there to ruin Bradley

Cooper's life if possible.

Oh yeah.


And he knows that, Grindle, she
knows Grindle, that Grindle was

her worked with her at some point.

She lets it slip that this is true.

And he's like, well, I need
something to get me started on him.

She gives him some information and we
don't know what that information is

until he's taken to Grindle's house.

Taken to one of his many weird featureless
rooms and put in a chair and immediately

put in a lie detector test, like upon
entering, they take his watch, they

take all of his stuff before he can
come in, leave him, completely helpless

and then put them in a lie detector
before Grindle can even talk to him.

Emily: I was like, is this a prison?

Like, what the fuck is happening?

Jeremy: Like, this is a very
scary man with a very scary house.

Emily: It was like police
officers in it with

Jeremy: like a cement castle.

It's definitely a huge ass like
castle, but it looks like it's

made of bricks and cement which is

Emily: Has a gothic-ass
garden and everything.

Jeremy: Yeah.

They start putting him
through the lie detector test.

He is a thrown, but
recovers pretty quickly.

And just as like, they're starting to ask
him questions that it's going to be pretty

clear that he can't answer without lying.

He uh, claims that he is having a
vision and that he's, you know, seeing

this girl that Grindle feels guilty
about and that she is she is forced to

miscarry by him and died as a result.

And this is not something
anybody could possibly know.

Nobody knows this about him.

How could he possibly have guessed this?

And you know, he's got Grindle wrapped
around his finger for this one thing,

but he's pretty much out of other stuff
to tell him at that point, you know,

it goes back to Lilith after this.

this, this guy has agreed to pay him a
large sum of money to continue to do this.

And he goes back to Lilith and
is like, Hey, I've got to get

some more information from you.

And she's like, absolutely not.

There is no way.

I'm the only person who
could have told you that.

So I'm not giving you anything else.

You're going to have to
figure this out on your own.

And uh, he, you know, does make
a copy of her key and breaks into

her office to steal some of that
information and then goes to the

public library because the public
library is the real hero of the story.

Emily: Wanna stalk people?

Bribe your local librarian.

Jeremy: Yeah.

So he goes in and finds
information about this girl who,

mysteriously died, disappeared.

Finds a, you know, a postcard
that was supposed to be

sent from her to her family.

And it gets all this information
so he can further manipulate

him and proceeds to do so.

Meanwhile, Molly is like, this is awful.

We need to leave.

You're going absolutely insane.

None of this is okay.

Especially since Grindle is, he's not
a large man, but he's a very scary man.

And Anderson is a very large scary man.

Ben: Also, very important to note is
that every step of the movie, as Stan

escalates and worsens his behavior, it
is proceeded every time by his promising.

I'm just going to do this
one time and then we'll stop

Julia: Just one last con, baby!

Ben: His narcissism it reminded
me a little of Uncut Gems in

that, exploring that I don't know.

It does.

It feels like hell where you with the
alcoholism, we're obviously exploring

addiction and the way that Stan's
narcissism is almost his addiction

Emily: Well, And that's the thing
about his narcissism profile

is that he loves a challenge.


As a con man, he loves the challenge
and that's the main way that , Lilith

sets him up because she's like, oh, I
could never tell you this information.

Oh, I'm just a woman that's lonely,
but you could never understand me.

Jeremy: They start going through a
series of having therapy and fooling

around in various combinations.

And we do find out about Stan that
uh, not only that he killed his

dad, which we kind of already knew.

But that he is incredibly, he was
incredibly resentful of his dad

because his dad, like Pete became an
alcoholic and his mom left him for

another man and ruined their lives
all because he, his dad just wasn't

man enough, his dad just couldn't
provide, couldn't do these things.

And that's, where he has achieved
this idea of being better than people

and burying people as he, he wants
to be the guy who steals the girl

and leaves the drunkard behind rather
than, what he saw from his dad.

He wants to prove that
he's better than everybody.

And that he's not like
his dad, he's not a loser.

Emily: And he has to
be the main character.

Jeremy: Yeah.

Emily: Meanwhile...

- Jeremy: This is where we also see that
in their fooling around that loaf has a

very large scar down the middle of her
chest from an undisclosed violent act.

Julia: It did take me a second
with that one, because I was like,

why are they showing her chest?

Why are they giving her a scar?

That seems so random, but you're right.

It does tie back, I assume,
to, to Grindle or at least,

that would make a lot of sense.

And I think really inform the story
in a way that I found funny, because

that was so subtle and crafted.

And then there were so many other
parts of the movie that's felt

so on the nose and telegraphed.

And I just, I thought that was
interesting, that moment of here are

my boobs, but in a meaningful way
was like the more subtle element.

Emily: And it wasn't her like boobs.

It was just her open like
between her- like on her sternum.

Jeremy: I think there's
multiple ways to read it.

it can be a hint to Grindle being involved
in all this stuff and that what she's

trying to get revenge on, or she is trying
to show vulnerability to him in this

moment where he is, you know, starting to
think that maybe she's manipulating him.

She's like, oh no, I am just an injured
woman that just want to protect.

Julia: Yeah, I do love, I loved seeing
that escalation throughout and we'll

get to the end, but I just cause at
first, when she gets to the point that

she gets to with him in terms of feeding
him bullshit, I was like, what is this?

And then I realized what she was doing.

And I was like, oh, clever girl.

Emily: Clever.

And I think at this point,
Molly is like out...

Jeremy: yeah, Molly is almost ready to go
and we find out and she finds out as well.

That the arrangement that he has reached
with Grindle is that Grindle is going

to give him a very large sum of money
and he is going to make Grindle's dead

ex-girlfriend appear to him where he
can see and to possibly touch her.

Which is it's not possible.

Julia: I just love that was like
his, he can gen- he was like, oh, if

you can like read my mind, you can
bring back my dead girlfriend that

clearly like, that's the next step?

And I was like, really?

Ben: These superpowers are not related.

Julia: Yes, sir!

Jeremy: I don't ever get the impression
that he wants to bring her back

to life, but that he wants her to
connect him in a way that he can be

like, no, really baby, I'm sorry.

Ben: I know but they just...they
conflate psychic powers with like,

religious and supernatural phenomenon.

And I'm like, those are
two different franchise.

You're getting your Jean
Greys in my Hellboy!

Emily: The way that he describes
his power is like, that's another

problem that he has is that he's
not specific enough about his power.

And he thinks that's that's
one of his strengths and

Jeremy: -it's Jonathan Edwards.

Ben: Also, I know that's
historically accurate.

I'm not criticizing the movie.

I'm criticizing the people of the era.

I'm criticizing you 1890s occult fans!

Learn your super powers better!

Jeremy: Take that,
pre-World War II America!

Ben: Fuck you Alistair Crowley.

Emily: I was going to say
it, you've taken it back.

You've taken it back room

Ben: Hey, yeah!

We're even, we're even!

Emily: We're even now.

But this scene where he's like,
you have to manifest my dead wife

or my dad girlfriend or whatever
was really like intense because

you could tell that like, okay, now
Stan is out of his fucking league.

He is handed a masonry brick full of cash.

And there's.

It's a the goon there too, like staring
him down and he's like *yip squeak!*

Ben: Dan is completely in over his head.

And to me what's so important is
that despite that he is never out

of reach of the ladder to climb out
of, and he never reaches for it.

At any point during any of the
proceedings, he could be a, that's

actually not how my power's work.

Jeremy: It's just like we
talked about with Samuel L.

Jackson in Eve's Bayou, right?

Where like at any point he could
walk away and survive this.


He doesn't.

He refuses to not have the last word.

Julia: He's not a forward thinker.

Ben: Take the money he's already gotten
and be like, all right, pack your bags.

We're hopping on a train
and getting the fuck out.

We're going to like Kentucky.

And we're just gonna chill
there for a few years.

Like we're never coming back to Buffalo.

Don't have to worry about this.

There's plenty of other places we're
going to grift our way through.

Jeremy: Who wants to live
in Buffalo forever anyway?

Ben: Honestly!

Emily: Yeah!

What is with Buffalo?

Like a lot of-

Jeremy: Guillermo del Toro,
real fascinated with Buffalo.

That was, yeah.

I mean that, cause that was where Jim
Beaver lived in the other movie as well.

Ben: What are you going to do?

Root for the Bills?

They're the Bills!

Julia: And that was the
horror of the movie.

Ben: And if you are a Buffalo
Bills fan, full offense intended.

Jeremy: In a lot of ways, Stan is
the Buffalo Bills of this movie.

Emily: And I guess-

Ben: As if I'm one to talk.

I'm a Giants fan.

My team not doing too hot these days.

Emily: I mean, I don't know if
he's the Buffalo Bill of this

movie, if a little lighter.

Jeremy: Not Buffalo Bill...

Ben: No, those are-

Emily: I know, I know.

I know.

I was like, those

Ben: are extremely different thing.

Emily: I know!

Ben: That is a very
important S on the end.

Emily: Yes.

I'm just like, I don't know about sports.

So I'm gonna bring it back to the crime
novels, because I know about that.

Jeremy: Yeah.

So Stan is like, you know what?

I know what I'll do.

She looks kind of like Molly.

So I will bring in my girlfriend who
already thinks that we shouldn't be

doing this to pretend to be this man's
dead girlfriend, that she loves so much.

And Molly's like, fuck that.

I'm leaving and goes all
the way to the train station.

At which point he, he chases her down
and he convinces her to come back.

To be fair at this point, he's pretty
much dead if he doesn't do this I think he

has gotten himself in well over his head.

Molly knows that.

So agrees to do this, but it says
specifically, like after this she's out,

like there's no coming back from this.

Ben: I wish I had Molly's judgment because
if a friend came up to me and said,

Hey, I need your help with this plan.

I have.

Full disclosure: I need you
to pretend to be a ghost.

My reaction would be, I am in.

No, I have no follow-up questions.


What are we thinking about?

Emily: It depends like, if I'm like,
okay, I would love to be a ghost.

However, am I being a
ghost for a mob boss?

Because like-

Ben: Am I going to teach a rich
person the meaning of Christmas?

Emily: Yeah.


Jeremy: Am I going to pretend to
be Jeff Bezos's dead girlfriend?

Is that it?

Julia: Well.

And as soon as like you see
the like Crimson Peak dress,

I was like, yes, absolutely.

I would be a ghost in that dress.

Put, cover me in blood.

I'm ready.

That sounds,

Jeremy: yeah.

Meanwhile, we find out why they got
Mary Steenburgen to play a character.

Who's only in this for five minutes
because she murders the fuck out of

her husband because she was like,
well, if we got to die to be with

our, my son, again, you owe me that.

So I'm just going to fucking
kill you and kill myself and

then we'll be together again.

That is a hell of a scene.

Ben: To go back to this fake-o
scenario, in this scenario where

a friend has come up and said,
we need to pretend to be a ghost.

And I've agreed in that like great
put on this gorgeous dress and

drench yourself in fake blood.

At that point I'm like, this is
the greatest plan of all time.

I still don't know what we're
achieving, but I've never been

more into a plan in my life.

Julia: Ben, I will ask you to be a ghost.

If you ask me to be a ghost and then
we'll just do it forever and ever

Ben: It's a deal.

Emily: That's better.


It all depends on who's
involved, you know?

Like there are people that I
would not dress up as a ghost for.

Julia: I'm trying to think of who
I'd say no to in that case, not

Cate Blanchett, I'd say yes to her.


Ben: Oh yeah.


If Cate Blanchett said she needed me to
pretend to be a ghost, I'm like, I know

this is going to end with you killing
me for real, but what am I going to do?

Say no?

You know, I can't do that.

Emily: I am physically incapable.


Ben: If it's like, if this is a
Greek tragedy and my fatal flaw is

over devotion to Cate Blanchett.

I'm just going to fall on that sword.

Julia: There are worse ways.

I put that on my tombstone.


They'll be like, I get it.

Jeremy: The wildest thing about
this scene, this climactic scene

here with Grindle is that he has
an opportunity to get out of it.

You know, they've set it up.

Molly is there, she's waiting.

It's going to be at a certain time.

She's going to appear at the gate.

He manages to get Anderson
to leave them alone.

So he doesn't have to worry about this
hulking dude, beating the shit out of him.

If this goes sideways.

So it's just him and Grindle at this gate.

And Grindle says, look, you told
me to make her appear that I need

to rid myself of these sins, that
I need to confess this stuff.

And I don't think I've
done the work to do that.

Let's call it off, which is
exactly the opportunity he needs.

It's exactly what he needed to happen,
but he's made this plan and he's so

confident that he can work this dude that
he's like, no, let's go ahead and do it.

Let's we were here.

It's negative two degrees and
this is lovely garden in Buffalo.

It's snowing.

Why not now?

And so he goes ahead with this thing.

And of course he can't control this guy.

I think he tried it.

He's convinced he's going to
get them down on his knees.

And then, you know, he's not going
to rush forward and bother Molly.

And immediately he does and realize
like Molly, can't go through with it.

Molly is like, oh, this guy
is legitimately heartbroken

and has issues and needs help.

I can't do this.

And he's like, wait, who the fuck are you?

You're not my girlfriend.

Anderson come beat the shit out of this
guy for me, at which point he does really

the only thing that Stan has left to
do, which is he beats Grindle to death

and takes off for the car with Molly.

Anderson gets there just in time
to stand in front of the car as he

runs over him with Molly in the car.

And then if plausible deniability was
an issue, he backs over him again.

If he couldn't, he could have told Molly,
I was just trying to get you out of here.

I just needed to survive, but
he's much more interested in

murdering Anderson at this point.

So he doesn't get one up on him.

Emily: It was very graceful how this
like homicidal tendency in Stan occurs

through this movie, especially with like
when he's punching, like he gets hit in

the head with a rock by the geek at the
beginning of the movie, and then he's

trying to subdue the geek and he almost
kills him, probably like, the guy died

in the ditch from complications, but you
know, in other movies, like you probably

wouldn't have that kind of telegraphing
in either like in such a graceful way

as this movie did where, you know,
now he's like, okay, I'm in trouble.

I have to go until
somebody stops breathing.

Ben: I feel like for Stan,
other human beings only exists

to him in three categories.

You're either an accomplice,
you're a mark, or you're a

middle-aged man he needs to murder.

Emily: I mean, it's just a single
people can be going through various

stages of those those categories.

Maybe not middle-aged man for
everybody, middle-aged person perhaps.

Ben: A good chunk of the cast.

Jeremy: He gets Zeena, but he wants Molly.

He gets Molly, but he wants a Lilith.

he thinks he got Lilith, but that
doesn't work out great for him.

Ben: He only wants the ones that will
next, further him in his, he in his

single minded quest over his own ego.

He wants, I want the one who
can teach me the routine.

Now I want the one who can
do the routine with me.


I want the one who can help me become
a ghost talking super scam artist.

Jeremy: Yeah.

And he never stops being a con artist
here because like they parked the car

and he's like, all right, Molly, get out.

And he starts breaking the windows
to the car, like, he's gonna

pretend that the car got stolen
and it has nothing to do with them.

There's no way they were involved in this.

Molly on the mean, and
meanwhile is just leaving.

She's just gone.

She's like, all right, this is over.

Like I was already going to be out.

And then I've actually seen
what a son of a bitch, you are.

I watched you murder two people
that you didn't have to murder.

The only thing that bothers me about
this whole section is the reason

Anderson runs out is uh, that he hears
a report on the radio about The Kimballs

dying, which seems like a hat on a hat
at that point, considering that like

Grindle's going to call him out anyway.


Julia: Yeah.

It didn't seem to necessary.

I imagined that Anderson could've heard
Grindle being like what the hell is going

on and that would have sufficed, but.

Sometimes you have to
hear it on the radio.

I guess

Jeremy: it's not a real movie
unless you happen to see or hear

the news report about the very thing
that's going to affect your plot.

* Emily: Nuuuuuhhhh* just the sound of
the spinning newspaper for people.

Jeremy: uh, So Molly's done he
only has one person left to turn

to, he's got to go see Lilith.

His best friend.

His accomplice.

The girl who loves him, clearly.


Emily: She's a woman who loves him.

Nothing against girls, but yeah,

Jeremy: For Stan, everybody is
pretty much the same to him.


He goes to retrieve all of the money
from the safe and she is helping him get

everything together to get out of there.

He seems really upset, so she's
just going to help him out.

And then she's turning on the
recording and everything at this point.

And he freaks out because he realizes
that all the piles of money are just ones

there's no, none of the hundred dollar
bills, none of the stuff he put in there.

And he is ready to the, to fight
Lilith/kill Lilith, he's doing this

all on a recording so that, you know,
it's clear how just insane he is.

She calls security and he decides that
he's going to use the phone she's using

to call security, to choke her to death.

But they bust through the window and
he uh, he decides to make a run for it.

And uh, has to evade security and police
and eventually hide among the chickens on

the train to get out of town and safely

Emily: Device story device there
for train full of chickens.

At that point, that's where I was
like, oh, I see where this is going.

I will say when, when he's in the
scene with Lilith, she is asking very

pointed questions during that recording
it's almost like she knows exactly

well because she does know exactly
what to say to exonerate herself.

Julia: That was a
masterclass in gas lighting.

It was horri- like that was the most
horrific part for me, other than obviously

the ending, but just the way that she
played him and was saying, you know, oh,

you've been my patient this whole time.

You're clearly unwell.


Was just, I thought that was marvelous.

It was so horrific.


Jeremy: Even if you're rooting against
them at that point, it makes your

stomach turn one of the hats it's oh no,

Emily: You realize the
implications of the situation.


Then he does and things like, oh yeah.

Oh, wow.


I have been bested.

Jeremy: And he's not it's not quite
as dumb as our previous protagonists

Near Dark who still doesn't know what
vampires are at the end of the movie.

But he is very played
throughout this this whole bit.

Ends up escaping and we get
a bit of a time jump here.

It's unclear exactly how long, but,
you know, suddenly he is in a lean to a

shack, you know, with uh, several other,
you know, homeless folks in a camp.

He is warming himself around the
fire and uh, once some liquor, but

they're tired of him bumming off of
them without paying for any of it.

So the guy who owns the bottle demand some
sort of payment and he gives him the last

thing he's got, which is his watch that
he stole from his dad when he killed him.

Gives it up and gets drunk and then
wanders off and comes upon a carnival.




Ben: a flat circle like
Matthew McConaughey said.

Jeremy: Yeah.

And it's, uh,

Emily: Matthew McConaughey does not lie.

Jeremy: This scene is so economical
because like you could spend so

long on this, but like it's done so
elegantly that I, at this point I

felt like I knew what was going to
happen, but it's not entirely clear.

Ben: This feels like fate, this feels
like divinely ordained by his own

fuck ups that he was always going on.

Fate that everything we've ever seen
him on from the first moments that

Stan is on screen could only ever
have been leading him towards this.

It is so noir-ish and I love
it so much, this ending.

Jeremy: By this point, we're starting
to guess what's going to happen.

He doesn't know he's still so full of
himself that he comes in here thinking

that this drunk man with this huge
beard who is stumbling, who is in bad

shape, who's clearly not been sleeping
well is just going to come in here

and sell this guy on a mentalist act.

And the guy's like, no, we don't really,
we don't really do those kinds of acts.

It's unclear whether they really don't
do those kinds of acts or whether

like you wouldn't sign this guy up
anyway, like you wouldn't take him,

obviously it's not gonna work out.

But he's, he doesn't, he can't do anything
for him, he's gotta go ahead and leave.


There's no help.

He can get, except he does
have one job that, you know, it

would just be a temporary thing.

They need somebody to temporarily
just fill the spot for a geek.

He could just pretend for now for a little
bit to be like geek and then, it wouldn't

be very long, but which is exactly.

How Willem Defoe describes to
him, how you get a guy to go geek.

Emily: Step by step set
for step play by play.

And it's interesting too, because he has
in his office, he has the radio and the

dead baby that he's like, oh, I got this
from some other carnival some while ago.

I was like, yeah.


And then Stan is like, Enoch killed
his mother and the guy looks at, and

he's like, yeah, that's a good bit.


I like that.

Which I was for a minute in this
film, I was convinced that Enoch the

baby was like the baby that what's
her name, Dolly or whatever her name

is, that she was forced to have.

After seeing the film, I'm pretty
convinced that baby is a um, carnival

like chimera, like it was put together by
people, especially with the eyeball thing.

It's the mermaid, the monkey
on the fish tail, like it's a I

can't remember what the word is.


And I'm kind of glad that the evil
baby wasn't it wasn't, anybody's

actual evil baby, but I was
expecting it to be for a minute.

Jeremy: I don't want to leave talking
about the scene without talking about

Bradley Cooper's fantastic performance in
the scene because when he proposes that

he become a temporary geek, the laugh
that Bradley Cooper gives here, this

sort of like, amused but heartbroken,
how could it have been any other way?

Has my life really come to this
laugh that he drops is just yeah.

It, and he says yes, sir.

I was born for it.

Ben: He knows exactly what is happening.

He knows exactly what will happen.

And so there's just nothing left for
him to do, but go down that road.

Julia: It's the only moment of
clarity that he has in the whole film.

The only like true amount of
self-awareness that he finally has.

Isn't that horrible moment.

Emily: Yeah.

Ben: Like, even as voice changes like
that sale, that like that salesman

con man voice, he has just slips away.

And there's just more of an bit
more of an accent in that last line.

Emily: Yeah.

you can watch the process.

You can watch the thoughts on his face
and in his voice and his performance,

like you're there every second with him
as he is just taking in this reality.

It's so good.

And then we have a credit scene
where we focus on the baby, which

I'm like, I mean, I guess you guys
made it, so we have to look at it.

I would have preferred looking at the, at
the, handmade, fake electric chair, but-

Julia: Or at the spider lady.

Jeremy: Guys?

Is Nightmare Alley feminist?

Emily: Yeah.

I would say, I mean, it's not
like it's one of those things it's

not feminist, but I think it is
definitely in the way that the.

Women are treated that the agency
that they have, that the powerful and

victorious force that grinds down this
narcissistic man is Cate Blanchett.

And even Molly, like gets
out of here unscathed, like

another film would "fridge" her.


And that's something that I
think is really remarkable about

Guillermo Del Toro's movies.

That even when they're like a
little bit rote even then the female

protagonists do have a lot more going on.

Like Crimson Peak was just really pretty
scenery and including Tom Hiddleston.

The protagonist actually did shit.


And with Molly, like the
fact that she leaves,

Julia: I was trying to notice.

I don't think it passes the Bechdel test.

Emily: No,

Jeremy: I still think that it's a
movie that can't really pass the

Bechdel test because it is so limited
third person of Bradley Cooper.

Like half the time it's like
in the early scenes, it's just

shoot shooting over his shoulder.

Julia: And I was actually surprised to
see there was one scene that stood out

to me cause it was just a little bit,
but it was Molly on the phone, you know?

And I, that was the first time I
think that I had seen Molly just

speaking to someone other than either
Bradley Cooper or someone else.

Oh, there she is on her
own being a full person.


It was interesting to me, but I do
think especially in comparison to

the original movie, these, the women
in this movie had a lot more agency,

Toni Collette was the one that.

Reaching into the tub.

And Cate Blanchett is the one who's who,
th the women have a lot more agency and

in this version, but it is, there are
constraints to the film, which I think

make it perhaps less like obviously
feminist or progressive as a lot of

contemporary movies are nowadays because
again, the setting and the conceit.

So it did its thing.


Jeremy: Yeah.

I think it's as feminist, as a
movie set in the thirties and

forties can be when it's locked
on following one dude, everywhere.

It's interesting that you point that out
because I think that is the only point in

the movie that I can say is not Bradley.

Cooper is not in, or just
slightly off frame because it does

follow him very closely, which
I think the movie doesn't work.

If you see everything everybody else
is doing it only really works when

you follow him, but I think you get
an interesting group of different

female characters, all of whom have
their own inner lives pretty clearly.

Which is a lot more than can be
said for movies that have a lot more

female characters, even sometimes
when they're the main character.


So we talked a little bit about
how this movie does or doesn't

have lGBT representation in it.

Does anybody have anything
they want to add to that?

Emily: Not really.

Ben: I am.

I, as much as I might like to
stretch things or grasp at straws,

I really can't say there's a queer
content to be found in this movie.

Emily: Yeah.

Like the closest thing things get is
like a community of found family, but

I am also loath to compare- there's
been so many movies about monsters

that queer people identify with.

And while that is sort of a subtext that
we can find where we can find the, the

element of the other that we can relate
to, queer people are not monstrous.

Jeremy: It's not all James
Whale making Frankenstein, yeah,

Emily: exactly.

Jeremy: Trying to express his
queerness through the monster.

Like it's not, you know, that's not
everything I do think like it can

be said that I guess as far as queer
content goes, there's not really much

to be said here, but it does also like
all of the outsiders, all of the people

who are, living in the circus and just
getting by, like we said, those are

the real decent people as, as far as
decent people exist in this world.

They are the people who are looking
out for each other, who, are upset when

people die, when bad things happen to each
other that, they're the people that care.

They're the people that matter, the
people in "civilization", the rich

people are, villains throughout.

They're not good people.

There is no example other than
possibly the poor Kimballs of

anybody in society who is at all
trustworthy or worth caring about.

They're all bad people.

Emily: Yeah.

Jeremy: Uh, So I think that's now that
is as much as this intersects with

racial and social justice as well.

There's very little in the way of
non-white people in this movie.

It's just something I feel like I say
a lot about Guillermo Del Toro movies.

Emily: I was thinking that too,
because I think the black character

in this movie certainly did not
have any speaking lines whatsoever.

He was in the foreground
speaking at one point, but we

did not hear what he was saying.

I think the only black character that
I have seen in one of his movies that

actually has a significant part is-

Julia: Octavia Spencer.

Emily: Is that the, from, um-

Julia: Shape of Water

Ben: Uh....We got Idris
Elba in Pacific Rim.

Emily: Oh I mean, it's Idris Elba.

Jeremy: Well, you do also
have Asian representation.

Asian-American representation.

Pacific Rim, I think is a movie that
doesn't work without being somewhat

globalistic and having people from
other countries in it, particularly

Pacific adjacent countries.

Emily: It's definitely
less racist in G Gundam.

Jeremy: What isn't?

I think it does a good job of portraying
characters with physical disabilities.

Realistically, and not necessarily as
as bad guys or monsters in the way some

movies we've talked about do, yeah, I
think that's one of the few places in

the sort of progressive spotlight that
it shines is physical disabilities,

mental disabilities, a little less so.

I think it is more discussing the
way that the world mistreats people

with mental disabilities than
actively perpetuating things itself?

But I don't think it says anything
particularly interesting about that

other than we do bad things to people.

Emily: I think that Pete's line
about how reading people is a defense

mechanism is I thought like that was
enlightening to have that in a film,

because I know that it's more and
more of a public discussion about how

gaslighting and abuse affects people.

And it's so complex that film has a
rough time with it, unless it's like a

documentary, but that line was really
well-placed, came from a really good

spot in the film and was, was another
one of those key parts of the narrative

that may have been overshadowed by
the intrigue that happens later.

But I think that just the fact that it
was so pivotal was good representation

for that kind of that, understanding
of mental illness in that way.

Or trauma, I should say.


Jeremy: I think we find a lot of horror
movies deal well in interestingly

with trauma specifically and not so
well with almost anything else that

qualifies as a mental disability or
any sort of mental predispositions,

even I think even alcoholism in this
is treated very, like it's largely the

characters doing it, but it has given
a very like, oh, it's their fault.

They're fucking up.

They're, doing this thing and not
much more considered than that.

Emily: Yeah.

Jeremy: And of course the one other thing
we usually talk about here is class.

And I think this movie is come to your
hands pretty much from beginning to end.

Ben: This movie is dripping
with class discussion.

Emily: Yeah, absolutely.

Ben: How people are preyed on who
they prey on, how they prey on

them, what they get out of it,
it is just class, this movie.

Oh, it's saying-

Jeremy: Masterclass in class.

Emily: Yeah.

Molly says, this is enough for me.

And dude is like, no, it isn't.

Ben: Part of his scamming is
in service of social climbing.

Jeremy: Yeah.

I would say almost all of his gaming's
in service of social climbing-

Ben: Which is part of the reason why-

- Jeremy: from a domineering perspective or-

Ben: -doesn't just take the
money and get the fuck out.

Why he doesn't just run away and hop on a
train because like he can get the money,

but the money doesn't matter to him.

As much as , the playing the bigger rooms,
wearing the fanciest suits, the nicest

hotels, like getting all the respect
and status and privilege that he wants

to have and thinks he, he should have.

Jeremy: And he has to show,
he can beat everybody.

Like he's better than everybody.

He's the best.

If he, doesn't, if he doesn't beat this
guy at the end, who like gives him

an out, he could just take this out
and go and get the fuck out of there.

And maybe even managed to
keep Molly at that point.

But like, he can't, he pathologically can
not walk away from this no win scenario.

And he's is, he is convinced that he
is going to be the one that beats it,

A real Kirk, this guy.


So I guess generally wrapping that up
would we recommend this movie to people?

Do we think it's worth seeing?


Emily: Yes.

Ben: For sure.

Definitely love this movie.


Jeremy: Yeah.

I agree.

I think it's really good.

It is long is two and a half hours.

But it is a on HBO max now free.


Ben: If it helps, you can very
much watch the first hour, take a

little break, go for a walk, make
yourself a little sandwich, then

gear up for the next hour and a half.

There's a built-in intermission
point free to take advantage of it.

Emily: Yeah, you can
make a night out of it.

Jeremy: We need an
intermission in theaters.

Wouldn't that be great?

You're watching this movie and
they had an actual intermission.

Emily: Well it'd be cool.

You could do like a dinner and a
movie night and be like, all right,

we're going to watch first half,
and then we're gonna have dinner.

Julia: And then all the food
we were craving from the

diner scene they can serve.


Ben: So again, I made all that.

It may it knocked me out like that.

Emily: I wish I did that too.

Ben: I'm like, is this how
carnies ate every night?

Cause I get it now.

Just scamming people and
eating good hearty food.

I made it as if it is a fancy
cook job to be: eggs go here!

Steak, go on this pan,
everything, get hot.

Then put it on plate.

Very fancy cooking.

Emily: You staged it and everything?

Mise en place?

Ben: Sure.

Five out of 10.

Two- two and a half stars.

Jeremy: I just did that with breakfast
sausage now and just put the sausage

in, break it up, cook it, add the eggs,
add the cheese, stirred it all up.


Pour it into a burrito or into a bowl.

Ben: I don't know, there's
gotta be a YouTube channel.

It's just like, here's how hobos ate.

1930s, migratory workers across America.

Like it's okay.

That YouTube, a hobo cooking like channel.


It's just like, here's how you make
just the best fireside baked beans.

Emily: Rock Soup.

I think there is that out there.

I'm sure I am 500% sure.

There's one of those out there.

I'm sure they break it out or
something, but maybe they don't.

I don't know.

Jeremy: Short of the new hobo
cooking channel that we want

to recommend to everybody.

Uh, What else would we recommend people
check out if they enjoyed this movie?

Julia, do you have anything?

Julia: Yeah, I think if you enjoy this, if
you love the carnival aspect, but you want

the supernatural with it, then I would say
Carnivale is an excellent show from HBO.

The one warning that I do have to
that is that there are two seasons

and then it ends rather abruptly.

You get a couple of things resolved, but
for the most part, the show was canceled.

And I was very disappointed because
I wanted to see more and I don't

know why my partner made me watch it
when he knew that I was going to be

sad that it was over too soon, but.

But it's got the, it's got the
whole carnival supernatural

vibe and Clancy Brown.


Jeremy: We just love Clancy Brown.

Ben: Everyone loves Clancy brown.

It's true.

It's true.

Jeremy: Emily, what have you got?

Emily: I'm going to recommend an episode
of the X-Files it's called Humbug.

And it is a fantastic episode is
one of the best episodes that they

did where they're investigating.

It gets a little, a little silly
like X-Files episodes do, but it

does a really great job of depicting
these former carnival workers who

have like regular jobs as people.

Jim Rose is in it.

The uh, God, what is his name?

The guy with the puzzle guy got, I can't
remember his name, The Enigma he's in it.

There's a lot of great actors,
great character actors in it.

And it is a really fantastic
episode for the time.

Again, it's, since it's the X-Files
from 1994 or whatever, there

are some problematic elements.

Like I love the X-Files, but this
is if you ever watch an episode

of the show, watch this one.

So that's Humbug.

Hopefully Jeremy will add the actual
season number and episode number of the

liner notes, because I guess I can't be
bothered to look it up on the internet

in front of me, but anyway check it out.

Jeremy: Fantastic.

Ben, what have you got?

Ben: So if you like the parts of this
movie where it's like, Ooh, everything

is tense and uncertain and there's
twists, but also really sexually charged.

And this movie feels real horny.

Then let's snap back to the era of the
1990s Neo noir with Basic Instinct, the

pinnacle of the erotic thriller genre.

Julia: Oh boy.

Emily: Ooh.

That's a nice little like sniper in there.

Julia: I'm going to approach this.


Jeremy: I wanted to approach
from the noir angle as well.

uh, I was thinking about Double
Indemnity, which is great, is one

of the, traditionally the best
movies of all time and that list.

But the, as this is a horror
podcast and I just watched it.

And this last year I wanted to
recommend Diabolique which is a

French black and white horror movie.

And has some of the best suspense of
a horror suspense movie I have ever

seen that has like a great, build up
throughout the movie to the end that

I, you know, as somebody who's seen a
lot of movies, this is a movie that's

made, decades before I was ever born
and even watching it now, I was like,

I don't know what's going to happen.

Like, I, I don't know where this is
going and it legitimately surprised me.

And I definitely recommend people
check that out cause it's it's great.

It's another horror noir type thing.

And it's really good.

Not nearly as unsettlingly French
as some of the French horror

movies we've talked about recently.

But very, very good.

Um, Awesome.

That's that's it for us, Julia,
can you let people know where they

can find you and your work online
or they can get ahold of you?

Julia: Sure.

You can follow me on
Twitter at the jumbles.

I apologize in advance because it's
mostly puns, but that's where you can find

me making terrible jokes all day long.

Jeremy: If they've been foolish
enough to follow the three of us

already then they're used to bad puns.

Julia: We're going to have a good time.

Jeremy: Yeah, absolutely.

As for the rest of us, you can find
Emily @megamoth on twitter @mega_moth

on Instagram, and at

Ben is on twitter @benthekahn and on
their website at, where

you can pick up their books, including
the brand new Immortals Fenix Rising

graphic novel from great beginnings
Great Beginnings and the GLAAD award

nominated Renegade Rule Graphic novel.

And finally, for me, you can find me on
Twitter and Instagram @jrome58 and on

my website at, where
you can check out everything I write.

And of course the podcast itself
is on Patreon at Progressively

Horrified, our website at

and on Twitter @ProgHorrorPod.

So come check us out.

Talk to us, tell us what
you thought of this movie.

We'd love to hear from you.

And speaking of loving to hear from
you, we would love it if you would rate

and review the podcast, wherever you're
listening to it right now, that's the

best way for us to find new listeners.

I do want to thank Julia
again for joining us.

It was so great.

Thank you so much for uh,
bringing this movie to us.

Julia: Thank you so much.

This was such a pleasure.

I had a blast.

Ben: Thank you so much for coming on.

It was so wonderful having

Julia: Y'all are great.

This is nice.

Jeremy: Thanks again to Ben and
Emily as always for joining me

here and thanks to all of you for
joining us here and listening.

We appreciate you so much.

We will see you next week and
until next time stay horrified.

Alicia: Progressively Horrified
as created by Jeremy Whitley and

produced by me, Alicia Whitley.

This episode featured Jeremy Ben,
Emily, and special guest, Julia

McCarthy, all opinions expressed by
the commentators are solely their own

and do not represent the intent or
opinion of the filmmakers nor do they

represent the employers, institutions,
or publishers of the commentators.

Our theme music is Epic Darkness
by Mariokohl06 and was provided

royalty free from Pixabay.

Thanks for listening.