This month we’ve seen the release of the mediocre evil doll movie Annabelle, the rebooted dud that was Dracula Untold, and the embarrassingly uninspired Ouija. Which is to say October has been painfully underwhelming when it comes to horror movie releases. So what is a moviegoer to do on Halloween to get those chills that creep up your spine and follow you home? How will you get that electric adrenaline that races through you veins and makes even the most mundane situation seem potentially perilous?
Written and directed by Dan Gilroy, Nightcrawler is on one level a satire of our current “if it bleeds it leads” news culture. The film stars Jake Gyllenhaal as Lou Bloom, a freelance videographer who uses a fast car, police scanner, consumer camera, and a very flexible sense of morality to capture catastrophes–murders, fires, car wrecks–for the morning news. Like the latest trailer has been teasing, the film has a wicked sense of humor. It’s biting and laugh out loud funny. But more than that, it’s deeply, thoroughly chilling.
As Lou Bloom strives to make this weird night gig into an empire, he begins to make choices that go from distasteful to downright evil. And since we are tied to him through it all, Gilroy spares us no horror and offers no reprieve. He’s a villain — cold, calculating, and charismatic in a creepy way. There’s no hero here. There’s just Lou Bloom, who’ll we’ll follow to gory news stories and rivetingly uncomfortable situations, including the most unnerving dinner date cinema has ever seen.
Jake Gyllenhaal is spectacular as this driven and deranged anti-hero. Shedding muscles and his pleasantly chubby cheeks, he’s gaunt and gangly here, looking like a malnourished animal that will do anything for a meal. It’s a smart choice, and one that’s underscored by an energetic and unhinged performance that literally gave me goosebumps
Flat-out, I’ll be cursing the Academy if Jake Gyllenhaal is snubbed for a Best Actor nomination this year. While others have had guidelines or real-life inspiration for their buzzed about parts, Gyllenhaal brings us an original, unmapped and gangly monster who could well be among us. Lou Bloom is his Hannibal Lecter, which–yes–won Anthony Hopkins the Oscar for The Silence of the Lambs. But for now, forget about the Oscars. Focus on taking the opportunity to see this deeply creepy performance in a theater where it will surround and totally entrance you.
From its twisted tale of a bad man gone worse to its unapologetically shocking visuals and its sure to be classic movie monster, Nightcrawler is a joy ride down a path to damnation, it’s exhilarating, disturbing, and brilliant filmmaking. It’s one of the best films of the year. And it’s the absolute perfect choice for Halloween.