There is a fine line between the horror and thriller genres. Often, they are used interchangeably to describe movies. I’ve come to consider them like this, thrillers are meant to take you for a ride, keep you on the edge of your seat, while horror movies are meant to, well, horrify you, be it through scares or something unsettling. That’s why cult favorite Audition is a horror movie and not a thriller. It’s not scary, just incredibly unnerving and then utterly disturbing in the final act. That’s what brings us to Nightcrawler.
Nightcrawler is a film written and directed by Dan Gilroy and starring Jake Gyllenhaal. I’m not sure if I’ve ever seen a film that has made me as uncomfortable, as disturbed, start to finish, as Nightcrawler. As it turns out, Nightcrawler isn’t just the name of everyone’s favorite blue, teleporting X-Man, it’s also a term for people who chase gruesome footage to sell to news stations. Technically they’re ‘freelance journalists,’ but really they’re trying to make a quick buck of the misery and suffering of others.
That’s where we meet Louis Bloom (Gyllenhaal), a motivated but directionless thief who is just trying to make ends meet. After coming across an accident, he sees Bill Paxton and his crew rushing to the scene to film all the gory details before the police cordon everything off. That’s where Louis finds his calling, and after a little more thievery, he’s got enough capital to get a camera and police scanner of his own.
So begins the gradual reveal of the inner workings of Bloom’s psyche. I won’t go further into the plot, but know that while it’s not like he becomes a serial killer or something spooky happens, what unfolds over the course of Nightcrawler is one of the most disturbing yet realistic stories I’ve ever seen. It’s now several days, and several horror movies later, and I still feel uneasy thinking about the film and it continues to linger in my mind.
Where the real brilliance of Nightcrawler lies is not in the downfall of the main character like so many of these stories, but in the gradual reveal of his true nature. This isn’t a character twisted by circumstances, but an exercise in looking beyond the image people present and learning their real personality through their actions. It’s a terrifying exercise in the potential true nature of people and how you can twist your own perceptions in a way that benefits you to ignore it.
That results in a horror movie completely devoid of scares and featuring very little shock value. Sure, there is a fair bit of gore, but almost all of it is after the fact and presented as realistic portrayals of accidents and crime scenes. It can be quite unsettling, but so can actual news footage and dramatised hospital dramas. Instead you’ll feel uneasy to absolutely horrified just by spending some time with Jake Gyllenhaal’s creepy Louis Bloom.
Not only has Dan Gilroy crafted a brilliant film, the fact that it’s his directorial debut is astounding. Nightcrawler also proves that Jake Gyllenhaal is at his best when he plays creepy or obsessed characters, and while he isn’t an actor that has any draw for me I wouldn’t want to see anyone else in this role. This film came as a complete surprise and is easily one of the year’s best. Do yourself a favor and watch Nightcrawler.
In Theaters: October 31st, 2014
Runtime: 117 min
Rating: Rated R for violence including graphic images, and for language
Director: Dan Gilroy
Cast: Jake Gyllenhaal, Bill Paxton, Rene Russo, Riz Ahmed
Genre: Crime, Thriller, Drama, Horror
Studio: Bold Films
Distributor: Open Road Films
Official Site: http://www.nightcrawlerfilm.com/