Perhaps the scariest specter this Halloween is Jake Gyllenhaal's face in Nightcrawler. I don't mean to enrage Gyllenhaal's many fans who appreciated his good looks in Brokeback Mountain, Love and Other Drugs and Prince of Persia. But I defy you not to be visibly disturbed when Gyllenhaal's eyes bulge out in Nightcrawler, a highly predictable indictment of local television news and its bloodlust for sensationalism.
I worked for several years in television newsrooms and clearly remember the first time I heard about so-called "nightcrawlers," a term used to describe off-the-reservation photojournalists who lurked in the shadows with police scanners, eager to pounce when tragedy strikes. People in the TV news business know that such nutcases usually have their own private stash of videos showing fatal accidents, fires and crime scenes. That's the warped world where we find Gyllenhaal's hyperkinetic Louis Bloom, a young man anxious to break into television at any cost.
When Bloom gets excited, Gyllenhaal's eyes bulge from his very taut face (Gyllenhaal reportedly dropped considerable weight to prepare for this role). Unfortunately, that's the most horrifying element of Nightcrawler, which portrays a rather typical stereotype of an emotionally unbalanced individual eagerly exploited by a television executive (played by Renee Russo, wife of Nightcrawler writer-director Dan Gilroy).