The Guardian (1990)
Director: William Friedkin
A picture perfect yuppie couple just moved into their new art-deco crib near the woods. They hire a smoking hot nanny (Seagrove) to look over their new born troll. Problem is the dame is in cahoots with an evil tree, one that NEEDS to be fed new born children. And Druids are in the mix as well; don’t ask me how or why, they just are so go with it. And yeah… that’s pretty much it!
Being that nothing horror came out last week on the big screen, I decided to take the old DeLorean for a spin back to the past and tackle an oldie: WILLIAM FRIEDKIN’S THE GUARDIAN. I loved this one when I was a kid, even boogied with it in the theaters and yup was pumped to check it out again after all them years. Here’s how it went down…
At the time, THE GUARDIAN (based on Dan Greenburg’s 1987 novel THE NANNY) was a landmark flick for director William Friedkin for two reasons. First it was the man’s return to horror seventeen years after his groundbreaking genre uppercut THE EXORCIST (1973) and second; it was the beginning of a rough patch for the lad. Let’s face it; everything pre THE GUARDIAN was THE SHITE and everything post THE GUARDIAN was mostly just SHIT, till he returned to the genre again and proved he still had the touch and the power with BUG (2006) that is. I personally consider THE GUARDIAN to be the best and worse of Friedkin rolled up into one film.
Thankfully, the elements that stuck with me since I first saw it in 1990 still kicked major ass today. Although most of the roles were underwritten; the cast was still efficient and likable. Big props to actress Jenny Seagrove! She made for a sexy, scary and magnetic presence onscreen, and her sensual British accent sold the deal. Why her career didn’t blossom full blast in the USA after this show is beyond me. She’s a turn-on on two legs with all kinds of talent in her back-pack! On his end Friedkin was tops behind the camera, putting an axis on oppressive camera movements and a bleak and unsettling mood. His scare set pieces hit home too! Am talking; visceral, suspense laced and often just plain freaky fear bits that back-handed me stupid Ike Turner style. The last block in particular gave me the willies more than once. Its funny how I can find more skills in a mediocre Friedkin genre flick of old than in most films twirling horror today. Filmmaking has changed big time since then…grumble, grumble…where’s my walker… grumble, grumble. All right enough of that. Finally the chilling score by Jack Hues came through, the production designs were tops (the killer tree in particular was a sight to behold), the practical special effects bang on, the gore ample while the uncanny imagery came with a side order of “brrrrr”.
Alas, seeing the flick from an adult (term used very loosely) point of view revealed lots of its flaws to me. The prologue was sloppy (and spoiled any surprises the movie could’ve had), the narrative flow patchy, the dumb hero moves too frequent and the lack of explanations as to the kooky happenings resulted in the whole feeling more vacuous than it should’ve been. My brain was working in overtime over here but for the wrong reasons, processing questions like:
How is the nanny carrying this tree around with her?
Why feed babies to a tree again? Like really, who’s getting anything out of it?
The tree, what’s his boggle? Why is he so peeved?
How do Druids fit in there?
Is Camilla human? Does she cook, clean and suck a mean one? If so, hook me up!
And that was just the tip of the ice-pick -fun times.
Then we had forced situations (those beer guzzling, daytime rapists…sigh…) solely there to prompt action that didn’t feel organic, dream sequences that looked fly but had no purpose other than superficially juicing up the horror quotient and hero love birds that the film never managed to sell me on. The husband, for reasons I still can’t grasp, was adamant about walking through the most of the running time shirtless whilst the wife was shoved in the background the moment the evil nanny nippled up – too bad – I never got to care for either one of them. Yup, on the whole THE GUARDIAN was half and half for me, lots to love but lots to piss on as well. Question is you going to hire this super-nanny even though she’s tree happy? Your move!
When this one went PMS crazy it got ugly: bashed head, chopped off limbs, a spike through the chest, ripped off skin and a f*ck-load of blood!
T & A
We get a pair of ta-tas courtesy of the lovely Jenny Seagrove and everybody else will be what’s his face shirtless 24/7.
THE GUARDIAN didn’t live up to my memory of it but it shined in the right places and made for a decent old school sit down. The film was masterfully shot, sported some strong horror scenarios, was weird/eerie in a good way, had glorious effects/gore and put out a bad girl to be reckoned with in Camilla. Unfortunately, the flick had an awkward flow, was weak sauce with its WHO, HOW, WHY, and didn’t flesh out or focus on its protagonists enough (specially the wife). It’s a 2 on 4 for me, but am giving it a bit of a rating boost for nostalgia’s sakes. Watching it today did bring me back to a purer style of filmmaking that I miss and to a time when my life was simpler and my relationship with horror was solely from a fan’s point of view – and that in itself was priceless.
The book The Nanny was based on author Dan Greenburg's the book on experiences with having a baby and hiring a nanny.
The Hand That Rocks the Cradle (1992) ripped off The Guardian (1990) - I said it!
Was it me or was one of the rapists a dead ringer for Willem Dafoe in Friedkin's To Live and Die in L.A. (1985)?
Jenny Seagrove once dated director Michael Winner of "Death Wish" fame...lucky bastard!