The Guardian – USA, 1990 – overview and reviews

 

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The Guardian is a 1990 American supernatural horror feature film directed by William Friedkin (Jade; Bug; The Exorcist) from a screenplay co-written with Stephen Volk (Gothic; The Kiss; Ghostwatch) and Dan Greenburg.

Based upon the novel The Nanny by Dan Greenburg, the film was produced by Joe Wizan (Audrey Rose; Dark Night of the Scarecrow; Spellbinder).

The movie stars Jenny Seagrove as a mysterious nanny who is hired by new parents, played by Dwier Brown and Carey Lowell, to care for their infant son; the couple soon discovers the nanny to be a Hamadryad whose previous clients’ children went missing under her care.

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Director Sam Raimi (The Evil Dead) was originally attached to the project before dropping out to direct Darkman instead. Heavily marketed as director Friedkin’s first foray into the horror genre since 1973’s The Exorcist, the film had a troubled production, with script undergoing numerous changes that continued well into the shooting process.

A cable television version of the film was credited to “Alan Von Smithee”, indicating that Friedkin wished to disassociate himself from its release.

On January 19, 2016, the film was released in the US on Blu-ray by Shout! Factory with the following special features:

    • A Happy Coincidence – An Interview With Actor Dwier Brown
    • From Strasberg To The Guardian – An Interview With Actor Gary Swanson
    • A Mother’s Journey – An Interview With Actress Natalija Nogulich
    • Scoring The Guardian – An Interview With Composer Jack Hues
    • Tree Woman: The Effects Of The Guardian – An Interview With Makeup Effects Artist Matthew Mungle
    • Return To The Genre – An Interview With Director/Co-writer William Friedkin
    • The Nanny – An Interview With Actress Jenny Seagrove
    • Don’t Go Into The Woods – An Interview With Co-writer Stephen Volk
    • Still Gallery Of Behind-The-Scenes Photos

Plot:

Ancient druids worshipped trees, sometimes offering them human sacrifices. Some of these trees were connected with evil.

At the Sheridan home, Molly and Allan Sheridan head off on a trip, leaving their two children in the care of their nanny, Diana Julian. Once alone and with the children sleeping, Diane kidnaps the daughter. Molly realises she left her glasses at the house, and upon returning she sees that her daughter is missing.

Out in the forest, Diana approaches a giant, old, gnarled tree, and holds up the baby, which then disappears from her hands. The roots of the tree show the baby’s face, as it has been sacrificed to keep the tree alive. As Diana sits on the ground near a pool of water, her reflection disappears, leaving that of a growling wolf…

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Review:

The Guardian tells the story of a woman named Camilla (Jenny Seagrove), who is hired as a nanny and proceeds to not only claim the baby as her own but also tries to seduce the baby’s father away from his wife.

Or maybe Camilla is a druid who kidnaps babies so that she can sacrifice them to her Gods…

Or maybe Camilla is a reincarnation of Lilith, the demon who used to kidnap babies in the night…

Or maybe Camilla is some sort of witch who can command the trees and wolves to do her bidding…

Or maybe Camilla actually is a tree that has somehow taken on human form and is now going around kidnapping babies…

There are a lot of possibilities, largely because The Guardian is a notorious mess. It was directed by William Friedkin, the man who literally jump-started modern horror with The Exorcistbut it is probably not a coincidence that Friedkin didn’t even mention The Guardian when he wrote his highly acclaimed autobiography, The Friedkin Connection. There’s very little that Friedkin doesn’t discuss in that book so the fact that he especially didn’t mention this film speaks volumes.

Reportedly, there were problems on the set. From what little I’ve found online, it would appear that Friedkin originally wanted the movie to be about a mentally deranged woman who thought she was a druid. But the producers wanted a horror film about a woman who actually was a druid. Somehow, this eventually led to The Guardian becoming a movie about a woman who is actually a tree. What’s funny is that the film itself feels like a typical crazy nanny Lifetime film, up until the moment that one of Camilla’s employers attempts to take a chainsaw to that tree.

Of course, before all that happens, Camilla is killing people left and right but yet no one seems to notice. She doesn’t make any secret of the fact that she’s trying to seduce Phil (Dwier Brown) but Phil’s wife, Kate (Carey Lowell), doesn’t seem to care.  Instead, Phil and Kate attempt to set Camilla up with their friend, goofy Ned (Brad Hall).  It doesn’t take long for Ned to get devoured by a bunch of wolves. That’s what happens when you walk in on a druid nanny turning into a tree, I guess.

There’s also an odd scene in which three gang members just happen to be walking through the woods when they come across Camilla and the baby. They kind of pop up out of nowhere and they immediately turn out to be some pretty bad guys. Luckily, a tree pops up and kills the all. Is the tree Camilla or is the tree someone else? Who knows?

Even stranger is the fact that no one notices anything strange about Camilla. To be honest, there are times that Camilla might as well be wearing a sign that reads, “Druid” but no one seems to notice. Then again, it’s debatable whether or not she was actually a druid. She might actually be a tree and I guess it’s understandable that something like that wouldn’t naturally occur to anyone. I mean, I think we’ve all probably met a druid or two but someone who is actually a tree? Well, that’s unusual.

Anyway, The Guardian is a messy film and I’m afraid that I’m probably making it sound more fun than it actually is.

Lisa Marie Bowman, MOVIES and MANIA – guest reviewer via HorrorCritic.com

Other reviews:

“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 (especially the wife).” Arrow in the Head

The Guardian is balls-out ridiculous almost right from the start, and its 90 minutes running time doesn’t leave much room for character development or slow-burn chills. Hell, our first kill comes almost completely out of nowhere…” Horror Movie a Day

“The problem with The Guardian is that though all the ingredients are there, they fail to come together in the final mix. The demonic nanny sent to ‘look after’ the child (complete with savage dogs to back her up), is straight from The Omen (1976), whilst a tree whose roots do its dirty work is reminiscent of the infamous vegetation attack from The Evil Dead…” Cleaver Patterson, Cine Vue

“It has a certain degree of silliness, but the violence (which is very blood and graphic, nice gore!) and general nastiness of the story is something Raimi never would touch. This is a crazy motherf*cking killer-tree movie for a mature gore-seeking audience, with lots of nudity and a very nice and subtle reference to Day of the Triffids.” Ninja Dixon

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Cast and characters:

  • Jenny Seagrove as Camilla Grandier/Diana Julian
  • Dwier Brown as Phil Sterling
  • Carey Lowell as Kate Sterling
  • Brad Hall as Ned Runcie
  • Miguel Ferrer as Ralph Hess
  • Natalia Nogulich as Molly Sheridan
  • Pamela Brull as Gail Krasno
  • Gary Swanson as Allan Sheridan
  • Jack David Walker as Punk #1
  • Willy Parsons as Punk #2
  • Frank Noon as Punk #3
  • Theresa Randle as Arlene Russell
  • Xander Berkeley as Detective
  • Ray Reinhardt as Dr Klein
  • Jacob Gelman as Scotty Sheridan

Filming locations:

Los Angeles, Santa Clarita, and Valencia, California

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One Comment on “The Guardian – USA, 1990 – overview and reviews”

  1. Personally i think the plusses outweigh the minuses.And trust me, I am not a man who likes mainstream, yuppie, family Horror. I find it interesting it’s told from the male point of view, not the female. Not only that, but it eschews the usual “Man is seduced by femme fatale, can the woman regain her man and family?” cliches.Seagrove is there to kill the child and sticks to the plan, no seduction here. Also love dad’s attitude at the end. Basically, “Ef this, I’m ending it now. Here comes the chainsaw and that tree is going down!” Seagrove and Lowell are incredibly beautiful, and nice to see Brad Hall do a serious role for once.

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