The Guardian (1990) / Horror-Fantasy
MPAA Rated: R for gore, violence, nudity, sexuality, and language
Running Time: 92 min.
Cast: Dwier Brown, Jenny Seagrove, Carey Lowell, Brad Hall, Miguel Ferrer, Natalia Nogulich, Theresa Randle (cameo)
Director: William Friedkin
Screenplay: Stephen Volk, Dan Greenburg, William Friedkin (based on the novel, "The Nanny", by Dan Greenburg)
Review published November 17, 2005
By this point in his career, the name William Friedkin no longer held the interest it once had after directing such popular and critically acclaimed films as The French Connection and The Exorcist in the 1970s. Nevertheless, Exorcist fans still had hope he might return to form, as he had stayed out of the horror genre since directing the classic movie. Alas, it was not to be, as The Guardian shows Friedkin unable to gain any momentum with his very humdrum story, despite his work on the screenplay with the original novel's author, Dan Greenburg (Private School, Private Lessons).
The film's prologue starts off with an unseen guest abducting an infant baby and taking it to a large tree, where the infant is "sacrificed", becoming one with it. After this, we move to the home of another couple, Phil (Brown, Field of Dreams) and Kate (Lowell, License to Kill), just on the verge of having a child of their own. As both parents are too busy to take care of the young child 24/7, they decide to enlist the services of a nanny, and after screening many candidates, they eventually welcome Camilla (Seagrove, Local Hero), an intelligent and alluring British woman that seems to know a lot about the care of young infants. It turns out that Camilla isn't quite all she claims to be, as the baby is being groomed for an ultimate union with the tree she is beholden to, and without anyone to believe them, it's parents vs. tree for the fate of their young child.
Although the plot summary above seems to cover the movie's storyline in its entirety, there really isn't a spoiler anywhere in there. In fact, the first thing you see in the film is a blurb about Druids, the worshippers and protectors of trees, some of them benign and others sinister. After seeing what happens to the first baby, it's very clear that we'll be seeing the same thing again, so with complete knowledge of what the plot entails, there are no surprises. When the family just so happens to buy a home in a heavily wooded area, it's very easy to figure out everything that happens from then on.
Perhaps if Friedkin had made a decision to not give away the nature of the nanny and her intentions from the outset, The Guardian might have proven to be a more interesting story to follow. Still, it's hard to overlook the rather wooden acting, silly dialogue, and overly sensationalistic violence, so thinking a good movie might have been possible seems a fruitless argument. If you happen to stumble into a room that has a TV with this showing on it, make like a tree...
©2005 Vince Leo