Blu-ray Review: The Guardian

William Friedkin directed on of the greatest horror films of all time, but had no desire to be a horror auteur. The Exorcist was an amazing success at the box office and received an Oscar nomination for Best Picture. The horror genre is nearly always ignored at the ceremony outside of a Rick Baker special effects win. Even though Hollywood loves to make director’s repeat themselves, Friedkin had nothing to do with Exorcist II: The Heretic. He spent the rest of the ’70s and ’80s in other genres. But when 1990 rolled around, Friedkin was ready to shock audiences with another tale involving a parent’s worst nightmare. The Guardian brings together the odd combination of a newborn baby, a creepy nanny and a supernatural tree in a way the created a cult audience pleaser.

Phil and Kate Sterling are classic late ’80s yuppies. Phil (Field of Dreams‘ Dwier Brown) has landed an advertising gig in Los Angeles. They buy a massively cool house. Turns out Kate (License to Kill‘s Carey Lowell) is pregnant so they need the extra space. However the costs are so much that they decide to hire a nanny so Kate can keep her job. Their two top applicants are Arlene Russell (Theresa Randle) and Camilla Grandier (Jenny Seagrove) who is like a sultry Mary Poppins. The couple rightly picks Arlene since viewers already know that Camilla might be lacking proper references seeing her last baby she raised ended up in a knotty situation. Sadly Arlene has an unexpected event that causes her to pass on the employment opportunity. This means Camilla is the new part of the family. Turns out that besides her British disposition she’s rather religious. However her religion involves worshiping a strangely shaped tree. He’s like the evil cousin of the trees from The Lord of the Rings. Seems like this nanny is going to get a bad Yelp review at the end of the film.

The Guardian feels so different than a normal horror film that emerged from the ’80s and early ’90s. Friedkin shoots it with the feeling of a perfume commercial. There’s an odd atmosphere to the visual impact that heightens the fears by pushing tightness of the view. The babies in the film are in danger. The film doesn’t come close to the impact of The Exorcist. Even though it’s about evil and a child, Friedkin isn’t rehashing his early success. While this movie could have easily fizzled away, The Guardian remains addictive viewing. Seagrove brings an allure to her character that makes you curious to see where she’s going rather than a desire to stop her back to nature madness.

The video is 1.85:1 anamorphic. The 1080p transfer brings out the details in the tree. The audio is 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio that brings out Jack Hue’s ’80s inflected score. The movie is subtitled.

Return to the Genre (17:23) gives Friedkin a chance to explain how he ended up back int he horror genre. He spends a lot of time breaking apart the process.

The Nanny (13:21) features Jenny Seagrove express how much she liked the early scripts. She has not idea why they kept rewriting the scipt.

Don’t Go Into the Woods
(20:58) has Stephen Volk discuss how he started the film when Sam Raimi was supposed to direct. Strange to think of Raimi working with trees so soon after Evil Dead.

A Happy Coincidence
(21:56) has Dwier Brown admit that he didn’t recall working with Friedkin in To Live and Die In LA. He wasn’t happy when Friedkin used a nasty trick to get a reaction from Lowell on the set.

From Strasberg to The Guardian (10:10) spends more time with actor Gary Swanson than he has the film.

A Mother’s Journey (11:33) recounts Natalia Nogulich time with Friedkin.

Scoring The Guardian (6:40) introduces us to composer Jack Hues. He was part of Wang Chung.

Tree Woman: The Effects of The Guardian (13:07) give effects artist Matthew Mungle a chance to discuss working with a tree woman.

Still gallery (1:19) with pics from the production.

Trailer (1:34) teases the evil in the woods.

The Guardian reminds viewers that trees can be as evil as the devil to a family.

Scream Factory presents The Guardian. Directed by: Willam Friedkin. Screenplays by: Stephen Volk & William Friedkin. Starring: Jenny Seagrove, Dwier Brown, Carey Lowell. Rated: R. Running Time: 92 minutes. Released: January 19, 2016.

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