William Friedkin, the Academy Award winning director of The Exorcist, delivers a new kind of fairy tale for adults.
A handsome young couple finds the perfect live-in babysitter to look after their newborn child. It seems like a fairy tale, until ancient, supernatural forces turn the couples dream into a nightmare.
In his first horror film since The Exorcist, Oscar-winning director William Friedkin spins a terrifying tale based on every parent's worst fear. Jenny Seagrove (Local Hero) portrays the enchanting guardian who enters the home of new parents Dwier Brown (Red Dragon) and Carey Lowell (Licence to Kill) possessing impeccable references and an affinity for children. But as her true intentions are revealed, the battle for the child's soul begins in this chilling film based on Dan Greenburg's popular novel, The Nanny.
When you hear or see the name 'William Friedkin', you immediately think of the movie 'The Exorcist', since that was and remains his signature film. Friedkin is also known for being a volatile director on set, getting the best performances from his actors in the most strenuous and insane ways possible. You could say that he has an interesting reputation, but with his motives and actions on set, he still to this day continues to release incredible films.
I don't think anything will ever top 'The Exorcist', although Friedkin has made movies in almost every genre, but some could say he is a master of horror, given the success and acclaim of 'The Exorcist'. It wasn't until almost twenty years later that Friedkin returned to the horror genre with a little film known as 'The Guardian' in 1990. The film was originally going to be filmed by Sam Raimi (most likely due to the abundance of evil trees in the film), but Raimi dropped out for 'Darkman', which led to Friedkin being hired. Unfortunately, 'The Guardian' was met with very unfavorable reviews and was a box office failure.
Over the years though, 'The Guardian' has developed a cult following of sorts, due to the graphic nature of the film and evil tree sub horror genre. One of the main problems with 'The Guardian' is that Friedkin never gave any real motive for the evil here or where this ancient evil tree comes from. Everything just seems to happen and we're supposed to take it at face value with zero development or background. That and the fact this evil entity is a half woman/half tree demon, which of course is laughable. 'The Guardian', which is based on the novel 'The Nanny' by Dan Greenburg is about an ancient evil tree in the forest that can spawn a demon woman who kidnaps infants and feeds it to the tree as a sacrifice to stay alive.
This demon woman is in disguise as a nanny and has been kidnapping infants for a while now, always assuming a different alias and name with each victim. With her current family of soon-to-be victims, the parents are smarter than they look, which turns into a detective cat-and-mouse game of trying to find their new nanny once she reveals herself to not be human. The problem is that they stories never sync up quite right to tell a fluid and cohesive narrative with background information. We are just supposed to accept this as it is with no explanation. All that being said, the film is quite fun and entertaining.
Friedkin used makeup effets artist Matthew Mungle to create some amazing practical effects for the monster and gruesome death scenes, which after you see them, you'll know why the studio wanted Sam Raimi on this film. The acting by everyone is solid as well, however the story just isn't on top of its game to be truly great as 'The Exorcist' was. 'The Guardian' is one of those strange films that will live on forever for those die hard cult fans, and after twenty-six years, this film manages to age quite well, since Friedkin never held back with what he shows on screen, which is something that far too many directors are afraid of doing today.
The Blu-ray Vital Disc Stats
'The Guardian' comes with a 50GB Blu-ray disc that is Region A locked from Scream Factory. It is housed in a hard blue plastic case with an insert that promotes other Scream Factory titles. The reverse side of the box art has stills from the film.
'The Guardian' comes with a 1080p HD transfer presented in 1.85:1 aspect ratio. For a 26 year-old film, Scream Factory has done an impressive job with his transfer, despite some very minor issues. The detail is fairly sharp and vivid throughout with revealing closeups in well lit scenes. Individual hairs, makeup effects and blemishes can be seen easily. Wider shots also look fluid with some minor soft spots. Otherwise, this transfer has some good depth and clarity, while keep the grain in tack.
Colors don't pop vibrantly at any given time, but rather look realistic, earthy, and natural. That being said, the exterior shots in the sunlight seem to pop better than other moments. Black levels are deep and inky for the most part, but there is some bleeding to the image in darker scenes. Skin tones are natural as well. There was some minor noise and still some dirt and debris, mainly earlier on the film. Still, after 26 years, this video presentation is quite solid.
This release comes with a DTS-HD MA 2.0 mix. I know it says there is a 5.1 option here, but that's not the case. Must have been a typo on the box. I just wish there was a 5.1 option to fully immerse you in the horror of the demon tree lady. The stereo mix is still powerful enough, providing great sound effects that are forceful and robust.
Ambient noises sound layered and great as well, however, it would've been nice to hear certain noises creep from the rear speakers. The score is haunting and loud with perfect crescendos in the right places that never drowns out any other sound. The dialogue is crystal clear and easy to follow as well, with zero instances of any pops, cracks, hiss, or high shrills, leaving this audio presentation with solid marks.
I know it looks like a ton of extras, but the bulk of these extras are just interviews with the cast and crew. Some are new and some are vintage.
A Happy Coincidence (HD, 22 Mins.) - Here is an interview with Dwier Brown, who plays Phil. This new interview talks about making this movie with William Friedkin, working on 'Field of Dreams', and doing the whole horror genre. Fun interview.
From Strasberg to the Guardian (HD, 10 Mins.) - This is an interview with Gary Swanson who plays Gary in the film. Gary discusses his excitement to work with Friedkin, wanting to have a bigger role in the production, and his work on 'Vice Squad'.
A Mother's Journey (HD, 12 Mins.) - Another interview here. This time with actress Natlalija Nogulich who plays Molly in the film. Again, she talks about her love of working with Friedkin, working on 'Star Trek', and being cast without auditioning for the film.
Scoring 'The Guardian' (HD, 7 Mins.) - Composer and Wang Chung frontman Jack Hues talks about scoring the movie, which was a far move from his pop music at the time.
Tree Woman: The Effects of 'The Guardian' (HD. 13 Mins.) - Makeup effects master Matthew Mungle talks about working with Friedkin, who he was a little bit nervous to work with, given his prior reputation. Mungle has 228 films under his belt as makeup effects artist, and this was one of his first big projects. Excellent interview.
Return to the Genre (HD, 18 Mins.) - Finally, we have William Friedkin discussing the film, however, this is not a new interview. Friedkin discusses working on the film, his influences and what movies he wanted to tackle in his future.
The Nanny (HD, 14 Mins.) - Actress Jenny Seagrove is interviewed here. She played Camilla and Diana in the film and talks about what the shoot and production was like as well as her career. This is also a vintage interview.
Don't Go Into The Woods (HD, 21 Mins.) - Writer Stephen Volk gives a detailed interview on his screenplay, working with Friedkin, seeing his words come to life, and his career. Also, a vintage interview.
Still Gallery (HD, 2 Mins.) - A small collection of behind the scenes photos, promo art, and make up tests in slide show form.
Theatrical Trailer (HD, 2 Mins.) - Original trailer for the film.
'The Guardian' has aged like a fine wine, although the film itself still has many problems with the story and fluidity. But, you have to admit that Friedkin gave us a no-holds barred horror film and didn't hold back for censors or a PG-13 rating like so many people do today. And with that aspect, I salute the film. I just wish it was better in the story realm, because the practical effects, direction, and performances are all good. The video and audio presentations here are also well done, and the extras are all worth watching, even if it is just a bunch of interviews. This 1990 cult film is Recommended!