Tuesday, June 30, 2015

The Guardian (1990)

Phil and Kate are a married couple with a newborn son. To cope with their jobs, they hire a nanny to take care of their baby, and at first, things seem to be going well, as the nanny Camilla seems to be a nice and caring woman. Her sinister motivations soon come to light, however, and Phil and Kate will have to fight to keep their baby alive from this supernatural menace...

William Friedkin's The Guardian is a pretty good horror film, but not without many flaws. The movie keeps a good tone, and for a movie that's about a killer tree, it's rarely unintentionally hilarious,  despite amusing things like middle-aged punks who try to rape women in public when in broad daylight, some over-the-top gore scenes, and a character who displays confusion when trying to describe a British accent-"She has an accent, I think. European...British, maybe". Because Dutch or Greek is apparently totally indistinguishable from one of the two most recognizable accents on Earth!

Unfortunately, the movie's leads do barely anything for the first hour! The husband just has a few wet nightmares, and the wife barely does much of anything. The only character in the first two thirds to really be proactive is their architect friend Ned, but unfortunately he's killed off. It's a shame, too, as he goes through so much, yet still dies. Nuts to the others, I want this guy to be the lead! It really is a shame that the movie doesn't focus more on the couple, as a parents' connection to their baby, and the horror of something trying to kill it is a powerful theme to utilize when done correctly. Thankfully when the movie goes in that direction come the last 30 minutes, it's handled pretty well, although having two climaxes was a bit unnecessary.

The Guardian's plot is very lacking, and that's its biggest fault. Who the hell is Camilla?! What is she? What are her plans? Why does she sacrifice babies? What's her connection to the mysterious evil tree? Does she like pina coladas, and all that jazz! With as many rewrites as this film went through, it's extremely annoying that the villain was never given any character! Outside of that, the script is also full of characters we really know nothing about, and there are some elements that are almost brought up, then dropped. The film also has trouble meshing at points, presumably due to the script rewrites making it feel like two separate movies sometimes.

Finally, the title card at the start of the film isn't really appreciated, as the film could have worked better had we not know exactly what's behind the villain's intentions. We know right out of the gate that she's apparently some druid or dryad who sacrifices babies to an evil tree, which is a shame, as that could've been kept a mystery at first, to lend the film some mystique, and make Camilla a more compelling character, with the audience learning her malevolent intentions as the movie goes on, along with the protagonists.

The acting in The Guardian is mostly fine, although the punks are pretty over-the-top. Dwier Brown, Cary Lowell, and Brad Hall are serviceable protagonists, while Jenny Seagrove is the movie's star! She's a great villain, even if the writing doesn't help her along. Seagrove plays the role of the mysterious, deadly, and alluring Camilla well!

William Friedkin's direction here is quite good, with some definitely tense moments! The score also complements the movie well for the most part, lending some eerie moments, while the woodsy/fantasy-ish main theme is decent, and thankfully falls just this short from sounding ill-fitting.

There aren't that many death scenes in The Guardian, but the gore is certainly good! We get plenty of the red stuff with people getting crushed and eaten by trees, or devoured by coyotes. And then there's the gloriously over the top finale, which feels like something right out of an Evil Dead movie, what with the chainsaws, trees, and extremely copious bloodflow!

I'm not sure if I recommend The Guardian. It's certainly watchable, although it doesn't leave much of an impression come the end. You should probably just watch The Hand That Rocks the Cradle instead...

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