16th Oct2011

‘The Guardian’ DVD Review

by Paul Metcalf

Stars: Jenny Seagrove, Dwier Brown, Carey Lowell, Brad Hall, MIguel Ferrer | Written by Stephen Volk, Dan Greenburg | Directed by William Friedkin

Nature can be beautiful and it can be evil. Druids worshipped it as a god, making sacrifices as offerings to it so they could be in its favour. Well that’s what we are told they did anyway; at least it makes for good horror stories. The Guardian uses the idea of the Druid sacrifices as a way for obtaining immortality; the way this is done is by sacrificing babies.

When Phil and Kate have a baby they find they need a nanny to look after it. When Camilla arrives for an interview for the position she appears to be the perfect woman for the job. Upon meeting the child she appears to have a bond straight away with him and is soon hired – once she manages to eliminate the competition in a freak accident of course…

Camilla is not your average nanny of course but a Druid priestess who has been moving from family to family preparing babies for sacrifice to the tree she worships, and now she is preparing Phil and Kate’s child as her next sacrifice. When their neighbour Ned discovers that something is not right with Camilla he tries to warn them of this, but is he too late?

When reading up on The Guardian I was surprised to see that the film was originally set to be directed by Sam Raimi. This of course seems obvious when you see a violent scene in which the tree attacks three attackers who put Camilla in danger (can you say Evil Dead). The level of gore and violence in the scene did surprise me, as the director who took over was William Friedkin who of course did The Exorcist. I’m not saying Friedkin does not do gore – you just have to see his work in The Exorcist to know he can do it – he’s just not normally so visceral though in his delivery. The fact that the film was passed between directors is probably an explanation of why the violence at times seems out of style for Friedkin. This also leads up to my main issue with the movie in itself. It seems at times to be fairly disjointed and bitty, also simplistic in the way the story is delivered. Take the scene where Camilla is almost attacked as an example. As she sits in the middle of a field with the baby suddenly three men in leather jackets turn up and try to attack her, it’s almost too stereotypical in style I mean we’re not watching Grease; we don’t need the bad guys to be thrown at us so simplistically. This kind of scene is few and far between though as most of the movie deals with the family and Camilla’s integration into it. These scenes are less blunt and more subtle allowing the watcher to feel the sexual tension between Phil and Camilla as the story focusses more on them than the actual wife and Phil’s relationship with her.

Although some scenes and some violence do seem out of place in the movie, as a whole it is entertaining enough. It creates a story that pulls the viewer in and through most of the movie Camilla does not feel like a monster at all, which of course is what she is, as we have to remember she is murdering babies in a selfish crusade to live forever. Her character though is portrayed as that of an innocent woman who has no evil intentions at all. It is only when it comes time to sacrifice the child or defend herself and the tree that her true evilness comes out. Even as the audience, who in most movies has the unique viewpoint of seeing the true evilness of a character we only get to see her true intentions at those points, it leads us to question is she the druid priestess at all? Until the scene where the tree protects her of course then we see who she really is.

When you look into the history of The Guardian it is evident that there were issues while in production and this affected the finished film in many ways. This is no defence of a bad film of course and I’m not saying this is bad, it just at times feels disjointed with out of place violence and sometimes silly scenes that feel they could have been improved upon. For what it is this is an entertaining but flawed film that I’d argue must be seen by any fan of horror who likes to be completest with their horror history, this definitely has a place in it.

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