DIRECTOR William Friedkin WRITER Stephen Volk; Dan Greenburg; William Friedkin; Dan Greenburg (novel “The Nanny”) STARS Jenny Seagrove; Dwier Brown; Carey Lowell DVD Now
Director William Friedkin ventured back into the supernatural realm for this 1990 release, but anyone expecting the quality of his classic, The Exorcist, will be bitterly disappointed.
An opening title scrawl informs us that ancient Druids worshiped trees and offered human sacrifices, with the trees having either good or bad spirits connected to them. We then meet young couple Phil and Kate (Dwier Brown and Carey Lowell), who are buying their first home, and after Kate becomes pregnant, they interview potential nannies. After their first choice meets a convenient accident they employ Camilla (Jenny Seagrove), who immediately integrates herself into the household by befriending Kate and teasing Phil with a selection of barely-there nightwear. It turns out Camilla is a Druid who is waiting long enough for the baby’s blood to develop before sacrificing it to her tree, which has children’s faces carved into it.
After Phil starts having nightmares that revolve around sex with Camilla or the baby being kidnapped, things turn silly. Camilla has a pack of wolves at her command, who tear a group of men apart after an attempted rape. The couple’s neighbour receives the same fate after following Camilla on a night out and seeing her bond with the tree and transform into wood. It gets ridiculous when Phil and Kate realise her intentions for their baby and Phil attacks the now living tree, which wraps vines around his leg while he plunges a chainsaw into the wood, which bleeds. It all winds up into a psycho-on-the-loose style finale as Camilla stalks through the house, part woman, part tree, and things start blowing up for no good reason.
There’s a high level of splatter on display — limbs are torn off, heads explode — which was cut from the original VHS release and has been restored for this new special edition, and the production design is good, but there’s very little else to recommend The Guardian. Friedkin doesn’t bother to offer explanations for Seagrove’s Druidism or any of the religious symbolism behind it, and it suffers from that all-too familiar staple of the horror genre: characters acting stupidly in order for the plot to move from A to B. It’s creepy in places, as Friedkin is experienced enough to know how to produce scares — which he does with bad weather, dark corridors and the like — but Brown is no hero, Lowell is an ex Bond Girl who appears to read her lines from a card and Seagrove looks like she’s wandered into the wrong film. So bad it makes The Hand That Rocks the Cradle look good. There’s something you don’t read every day. Avoid.