A few months ago in the rich suburbs of Los Angeles, something odd happened. A couple who lived there were leaving their young baby in the care of the nanny for the evening while they went out to enjoy themselves and have a break, but as they were driving the wife realised she had forgotten her glasses, and they turned around to retrieve them. Yet once the wife entered the house, she decided to check up on her son and baby - the son was there, but the nanny and the infant had disappeared for good.
A couple of years before The Hand That Rocks the Cradle gave nannies a bad name in a worldwide hit of the sort which took the psychological thriller to the middle class professionals, a style very popular in its day, there was this not as well regarded - or remembered, for that matter - supernatural horror. It had a troubled production with nobody very clear exactly what they wanted from the story except that they wished something as commercial as possible, and director William Friedkin evidently thought if he could succeed here, a new chiller to rank alongside his seventies classic The Exorcist was on the cards.
What with its killer trees, maybe others were leaning towards The Evil Dead as a comparison, but whatever The Guardian didn't hang around for long and few were satisfied with the results, not least writer Stephen Volk who saw his script mangled out of all recognition and suffered a breakdown with the pressure. Luckily for him he bounced back with such well-thought of scripts as Ghostwatch and his Afterlife television series, but that didn't do you much good if you wanted to settle down with a spooky story in that fashion and wound up with this ludicrously overstated shocker where every tiny detail was spelt out as if it thought the audience was stupid.
Not helping was that we knew exactly what mystery nanny Jenny Seagrove was up to thanks to the first five minutes blowing the whole plot: what she wants is a baby or three to sacrifice to her favourite tree, the reasons for which were she was a druid and that's what they did. Although quite what she was doing in California with her posh English accent and pagan roots was left unexplained, an example of where in some ways making things as simple as possible only threw up other questions when this had been overthought but undercooked. The cast did their best, but their roles were limited to cliché, with central couple Dwier Brown and Carey Lowell all at sea as the bland yuppies with the newborn to take care of.
When the druid nanny makes sure she's the one picked (their first choice, Theresa Randle, ends up falling over a cliff - wooo-oo scary!) she simply bides her time until the baby is, er, ripe for want of a better word and then she'll take it away to the tree. This leaves some very tedious sequences as the couple gradually cotton on to what we were aware of all along, only enlivened by some crowbarred-in fright scenes such as nanny tearing the heads off passing punks with her power over the nearby branches while she's out for a walk with the baby. The Guardian was hopelessly clunky, and the fact there was a better way to handle this material was all too apparent, only even with all their money and screeds of rewrites the studio couldn't see any way to do it than this. If you were lucky, you could enjoy a few titters at the film's expense, but it was so thuddingly ill-conceived that was as much as you could hope, it really was that idiotic. Music by Jack Hues.
American writer/director who has struggled throughout his career to escape the legacy of two of his earliest films. Debuted in 1967 with the Sonny & Cher flick Good Times, but it was the gripping French Connection (1971) and phenomenonally popular The Exorcist (1973) that made Friedkin's name and influenced a whole decade of police and horror films. Since then, some of Friedkin's films have been pretty good (Sorcerer, the controversial Cruising, To Live and Die in L.A., Blue Chips, Bug, Killer Joe), but many more (The Guardian, Jade, Rules of Engagement) have shown little of the director's undoubtable talent.