A couple with a newborn son invite a pleasant, British nanny into their home to look after the boy but she turns out to be Mary Poppins from Hell, intent on sacrificing the baby so her tree can live. Yeaaaah.
Judging a Book by its Cover
-I know it’s standard practice to mention a director’s big movie to tie into the new film but mentioning The Exorcist really creates a rather large expectation on The Guardian.
-There’s a lot of black on this poster, there’s not a lot to glean from it other than William Friedkin directed it. I know I’m not supposed to know exactly what the figure is but it looks like a nun. So I’ll go ahead this is about an evil nun. We’ll see how that goes.
-Tell the asshole behind you to turn off his high beams.
Directed by William Friedkin
Starring Jenny Seagrove, Dwier Brown and Carey Lowell
The begins (after a written intro involving druids) with a couple with a newborn getting ready for a fancy evening out and are leaving their little tyke in the care of their hot nanny. The mother forgets her glasses as they just get down the road so they go back home and on a whim she decides to see her boy one more time…but he’s gone with the nanny. The nanny rushes through the nearby forest until coming upon a scary tree and she basically sacrifices the baby to the tree which consumes the baby (or in this case, makes a baby face appear in it’s bark) and she says it’s time to restart the cycle.
Skip ahead a few months and Phil (Brown) and Kate (Lowell) have welcomed a new baby boy into their home. They go through a process to hire a live-in nanny and narrow down their choices to two young women. One of them dies in a freak bicycle accident and so choice number two, Camilla, gets the job instead. And she’s perfect as far as anyone is concerned, but anyone who gets particularly close to her goes missing. Phil and Kate are tipped off that Camilla may not be who she says she is but after seeing the film’s intro, you know they have no idea what they’re in for.
Having not seen the book that the film is based on, I can’t draw any comparisons but as far as the film goes it’s a very mixed bag. Yes, the tree comes alive in a few scenes and they’re honestly pretty fun to watch but the problem is that they’re also meant to be taken seriously. The tone of the film is dead serious — baby stealing, baby sacrificing, etc. — and neither I nor my friend could stop laughing at the tree scenes, one in particular involving the tree killing off a trio of thugs in gloriously bloody ways. It also seems that these are also the only moments where the film decides to pick up the pace; the film is very slow at times and using the tree to kill people was the only way the film can gain momentum but then it goes back to the snail pace. The film is listed as ninety-two minutes on the back of the case but it truly felt like two hours.
That’s the biggest problem with the film which really hinders your enjoyment of the rest of the movie. The performances are fine, especially Jenny Seagrove as Camilla. She’s charming (and naked often) but beneath the skin is an evil entity that needs that baby. The film is surprisingly gory at times but it’s normally during the “killer tree” scenes which shifts the serious tone down into hilarious comedy. As I said, there’s a lot to like about the film but the overall product is a small disappointment especially considering you have the guy who did The Exorcist at the helm.
Story: 5 – An entity that needs to feed babies to a tree to live poses as a nanny lying in wait to take a couple’s newborn. Serious tonal shifts kill any tension the movie builds up and ultimately a killer tree is a silly concept.
Blood: 7 – They’re brief but you see enough to get a good shock and a laugh at the same time. Root impalements, a decapitation and an ending involving a chainsaw and a tree that bleeds.
Nudity: 8 – Several nude scenes are in the film, many involving the beautiful nanny played by Jenny Seagrove.
Overall: 6 – Everyone seems game to make The Guardian work but it never produces any real tension but if you want to see a killer tree — and who doesn’t? — then it’s worth a watch.
-Sam Raimi was originally intended to be the director but he bowed out to make Darkman instead. William Friedkin was brought in to replace Raimi and reworked the story much to the studio’s dismay.
-A TV version with a different ending was not approved by Friedkin who had his removed in that version and instead is replaced with “Alan Von Smithee.”
-The film was considered to be one of the worst movies ever by the late Roger Ebert.