*½/**** Image B Sound B+ Extras B
starring Jenny Seagrove, Dwier Brown, Carey Lowell, Brad Hall
screenplay by Stephen Volk and Dan Greenburg and William Friedkin, based on the novel The Nanny by Greenburg
directed by William Friedkin
by Bryant Frazer The Guardian, made in 1990 as an apparent attempt to cash in on director William Friedkin's reputation as the man behind The Exorcist, is one of those terrible movies by a powerful director working at the low ebb of his career. The wildest thing about The Exorcist--one of the greatest horror movies--is that despite its defining influence on his career, Friedkin has never shown much interest in horror. (That's one of the things that makes The Exorcist work so well: Despite the requisite special-effects outlay required to depict demonic possession, on one level The Exorcist is just the story of a problem and the professionals who are dispatched to address it; on another level, it's a family drama about a single parent dealing with adolescent rebellion.) So while it's understandable that either Friedkin or the studio bankrolling The Guardian would see commercial potential in a return to genre filmmaking, any attempt at out-and-out horror was probably ill-fated from the start. That the story being attempted (loosely adapted from a novel by Dan Greenburg) was so very woolly--the supernatural villain the title references is a sexy, polymorphous druid who takes jobs as a live-in nanny to steal babies from their parents--would have been an advantage in, say, a potboiler out of Charles Band's Empire Pictures. In the hands of a no-nonsense craftsman like Friedkin, alas, it was a blueprint for disaster.