Few of director William Friedkin’s films are as infamous as his adaption of Dan Greenburg’s novel The Nanny which became his film The Guardian (1990). Like Friedkin’s most famous film The Exorcist, The Guardian delves into parental responsibility in a modern world where both parents work outside the home and find themselves relying on a nanny to help manage their home and take care of their newborn child.
Dwier Brown and Carey Lowell play the parents of a newborn child who hire Camilla (Jenny Seagrove) to take care of their child when they are away. Everything seems to be normal but the husband soon notices small peculiarities with Camilla and her growing attachment to his child. It’s not long before the couple begin to realize that Camilla is keeping secrets and has some very nefarious plans for their child when he has reached the right age.
Friedkin’s film is polished and suspenseful and very effective it’s first two thirds but tends to fall apart during the last third of the film when it is revealed that Camilla is a druid who sacrifices newborns to her God that lives within a tree in a forest. The concept is questionable and despite the fact that it probably worked fine as a book Friedkin has a hard time making it believable to an audience. It also doesn’t help that the whole druid aspect of the story is explained at the beginning of the film which lessens the possible thriller aspects of the story. If there is no mystery, there is no suspense so many of the set pieces of the loose their impact especially in light of all the gore present in the film.
The film is not The Exorcist but it was a film that Friedkin tried hard with (especially in a time in which the horror genre was dominated by films with excessive gore) and he did improve with his later film Bug.