Combustible Celluloid
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With: Jenny Seagrove, Dwier Brown, Carey Lowell, Brad Hall, Miguel Ferrer, Natalia Nogulich, Pamela Brull, Gary Swanson, Jack David Walker, Willy Parsons, Frank Noon, Theresa Randle, Xander Berkeley, Ray Reinhardt, Jacob Gelman
Written by: Stephen Volk, Dan Greenburg, William Friedkin, based on a novel by Dan Greenburg
Directed by: William Friedkin
MPAA Rating: R
Running Time: 92
Date: 04/27/1990

The Guardian (1990)

3 Stars (out of 4)

Baby Tree

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

William Friedkin ventured back into the supernatural for the first time since The Exorcist with this universally panned flop. (Even the titles borrow the familiar Exorcist style font.) From the nature of the reviews, I expected -- at best -- a so-bad-it's-good guilty pleasure, but it's mostly well made (despite some lame plot turns). Admittedly, it doesn't seem like one that Friedkin put his heart and soul into, but it still has some of his touches, and it's too interesting to write off completely.

After a prologue in which a nanny steals a baby and sacrifices it to an evil tree, we meet Phil (Dwier Brown) and Kate (Carey Lowell), a young couple who buy their first house. When it turns out that Kate is pregnant, they begin interviewing nannies; Camilla (Jenny Seagrove) gets the job after the first choice meets with an accident. Camilla is quite beautiful (and appears naked), cooks, and devotes herself selflessly to the child and family. Though the unwitting parents don't notice, it soon becomes apparent to us that Camilla is actually a druid whose job is to wait until the child's blood has developed enough for sacrifice to the tree (you can see baby faces in the bark).

Friedkin layers in the scary stuff a little bit at a time, using quiet and rest breaks as cleverly as he did in The Exorcist. He also makes excellent use of weather and the huge picture windows everyone has in their homes. The main drawback is that he doesn't seem particularly interested in the druids and their rituals; in a better film, he would spend more time on the details behind them. Nonetheless, it's a film that deserves more consideration than it ever received.

Sadly, Anchor Bay's 1999 DVD has gone way, way out of print, and copies are selling for huge prices on ebay and It's supposed tohave a Friedkin commentary track, which I would love to hear, but sadly,I can't get my hands on it.

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