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The Guardian (Blu-ray Review)

GuardianWilliam Friedkin, the Academy Award® winning director of The Exorcist, delivers a new kind of fairy tale for adults. A handsome young couple finds the perfect live-in babysitter to look after their newborn child. It seems like a fairy tale, until ancient, supernatural forces turn the couples dream into a nightmare. On January 19, 2016, SCREAM FACTORY™ is proud to present THE GUARDIAN, arriving for the first time on Blu-ray™.  A film by William Friedkin (The Exorcist, The Hunted), the supernatural thriller stars Jenny Seagrove (Local Hero), Dwier Broan (Red Dragon) and Carey Lowell (License to Kill).  A must-have for loyal fans, movie collectors and horror-thriller enthusiasts to complete their home entertainment library

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Film 

In his first horror film since The Exorcist, Oscar-winning director William Friedkin spins a terrifying tale based on every parent’s worst fear. Jenny Seagrove portrays the enchanting guardian who enters the home of new parents Phil and Kate possessing impeccable references and an affinity for children. But as her true intentions are revealed, the battle for the child’s soul begins in this chilling film based on Dan Greenburg’s popular novel, The Nanny.

In movie land, there’s a kind of movie that definitely gets a bad rap nowadays.  The “average” movie.  One that’s nothing special, but is decent entertainment.  Because its not great or amazing it gets lumped into being considered awful when its not even close.  The Guardian is a film that pretty much skates on with being average.  The performances are average, the pacing is decent, the story is interesting but only done ok.  It skates some lines, with a couple scenes being laughably bad while others are very impressive, masterfully directed sets.  Watching it, you never feel your time is wasted, but its not like you’re going to highly recommend it to anyone other than a Friedkin fan.

This film marked William Friedkin’s big “return” to horror since the only movie he had directed before, The Exorcist.  Yes, that would be only his second, but that one time was kinda a little bit of a phenomenon and maybe you’ve heard of it.  This was also Friedkin coming off of a hit and miss 1980s, which commercially doesn’t look good, but there is some gravely unappreciated stuff in there (Cruising, To Live And Die In LA).  With this film, you get moments that feel like the master still has it, while others feel a tad out of touch.  The film has a decent story, but its sense of intensity or urgency never makes you feel too much suspense for the baby’s safety until its incredibly in danger.

Helping Friedkin on this one is cinematography legend John Alonso.  I really think Alonso elevates this film from a B-level also-ran to something worth your time to check out.  The mood and lighting are an absolute highlight of the film.  There is also the bit toward the end when the nanny is levitating and floating toward Dwier Brown that looks incredibly haunting.  Working with his photography is also some terrific makeup and effects work.  There is some painful gore that has blood splatter and the demonic looking “guardian” in the finale is a pretty cool sight to check out.

I guess this is a pretty despised film.  In 1990, I could understand this being a “disappointment” for those expecting something akin to The Exorcist from William Friedkin, but there were 17 years between the film and to most, the director had sort of fallen off.  But, this movie features a guy chainsawing a tree that is spewing blood for crying out loud…that’s awesome.  Nothing sets the world on fire though, unfortunately, but its competently made, effective in areas and works enough to be a solid film.

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Video 

Encoding: MPEG-4 AVC

Resolution: 1080p

Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1

Clarity/Detail:  I was pretty impressed by Scream Factory’s transfer of the 1990 William Friedkin film.  The image is very clean and pretty sharp given its age.  Everything in it looks natural with a little bit of pop to it.  Detail is very good, but there is a hint of smoothness here and there.

Depth:  There is some decent distance work here.  The end where Jenny Seagrove is floating looks pretty good (Not like some modern wow’ing 3D, but still neat).  Movements are cinematic and smooth.

Black Levels:  Blacks are pretty deep and rich.  Detail is still discernible in dark scenes and on black colored objects, but stuff does tend to get hidden time to time.

Color Reproduction:  Colors retain a more natural appearance.  Blues and greens do get some pop to them.

Flesh Tones:  Skin tones are natural throughout.  Details like scuffs, dirt, stubble, make-up and wrinkles all appear fondly in close-ups and deteriorate as the camera pulls back. 

Noise/Artifacts:  Grain looks to be wiped away a hair, and some dirt and specs remain.

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Audio 

Audio Format(s): English 2.0 DTS-HD MA

Subtitles: English

Dynamics:  This is a pretty loud and effective little 2.0 track.  Its effective and involving.  Scenes of horror get pretty intense and in your face.  Scoring hits prove loud and effects are diversive and well rounded.  

Low Frequency Extension:  N/A

Surround Sound Presentation:  N/A

Dialogue Reproduction:  Dialogue is clean and clear, set to an ideal volume and never consumed by the score or effects.

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Extras 

The Guardian comes with additional productions stills on the reverse side of the cover insert.

A Happy Coincidence (HD, 21:56) – Interview with actor Dwier Brown.  The actor discusses coming off of Field of Dreams and working with such an acclaimed director who was trying to reach back to his raw early filmmaking roots.  He also praises the art and set department on crafting a lot of this from nothing.  He’s also a big tree advocate, having named his son “Woody”.  No, I’m not making that last bit up.

From Strasberg To The Guardian (HD, 10:10) – Interview with actor Gary Swanson.  Most of this is consumed by a story of his work on Vice Squad.  He talks about his audition and being pumped to work with William Friedkin and how he wanted to be more involved with the movie.

A Mother’s Journey (HD, 11:33) – Interview with actress Natalija Nogulich.  She discusses Friedkin casting her after seeing her in a play without an audition.  She shares her love of working with Gary Swanson and Dwier Brown, also praising Friedkin as an actor’s director.  Also, Natalija touches on her Star Trek conventions and people talking to her about The Guardian there.  She too, wishes she had more scenes in the film.

Scoring The Guardian (HD, 6:40) – Interview with composer Jack Hues.  The soft spoken Wang Chung frontman discusses this movie as an opportunity to step away from pop music.  He cites a Vertigo influence on his approach and taking an atmospheric and naturalistic approach.

Tree Woman: The Effects of The Guardian (HD, 13:07) – An interview with makeup effects artist Matthew Mungle.  Currently working on Alien Nation at the time, he was a little weary of working with Friedkin because of the legendary stories of his ways, but had a great collaborative relationship with the director once they got down to work.  He focuses a lot on coming up with a good look for the nanny and the tree and its vicious attacks.   He also worked on The Dorm That Dripped Blood, so props for that!  He says he was disappointed in the outcome, claiming he thought it was a more dramatic film when they were shooting it.

Return To The Genre (HD, 17:25) – An interview with director/co-writer William William Friedkin.  A vintage interview with the director (likely from a previous release) where he discusses his desire to make a Grimm Fairytale.  For those bummed its not a new interview, fear not, this is as good and formative as the interviews that Shout! Factory does.  Friedkin is a terrific interview/speaker.

The Nanny (HD, 13:19) – An Interview with actress Jenny Seagrove.  Another ported interview from a previous release.  The actress thoroughly goes over her part in the film as well as her early work that got her acclaim to get to The Guardian.

Don’t Go Into The Woods (HD, 21:00) – An interview with co-writer Stephen Volk.  Another port, which proves to be a lengthy in-depth interview with the writer.  Its great that the interviews that were ported over are as loose and detailed as the typical ones that Shout! Factory puts together.

Still Gallery (HD, 1:19) – Behind the scenes photos (On-set, promotional, make-up tests, etc)

Theatrical Trailer (HD, 1:34)

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Summary 

The Guardain is a decent movie that definitely needs another look.  Its not some hidden masterpiece, but its not the garbage its been touted.  This Blu-ray looks and sounds really good and comes with an onslaught of terrific interviews both new and old.  Friedkin collectors and Scream Factory collectors are going to be very happy with this awesome release.  A definite pick up!

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Writer/Reviewer, lifelong obsessive film nerd. As eager to educate in the world of film as I am to learn. An avid lover of horror, schlock and trash, Brandon hosts the Cult Cinema Cavalcade podcast on the Creative Zombie Studios Network (www.cultcinemacavalcade.com) You can also find more essays on his blog Naptown Nerd (naptownnerd.blogspot.com).

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