The Guardian (1990)

What if the man who wrote Private Lessons — Dan Greenburg — wrote a book about a hamadryad, which is a tree spirit, and somehow William Friedkin made it his first horror film since The Exorcist?

It’s true. All true.

The original script — Sam Raimi was going to direct — was a lot closer to the book and was about a nannuy who steals the children she is charged with. Screenwriter Stephen Volk reworked the script for Friedkin, including coming up with the idea of making the villain Lilith, but then Friedkin wanted a straight and realistic movie, which Universal didn’t and Volk said “What if it was a tree monster?” And Friendkin went, “Yessssssssssssss.”

As a result of all that, Volk suffered a nervous breakdown and left the production, leaving Friedkin to finish the script.

Jenny Seagrove, who actually had to play this part, said that her role went from being a nanny to being a druid to actually being a tree. Or was she a wolf? Man, I have no idea and I’ve tried to watch this more than once and that’s probably why I kind of love it. This movie has no idea what it is even when it’s trying so hard to be it, like a kid in school who is fighting to be cool and has somehow made a persona of every single social group.

I mean, twatching Brad Hall get brutalized by wolves is something that I wish I could do more often. Yet this movie goes from The Hand That Rocks the Cradle to occult horror to an absolutely ridiculous scene with the evil nanny’s bark-like skin has baby faces inside it. Who would come up with this? Who would give them millions of dollars?

What if the man who wrote Private Lessons — Dan Greenburg — wrote a book about a hamadryad, which is a tree spirit, and somehow William Friedkin made it his first horror film since The Exorcist?

It’s true. All true.

The original script — Sam Raimi was going to direct — was a lot closer to the book and was about a nannuy who steals the children she is charged with. Screenwriter Stephen Volk reworked the script for Friedkin, including coming up with the idea of making the villain Lilith, but then Friedkin wanted a straight and realistic movie, which Universal didn’t and Volk said “What if it was a tree monster?” And Friedkin went, “Yessssssssssssss.”

As a result of all that, Volk suffered a nervous breakdown and left the production, leaving Friedkin to finish the script.

Jenny Seagrove, who actually had to play this part, said that her role went from being a nanny to being a druid to actually being a tree. Or was she a wolf? Man, I have no idea and I’ve tried to watch this more than once and that’s probably why I kind of love it. This movie has no idea what it is even when it’s trying so hard to be it, like a kid in school who is fighting to be cool and has somehow made a persona of every single social group.

I mean, watching Brad Hall get brutalized by wolves is something that I wish I could do more often. Yet this movie goes from The Hand That Rocks the Cradle to occult horror to an absolutely ridiculous scene with the evil nanny’s bark-like skin has baby faces inside it. Who would come up with this? Who would give them millions of dollars?

There’s also a cable TV edit that Friedkin hated so much that it got an Alan Smithee directoral credit. In this one, the tree woman known as Camilla is not killed by a chainsaw and is instead alive and naked at the tree as the movie ends.

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