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  • The Guardian (1990) Blu-ray Review

    The Guardian (1990)

    Director: William Friedkin

    Starring: Jenny Seagrove, Dwier Brown & Carey Lowell

    Released by: Scream Factory

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    Based on the novel by Dan Greenburg, The Guardian centers on young parents Phil (Dwier Brown, Field of Dreams) and Kate (Carey Lowell, License to Kill) welcoming the arrival of their newborn baby.  Shortly after hiring the ideal live-in babysitter, Phil and Kate’s worst nightmare comes true when Camilla’s (Jenny Seagrove, Local Hero) supernatural intentions for their child are revealed.  Brad Hall (Saturday Night Live), Miguel Ferrer (RoboCop), Natalija Nogulich (Hoffa) and Gary Swanson (Vice Squad) co-star.

    Marketed as Academy Award winning director William Friedkin’s (The French Connection, The Exorcist) return to the horror genre, The Guardian modernizes the dark origins of fairy tales with the deep-rooted fears of all parents for a uniquely-suited picture.  Adhering to the ancient druid worship of trees, an evil yet, convincingly caring nanny (Seagrove) connives her way into the lives of unsuspecting parents in order to sacrifice their newborn babies.  Disappearing only to resurface under a new identity as Camilla, Phil (Brown) and Kate (Lowell) hire the charmingly attractive woman to care for their newborn only to find themselves rattled by unsettling nightmares and the declining health of their baby.  While local friends fall victim to Camilla’s wicked ways courtesy of flesh-eating wolves, the couple’s suspicions are validated after a grieving former victim comes forward to warn the couple of the monster living under their roof.  Unsuccessfully convincing the authorities of the supernatural powers at play, Phil and Kate must trek to the source of the evil in order to protect their baby’s soul.

    Previously developed for Director Sam Raimi (The Evil Dead, Spider-Man) before jumping ship to helm Darkman, the project would suffer through several grueling rewrites once Friedkin joined the production.  With the foundation of a solid premise, The Guardian falters due to its noticeably shaky screenplay and Friedkin’s quick-cutting that capsizes any effect the film’s scarier moments intend.  Although sequences of homicidal trees dismembering three deserving thugs make for solid eye-candy, The Guardian’s dark fairy tale tone finds itself largely lost in the woods.  Failing to attract audiences or sizable box-office returns with Friedkin also distancing himself from the project, The Guardian has marginally grown in appreciation amongst cult cinema circles.  Hardly reaching the quality of Friedkin’s devil-possessing 1973 classic, The Guardian, with its occasionally striking moments of grim imagery, is neither entirely forgettable nor remarkably memorable.  

    Scream Factory presents The Guardian with a 1080p transfer, sporting a 1.85:1 aspect ratio.  Amidst several instances of flakes and specks, skin tones appear well saturated and boasting natural appearances.  Meanwhile, colors are strongly enforced with greenery and moments of gore popping most nicely.  With countless sequences shrouded in darkness and shadow, black levels appear inky and well detailed.  Equipped with a DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 mix, dialogue is prominently handled with audibility never an issue.  Furthermore, moments of suspenseful intensity including Ned’s savage assault from wolves and Phil’s chainsaw-wielding battle in the film’s final act are sharp and effective.  Packed with a varied assortment of new and vintage supplements, special features include, A Happy Coincidence with Dwier Brown (21:56), From Strasberg to The Guardian with Gary Swanson (10:10), A Mother’s Journey with Natalija Nogulich (11:33), Scoring the Guardian with Jack Hues (6:40) and Tree Woman: The Effects of The Guardian with Matthew Mungle (13:07) all produced by Aine Leicht’s dependable Cavetown Pictures.  Also included, Return to the Genre: An Interview with William Friedkin (17:25), The Nanny: An Interview with Jenny Seagrave (13:19) and Don’t Go in the Woods: An Interview with Stephen Volk (21:00).  Finally, a Still Gallery (1:19) and the film’s Theatrical Trailer (1:34) round out the disc’s bonus content.

    Unfairly compared to one of the genre’s most enduring efforts, The Guardian is all but destined for failure.  That said, judged on its own merits, Friedkin’s grim fairy tale never quite lives up to its full potential with a problematic screenplay and stabs at suspense crumbling.  Although its narrative may appeal to some more than others, Scream Factory’s high-definition upgrade unanimously impresses with its technical grades checking out and its supplemental package being worth the price of admission alone.  Long out of print, Scream Factory’s Blu-ray release is prime for Friedkinphiles and others unfamiliar with the Academy Award winner’s horror followup.

    RATING: 4/5

    Available January 19th from Scream Factory, The Guardian can be purchased via ShoutFactory.com, Amazon.com and other fine retailers.

  • Dangerously Close (1986) Blu-ray Review

    Dangerously Close (1986)

    Director: Albert Pyun

    Starring: John Stockwell, Carey Lowell, Madison Mason, Bradford Bancroft & J. Eddie Peck

    Released by: Olive Films

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    From Director Albert Pyun (Cyborg), Dangerously Close focuses on The Sentinels, the self-proclaimed teenage guardians of their high school.  Weeding out those they deem unfit, their gang-like activity is questioned after a student winds up dead.  When the school newspaper editor, Donny Lennox (J. Eddie Peck, The Young and the Restless), seeks the truth, The Sentinels up their aggressive ante to a whole new level.  John Stockwell (Christine), Carey Lowell (Law & Order), Madison Mason (Dreamscape), Bradford Bancroft (3:15) and Dedee Pfeiffer (The Horror Show) co-star.

    While, Cannon Films found their way into every niche genre imaginable during the 1980s, the teen crime film was far and few between for the low-budget titan.  Marking only his third feature after The Sword and the Sorcerer and Radioactive Dreams, Director Albert Pyun makes his Cannon debut with a relatively grounded story about a gang of jocks who deliver “safety” and swift justice to fellow high school students they view as insignificant.  In what would be perceived as the squarest club to be apart of, The Sentinels take their narc-like position very seriously and are constantly at odds with the burnouts and punks of their class who ridicule them for their Nazi-like behavior.  On the surface, protecting the school from graffiti and theft appears noble but, when The Sentinels take unkindly to those who oppose them, over the top pranks turn into actual murder.  Level-headed and intelligent school paper editor, Donny Lennox (Peck), is willing to better understand The Sentinels and is invited into their pack only to be at odds with his mohawk-toting best friend Krooger (Bancroft).  Before long, Donny finds himself deep in the thicket of something sinister resulting in a full blown murder investigation and the disappearance of Krooger.  Donny knows that he must get to the bottom of The Sentinels plans and uncover the truth before he’s next on the chopping block.

    About as exploitative as an episode of 21 Jump Street, Dangerously Close manages to deliver earnest performances from its young cast but, lacks the juicier elements one expects from a production bearing the mark of Cannon.  Meanwhile, horror enthusiasts will be delighted to catch minor appearances from Thom Mathews (The Return of the Living Dead), Miguel A. Núñez Jr. (Friday the 13th Part V: A New Beginning) and Robert Rusler (A Nightmare on Elm Street 2: Freddy’s Revenge).  The inclusion of punkish characters and Krooger’s ridiculous Knight Rider-esque car make for fun eye candy although, the film suffers to find a stable footing midway through its runtime.  As Donny teams up with Julie (Lowell), a fellow Sentinels girlfriend, to reveal the true culprit behind the shady doings at their high school, a hilarious albeit, played totally straight, battle incorporating paintball guns and firecrackers ensues.  Bolstering a righteous 80s soundtrack including, hits from Robert Palmer, Fine Young Cannibals and The Smithereens, Dangerously Close isn’t quite the knockout one would hope but, still manages to be a decent Cannon foray centering on high school hooligans.

    Olive Films presents Dangerously Close with a 1080p transfer, sporting a 1.85:1 aspect ratio.  To viewers‘ delight, this lower-budgeted affair shines in high-definition with natural skin tones and bold colors that pop most effectively.  Detail is rather striking in closeups of The Sentinels painted faces during their “hunting” sequences while, black levels ring decently with slight murkiness appearing at times.  Minimal flaking in its transfer aside, Dangerously Close delivers with a relatively clean and surprisingly rich looking presentation.  Equipped with DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 mix, Dangerously Close relays dialogue with reasonable authority with some moments requiring a slight raise in volume.  The 80s pop-rock soundtrack delivers with better authority while, the mix overall never suffers from any hiss or other audio distortion.  Finally, the sole special feature included is the Theatrical Trailer (1:33).

    With an enticing plot and a radical soundtrack, Dangerously Close forgets to entertain in its second half with uneventful sequences and a rather underwhelming finale.  Released during a storm of rebellious teen flicks, Dangerously Close settles somewhere in the middle for a film that should have been much more under the shield of Cannon Films.  Thankfully, Olive Films delivers with a wonderful transfer that should easily appease the most dedicated of Pyun fanboys.  Scant on special features, worshippers of the church of Cannon won’t bat an eyelash adding this tale of teenage trouble into their high-definition libraries.

    RATING: 3.5/5

    Available now from Olive Films, Dangerously Close can be purchased via OliveFilms.com, Amazon.com and other fine retailers.