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ROBERT (aka ROBERT THE DOLL, 2015)
Directed and written by Andrew Jones.
Starring Suzie Frances Garton, Lee Bane, Flynn Allen, Judith Haley, Cyd Casados, Samuel Hutchison, Megan Lockhurst, Annie Davies, Ryan Michaels
Based on real life events, according to the opening scrawl, Robert is the name of a cursed doll that has been passed down through generations, bringing all kinds of weirdness and bad events with him. When a housekeeper is fired from the Otto residence, she gives their son Gene (Flynn Allen) the doll. Gene immediately forms a close bond with the doll, but it creeps the hell out of his mother Jenny (Suzie Frances Garton). Soon, cruel acts of mischief occur around the house, and though Jenny believes Gene is the culprit, Gene insists that Robert is doing it all.
Most likely due to the popularity of the ANNABELLE movies, folks scrambled to find real life haunted doll stories and the tale of Robert is probably one of the most famous ones because it is said to have been the inspiration for the CHILD’S PLAY series. But for the most part, Robert isn’t an animatronic ginger grump with a penchant for voodoo and Jennifer Tilly. This Robert is much more like Annabelle in that it inspires evil to occur around them. It doesn’t move, though I guess a few POV shots indicate that it does. There are a few snippets of Robert in motion, but for the most part, it’s just the doll popping up in different locations. Filmmaker Andrew Jones is vague with what Robert can and can’t do, as well as why he is a cursed doll in the first place, but I guess those questions are for the sequels to address. Robert’s face is kind of creepy. It has been said before that it looks a lot like Willem Dafoe, and I can see the resemblance. Still, I feel that his face is either shown too much or shown in a light or from an angle that doesn’t really look creepy. I think it’s a case of showing the doll too much that spoiled it for me.
ROBERT is not an unwatchable movie. It feels like there are some decent production values put into it and while the acting from Suzie Frances Garton and Lee Bane as the parents aren’t the warmest, it’s much better than the usual low budget fare. There is a sort of dank, grey tone to the entire movie, which makes the watching experience feel distant as well. The real Robert story took place in Florida, but for some reason, this film takes place in England, it seems—though there are a few American actors in it as well, which makes the setting feel off kilter and hard to place.
While the ending is very similar to the fourth installment of a very popular slasher franchise, it worked for me. ROBERT has a few moments of decent tension, and I did like the toothy ending it wrapped up with. Having experienced some real DIY stinkers, I was expecting much worse from this first installment of the ROBERT series. I’ll be covering THE CURSE OF ROBERT THE DOLL next week, so we will see if the film will maintain the momentum it had with its decent beginning. It’s not a wholehearted recommendation, but there are tons of worse dolly horror films out there than this one.