5 out of 10

Director: Andrew Jones  (Cabin 28 / The Toymaker / Robert 2 / The Exorcism of Anna Ecklund / Conjuring The Dead / The Haunting At The Rectory / Poltergeist Activity / The Last House on Cemetery Lane  / Theatre of Fear / Amityville Asylum)

Cast: Suzie Frances Garton, Lee Bane, Flynn Allen, Samuel Hutchison, Megan Lockhurst, Annie Davies, Ryan Michaels with Cyd Casados and Judith Haley

Writer: Andrew Jones

Trailer: ROBERT

roberBased on a true-story, Robert has all but a passing resemblance to anything ‘factual’. The names remain the same and there’s a cursed doll – and that’s all that remains intact. The real Robert and his very real curses lives in a glass box in Florida. This film is set in the modern day in South Wales. Yes, we’re back in Andrew Jones (THEATRE OF FEAR) country! The netherworld where the horror film meets the stylistic ticks of a health & safety video.  This time though, they’ve turned some lights off and brewed up some nice chills and spills.

The dependable Lee Bane (CONJURING OF THE DEAD) puts in a solid performance as Mr Otto, a harrassed businessman whose artist/stay at home wife, Mrs Otto (SUZIE FRANCES GARTON – THE HAUNTING AT THE RECTORY) becomes unhinged when her son’s new doll Robert begins to fuck with her head. Left as a present by their former house keeper (JUDITH HALEY – POLTERGEIST ACTIVITY), Robert begins to wreak havoc around the house. Yet the parents think it’s their son Gene (FLYNN ALLEN). As events begin to escalate and babysitters and new cleaners get chased out or murdered, the Otto family pull together to find out more about were the doll came from and how to stop it doing horrible things to people, like bopping them on the head with bog roll holders and loofers.

On the whole, the film is effective where it counts. The doll itself is a wonderful creation and stumps up much of the fear factor all by itself. And for the longest time possible you don’t see Robert up to mischief, so when bowls of sugar are upended in the kitchen and paintings vandalised, it holds a level of ambiguity. Could it really be Gene? Of course it isn’t but the film entertains the notion. The back-story is quite satisfying on this occasion but doesn’t explain why half the cast is populated with Canadians in the depth of South Wales? We never knew South Wales was so metropolitan. There are no ‘duff’ performances in Robert, even the doll isn’t wooden and it could put a lot of low-budget performers to shame.

The outcome is hilarious but still good within the realms of its horror setting, the build up is nice and slow and if I remember correctly, the running time is longer here allowing for a more measured film. Unlike, director Andrew Jones other films, there’s no sprint to conclude things like at the ending , ie SPOILER – the ending of Poltergeist Activity is odd how they runway in car from the the haunted house only to pull over in a layby up the road to escape their torment. SPOILER END.

This is one of Andrew Jones and Lee Bane‘s best films to date and they seem to be improving as they go, with the only blip in ascending quality being the mannered ghost-porno fail The Haunting At The Rectory. So Britpic has high hopes for the Exorcism of Anna Ecklund. it would seem that there’s a bit of gap after that whilst they make their next half a dozen movies. Like we said last time, a genre swap might be good now. Anything but Essex gangsters, though eh?

5 out of 10 – Solid spooky doll movie in the tradition of Annabelle. It’s not amazing but it’s an improvement on just about everything Andrew Jones and his team of talented actors have made so far. Keep up the good work.

Second review below by Matt Usher aka Joe Pesci II



One thought on “ROBERT

  1. Never sack your cleaning lady. That is the moral of the gloriously weird ROBERT, yet another filmed-in-a-week-for-a-tenner extravaganza from the prolific Andrew Jones. It is a simple moral for a simple film, simply told, but none the more effective for that. I suppose it holds true for any of your domestic staff, but this sage advice comes too late for Paul and Jenny in this film. Once the cleaning lady has been sacked, all the other staff (well, the replacement cleaning lady and the nanny) are soon in mortal danger. But how come Paul and Jenny have such an entourage of staff at their beck and call? Well, Paul’s a hotshot lawyer (as they always are in films) and Jenny’s a professional artist (I think she even wears a beret at one point – no, surely that’s my memory playing tricks – I ought to check, but I dare not, just in case it upsets Robert).

    So they’re a wealthy couple, the sort of obscene ****s who would sack an old lady the moment she forgets where she left a mop. Frankly they deserve everything they get, and despite surprisingly sympathetic performances from Lee Bane (we love Lee Bane!) and Suzie Frances Garton, it’s quite pleasing to see them reap their just desserts. But the old lady, despite the very slight amnesia, is not to be trifled with (or sacked for a non-offence). And so she spins her vengeance with the minimum of fuss and a maximum of impact: she gives a cursed doll to Gene, the couple’s young son. The doll, a macabre creation, is named Robert, just like the film. And it is a doll with malignance in its wooden heart. Robert is Pinocchio if he’d let his nose grow. This is not a puppet Elvis would sing about.

    Soon ‘bad’ things start happening. Well, I say bad, but frankly Robert sabotaging Jenny’s painting was probably the best thing that could’ve happened to it. But then it turns out that Jenny has some sort of unspecified mental illness (so you’d think she’d have been a bit more sympathetic to her cleaning lady’s problems but no). So Paul starts thinking she’s going loopy again. And then he thinks the infection might have spread to Gene. (Actually that’s a good bit – I shouldn’t have spoilt it by mentioning it.)

    Meanwhile more odd things occur: stuff goes missing, strange voices are heard, domestic staff inconsiderately break their necks. Jenny (being potentially barmy) is of course the only one who can see what’s really going on, so she heads to the ex-cleaning lady’s house to solve the mystery. But therein lies a new mystery, as the cleaner seems to live in Canada. Maybe ROBERT’s set in Canada (maybe there’s a Canadian equivalent to the Welsh Diaspora in Patagonia), but I missed the bit that explains that. Anyway, Jenny investigates the sacked cleaning lady’s past, and (a) finds herself surrounded by Canadians and (b) learns that Robert is indeed a haunted doll of death with a penchant for bopping people on the head with anything that comes to hand. (Clarification: I welcome Canadian actors, especially Megan Lockhurst as another doomed domestic.)

    It all ends in tears. And laughter.

    In some respects, ROBERT is a truly dreadful film. How could it not be? It’s a low budget film which has to find a way to animate a killer doll (I love the little feet padding silently yet malevolently about as Robert performs his evil deeds). But, in some respects, it’s quite good. After all, it’s a film about a killer doll! The best of it is the similarity between the doll and popular American character actor Willem Dafoe. Truly, it is uncanny. And I liked the economy of means, the film’s flatness. Jones seems determined to make spooky films as unspookily as possible. It’s an odd decision and I’m not sure it entirely pays off, but he throws almost everything onto the script and performers – no eerie locations or creepy music here, no forbidding shadows. Maybe one day it’ll turn out to be revolutionary, and at least there’s none of that found-footage malarkey to give you a headache. The problem is that by concentrating so much on the writing and the acting the faults in the script and the performances are more noticeable. As a writer Jones doesn’t know how to get to the core of a scene, so we have to listen to whole conversations from ‘good morning’ to ‘good night’ rather than just zeroing in on the significant bits. This laborious scripting perhaps explains why the usually rather wonderful Lee Bane seems to be slightly off his game: surely he should be picking cues up quicker in some of the rows. Nevertheless, he makes a good bluff idiot husband, and one happily salutes Suzie Frances Garton for acting so straight-faced opposite a block of wood (I’m referring to her scenes with the doll).

    No-one else gets much of a look-in, though Flynn Allen seems to be enjoying himself as the idiot child who doesn’t realise that his doll is a knife-wielding maniac even though it tells him so. But ultimately this is Willem Dafoe’s film all about Robert the doll itself. Huge credit goes to the doll’s creator for an agreeably creepy and hideous invention. Despite inevitable, insuperable problems (i.e. making the doll move convincingly without invoking the spirit of Gerry Anderson) you can’t go wrong with a crazy Dafoe-like doll suddenly turning its head before dishing out mayhem.

    Within very limited confines, this is a surprisingly effective film. Jones is a dogged, quite literalist director who tells the story straightforwardly, letting it weave its menace without much help (and only a little hindrance) from him. It’s by no means properly scary, but it’s just enough to be surprisingly unsettling. (Oh, and it’s all true by the way, almost, more or less, what with there being a real doll called Robert in America cursing scoffers left, right and centre. Disbelieve me at your peril…)

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