Before Annabelle, there was … Robert!
And yes, we’re talking about a real doll that is (allegedly) cursed. We’re going way back to 1906 where a young boy named Robert Eugene Otto was given a cursed doll by an Bahamian servant as a birthday gift. The rumors say that she was treated badly by the Otto family, and hoped that the doll would give them misfortunes. And the story is pretty much a nothing-burger from there on. Robert got married in 1930 in France, and moved back to his childhood home in the United States with his wife where they spent the rest of their lives. Robert died in 1974 and his wife two years later. Two decades later, the doll was donated to a museum in Florida where it’s been ever since. And the legend says that he’s still cursed and causes things like car accidents, broken bones, job loss, divorce and of course mass shootings (just kidding).
In this film, very loosely inspired by Robert the doll, we meet the privileged rich couple Paul and Jenny, and their 12-year-old son Gene. They live in a nice house, with nothing much to complain about. While Paul works in the justice system, Jenny is a depressed, nagging, demanding, sour, pathetic bitch of a woman with a really irritating voice, and is a completely unlikeable person from the start. Nothing is good enough for her, and she sacks the housekeeper Agatha for being a little forgetful. In order to get revenge, she picks up a doll hidden in the attic that the previous homeowners left behind, and gives it as a farewell gift to their son. Robert the doll looks of course completely different in reality, and here he looks more or less like Annabelle with short hair. And as mentioned, Robert is cursed and kills people who don’t respect him, such as pushing people down the stairs and attacking with a baseball bat. We could only hope that the doll wipes out Jenny first, but we’re not so lucky.
Gene quickly becomes friends with Robert, who starts talking to him. His mother wakes up to strange noises at night, finds things broken on the floor, and of course suspects Gene. We see some POV shots of Robert as he lurks around the house, writes “Die” on the mirrors with lipstick, and sabotages one of Jenny’s paintings. Sounds like some decent ideas for some suspenseful scenes, but it looks more like a cheap student film made for YouTube. It tries to be a serious horror film just like a mouse trying to be an elephant.
There is zero chemistry between the actors, with personalities like a grey rock, and it is impossible to buy Paul and Jenny as a married couple and feel any underlying danger and tension. It’s complete flat-line where one hopes that Robert kills the whole family after the first ten minutes, just to pull the plug and be done with it. The kid who plays their son Gene is possibly the worst child actor I’ve ever seen. Most of the film is painfully slow with lazy and uninspired directing, wooden acting, and the few murder scenes are just ridiculous and goofy which gives no other impact than some great laughs. The ending is especially hilarious. So even though Robert is mainly a bore-fest, it’s a perfect film to tear to shreds and a good showcase on how not to make a movie in general.
And there’s actually four sequels, believe it or not: The Curse of Robert , The Toymaker , The Legend of Robert the Doll and Robert Reborn.
Director: Andrew Jones
Country & year: UK, 2015
Actors: Suzie Frances Garton, Lee Bane, Flynn Allen, Judith Haley, Cyd Casados, Samuel Hutchison, Megan Lockhurst, Annie Davies, Ryan Michaels