IMDB Rating: 3.2 / 10
Down here in South Africa we are blessed to have a language called Afrikaans. For those of you unfamiliar with the language, Afrikaans is a descendant of Dutch with a vocabulary enhanced by borrowing from other languages it came into contact with during South Africa’s rather tumultuous past.
Afrikaans is an absolutely essential language to have at your disposal if you want to be angry because it has that good harsh, Germanic sound to it (half the time it sounds like you have a throat infection) that English has sadly lost over the years. A good staple word in Afrikaans for when you’re angry is ‘kak’. Directly translated it means ‘shit’, but it can also be used as an adjective to enforce the shittiness of what you’re trying to describe – kak stupid, kak boring, kak expensive, and so on.
And why did I just give you this language lesson? Because Robert is a kak movie, and English just wasn’t going to be enough to get that point across.
Paul and Jenny are two typical English people in that they’re completely devoid of any passion or emotional closeness, living in an old house where their awful bedding matches the similarly horrendous wallpaper. Jenny’s a stay at home mom who occasionally takes to painting things, and because this is understandably demanding of her time they have full-time help in the form of Agatha. Dear Agatha’s unfortunately going a bit loopy, so this senile old woman is put out on the street because she couldn’t find the dust pan. As a parting gift she leaves Paul and Jenny’s son, Gene, a doll named Robert. Agatha tells Gene that if he’s nice to Robert, Robert will be friends with him till the very end (hidey-ho, ha ha ha).
In a way that isn’t at all a mash-up of Annabelle and Child’s Play strange things start happening around the house as soon as Robert becomes a fixture. It’s small things at first, like tiny footprints on the kitchen floor, artwork being destroyed by tiny brush strokes, the new maid being pushed to her death down the stairs, nothing that would cause immediate concern. But when Jenny starts to hear two sets of voices coming from Gene’s room, she knows that something isn’t right.
Jenny’s not particularly right in her own head to start with, so this whole doll business does threaten to push her over the edge. In the blandest way possible (and with nary a cup of tea to be found to steady the nerves) Jenny must convince Paul that Robert is the reason for everything that’s going wrong in their home, their life, and their increasingly loveless marriage. But can Paul stop trying to seduce average looking maids and babysitters long enough to pay attention to his increasingly unstable wife? And what of Gene, who may or may not be growing rather fond of Robert and his shenanigans?
This movie has cinematography that makes pieces of dry rye toast seem exciting. You wouldn’t think that a movie could be done entirely in beige and eggshell colours, and yet here we are.
The main problem here is that this movie isn’t even trying to be subtle in the way that it leeches off Annabelle and Child’s Play; it doesn’t work well for the story, and it certainly doesn’t translate into the visuals. Robert’s meant to be more Chucky than Annabelle in that, while he’s haunted, he gets up and walks around to do his killing. Thing is, there’s no money in this movie to make Robert get up and walk around so occasionally all you see is a dismembered foot or hand waving about like the poor doll’s having a fit, and this is somehow meant to build tension. Also, three drops of fake flood haphazardly placed on someone’s head does not “there was blood everywhere” make.
And I still don’t know why, come rain or shine, darkness or sunlight, there were candles forever burning in that house.
Primarily boredom, sprinkled with a little rage.
The thing here is that Robert was clearly made with the intention of capitalising on the success of Annabelle but without any idea of how to actually build tension or create an effective, creepy atmosphere. I am a great fan of both Annabelle (for which I seem to be in a minority) and Child’s Play, but these are two very different kinds of haunted doll movies, and you can’t just mash them together and hope that something decent will come out at the other end.
The other problem is that the movie is too damn slow. Of its 90 minute runtime maybe a third of that is taken up by actual “action”, while the other two-thirds are taken up by people needlessly talking and walking around. I genuinely get the impression that this was actually meant to be a movie about a woman’s slow descent into madness that had the Robert doll tacked on at the last-minute. Not that the original idea would’ve been much better since nobody in this movie could act if their very lives depended on it, but at least it wouldn’t have tarnished the name of a good haunted doll in the process.
If nothing else this movie taught me that there are a lot of ways to die, mainly because I was thinking of inventive ways that I could off myself as a means of not having to watch the rest of this God awful film.
My Final Rating: 2 / 10
Buy Robert at Amazon.com