Monday, February 28, 2022


I'm the rare geriatric millennial horror fan who genuinely enjoys ALL the Annabelle movies. On one hand, that shouldn't be surprising: they're well-made genre flicks that deeply understand their audience, and they star a killer doll! But on the other, they star a killer doll who, well, doesn't actually do anything.

The great Stacie Ponder has written an outstanding treatise on why Annabelle rocks. The downside, however, of this porcelain queen's success is that once other low budget horror filmmakers figured out that you can make a killer doll movie without even MOVING the main attraction, the overall quality of an already questionable subgenre had nowhere to go but down. These are movies that make Charles Band seem ambitious! 

Sadly, thirteen years into The Shortening, I'm simply running out of doll-based horror. 2015's Robert might well be the last non-Tubi made-for-pennies film I haven't clocked, so we're diving in and hope 2022 brings us a toychest full of more options.

Quick Plot: Meet Paul and Jenny Otto, a fairly awful British couple who casually fire their veteran housekeeper Agatha and bemoan how HARD it is...on them. Their much kinder son Gene is sad to lose such a close presence in his life, but Agatha, our senile but sassy MVP, doesn't go out quietly. She leaves Gene a special gift: Robert, a horrific glassy eyed doll with a history of destroying families. 

It doesn't take long for Robert to unravel the fragile Jenny, a stressed artist already on the verge of a nervous breakdown. If you're hearing echoes of ANOTHER cheaply made evil doll-destroys-frayed-family-without-actually-moving-on-camera movie, your ears do not need cleaning: while Robert definitely owes Annabelle some residuals, diehard fans of Cathy's Curse might be left wondering if this is an unofficial remake. 

I don't have time to go into all the reasons why should see Cathy's Curse (know that it was the very first film I covered here AND that I once introduced a screening of it at the Alamo Drafthouse) because it would be unfair to this, well, not very good variation of it. I SUPPOSE Robert is a better made film than that 1977 Canadian treasure, but honestly, so is that 30 second clip from the time my cat accidentally stepped on my iPhone's video button.

Written and directed by Andrew Jones, a man who has since made three more Robert movies and a barrel of similar looking titles, Robert is, you know, a killer doll movie that does everything it can to never show the doll killing. That wouldn't be a terrible thing if done well (see Annabelle and even the cheaper made Heidi) but when the stuff that DOES happen involves characters auditioning for an off-brand  antidepressant commercial's montage, it's not particularly fun. 

Still, Robert has his charms. Heck, his first act of violence is to repeat Chucky's opening flour footprint move! That's something, right?

High Points
I like a movie that has a kid who isn't the worst. Little Gene doesn't get to do much, but honestly, there's something very refreshing about just how chill he is about having a doll that's threatening the livelihood of anybody that comes in his orbit (and yes, do understand that after a lifetime of watching Charles Band productions get made with smaller budgets even as inflation soars, I am well aware that my standards are very, very low)

Low Points
Seriously: am I supposed to sympathize with an awful upper class couple who fire their long-term nanny and spend the two minutes it takes to make the decision complaining about how it makes THEIR lives hard? I hope not, because as soon as this happened (5 minutes into the movie) I was, and continue to be 100% Team Robert

Lessons Learned
Cursed dolls have a particularly sharp hatred of young women working in their home

Not helping your wife find answers to her mental illness is bad husbandry, but it's still better than cheating

You can't lock an evil spirit in the shed

The phrase "everything is relative" may be cliche, but it's never truer when applied to the evaluation of horror. In the scheme of cinema, Robert is pretty bad. In relation to other horror movies, it's just not very good. But compared to other killer doll films? Probably right in the middle. Compared SPECIFICALLY to non-studio-produced low budget productions? Above average.

Folks, I'm a very particular type of film fan.


  1. You know what sucks the most? Robert the Doll is REAL! I have a book about him and my wife hates even THE BOOK, because the pictures of him are very unsettling. Much moreso than the one in the movie. Check it out: