It’s always regrettable when we have to give the big ‘thumbs-down’ to a creative endeavour which a group of very well-meaning, hard-working people have spent a lot of time and energy putting together. But sometimes we have to be cruel to be kind. So here we go again. Robert, written and directed by Welshman Andrew Jones, is a straight-to-DVD stinker of almost Biblical proportions. It purports to be based on a true story which, in turn, inspired the notorious Chucky movies but it’s so clumsy and jaw-droppingly amateurish it’s likely to give you nightmares for reasons which are nothing to do with its disturbing or horrific content but merely at the memory of having endured the bloody thing.
The Otto family – nervy, neurotic Martha, dopey hubby Paul and half-awake son Gene – live in a big house in... well, it’s hard to tell quite where it is. Half the cast affect terrible American accents (apart from Lee Bane as Paul whose accent is pure Newport, South Wales) and yet the filming locations are in West Wales holiday resorts Swansea and Saundersfoot (although the director occasionally ineptly inserts the chirruping of cicadas on the soundtrack to suggest we might be somewhere in America). They sack their ageing housekeeper Agatha, apparently purely on the grounds that she’s getting on a bit. She gives them a stupid-looking doll called Robert as a parting gift. But Robert is possessed by some sort of demon and he sets off on a deeply-unsubtle killing spree (he daubs ‘DIE’ in Martha’s mirror in lipstick in one sequence), merrily bumping off babysitters and nannies before launching his final attack on Martha and Paul.
There’s very little of worth here. Jones directs with all the flair of a pair of trousers from the 1970s, the clunky, lifeless dialogue tumbles like bricks from the mouths of actors who would shame a fifth-rate Church Hall Am-Dram group. Robert the doll looks as if he’s got cataracts and his murderous rampage is so poorly-choreographed and photographed it’s not only hard to work out quite what he’s doing it’s even harder to give a damn. Most of the film is shot indoors, which is just as well because when it wanders outside for one or two scenes the director, who at least seems able to point the camera in the right direction indoors, is all over the place in the open air; one sequence is punctuated by the constant heavy roar of overhead aircraft which at least mercifully distracts from the witless acting and woeful dialogue.
More by accident than judgement, we’re sure, Jones manages to frame a couple of scenes with something approaching competence and there’s just an outside chance one or two viewers (and we sincerely hope this movie doesn’t get more than one or two viewers) might be caught on the hop by the twist ending and feel they haven’t completely wasted their time and money. Because Robert really is a waste of time, a terrible movie in the very worst possible sense and it’s genuinely frustrating and annoying to see stuff like this getting into the High Street when much better efforts remains out there, unloved and unappreciated. Robert is horrible, ghastly; file under ‘must avoid’ and then run for the hills.
ROBERT / CERT: 15 / DIRECTOR & SCREENPLAY: ANDREW JONES / STARRING: MEGAN LOCKHURST, LEE BANE, SUZIE FRANCES GARTON / RELEASE DATE: OUT NOW