March 5, 2018 The Revenge of Robert the Doll (Movie Review)
The original Robert the Doll is a boy in a sailor suit, and it is said that anyone who fails to ‘respect’ it will be cursed. In the film series by Writer-Director Andrew Jones (The Amityville Asylum 2013, Cabin 28 2017), Robert looks vaguely like the title character in the Goosebumps’ book Night of the Living Dummy. After terrorizing a family in 2015’s Robert, a museum in 2016’s The Curse of Robert the Doll, and fighting Nazis in its 2017 prequel spin-off Robert and The Toymaker, Robert returns to fight more Nazis in The Revenge of Robert the Doll.
According to lore, the original doll was made in Germany at the turn of the 20th Century before reaching the US, and perhaps that fact inspired Jones to place his spin on Robert against that nation’s most infamous regime. Whatever the case, it certainly inspired The Revenge of Robert the Doll, which is due on DVD on Tuesday, March 6, 2018, through 4Digital Media. It is, well, it is something!
Here the Nazis are after a mystical book that can grant life to inanimate objects. It has been passed around from person to person, and ended up in the hands of toymaker Amos Blackfoot (Lee Bane: A Haunting at the Rectory 2015, Werewolves of the Third Reich 2017). He tries to flee the country by train but ends up finding some high-ranking Nazi officers on board. However, Blackfoot has already used the book to give his dolls life, including one he calls Robert. With the Nazis closing in, the dolls will stop at nothing to protect their ‘master’ from harm. Will they make it to the next stop or will the Third Reich get the upper hand?
If that sounds somewhat like the Puppet Master series, then one should see Jones and co.’s other films: alongside mockbusters like 2015’s Poltergeist Activity, there is the upcoming Primeval Predator and 2012’s Night of the Living Dead: Resurrection. It does not sound like they are planning on remaking 1941’s Citizen Kane anytime soon (Citizen Kane: Resurrection, perhaps?), but whether being serious or funny, the question remains: is it any good?
The above synopsis is based on one North Bank Entertainment themselves placed on the film’s IMDB page. However, a large chunk of the film is based on a woman called Eva (Eloise Oliver: Siren Song 2016, That Good Night 2017) escaping her abusive husband. She takes the mystical book with her, but predictably gets in more trouble along the way. Kidnapping, murder, betrayal: it is all rather intriguing despite some dodgy effects and the accents do not exactly sound authentic either. However, the Toymaker plot does not get going until around the 40-minute mark, after a recap of his spinoff film.
So half the film prequels its predecessor, while the other half follows on from it despite already preceding two other Robert films. It is not unheard of: 1974’s The Godfather Part II managed to pull it off (well, the prequel-sequel bit anyway), but Jones is not exactly Francis Ford Coppola. That film managed to arrange its halves in a way that did not require a plot dump of its previous film to connect them. This approach makes it feel like two TV specials welded together; they might as well have preceded the recap with a ‘Previously on…’ voiceover clip.
Also, despite being the title part of the film, the second half is weaker than the first. There is dodgy makeup to join the already dodgy accents, as Bane’s Toymaker old-man look is less than stellar. The camera work takes a step down too, with the editing exposing itself in some pretty bad ways. For example, the film shows a steam locomotive pulling the train in its establishing shots during the day. But just a few minutes later, once the sun sets and the full moon is out, it transforms into a modern train with some locomotive sounds pasted over it. Maybe Jones or Cinematographer Jonathan McLaughlin (Doorways 2015, Prevenge 2016) hoped nobody would notice it in the dark, though it would have been easier to cut to the moving coaches alone in that case.
The acting is not that hot either. The first half has the stronger performances, with Oliver and Gareth Lawrence (Night Surf 2015, Bunny the Killer Thing 2015) standing out as the best of the bunch. The second half? It’s best is either Bane during emotional moments or Harriet Rees (My Girl 2017, Werehouse 2018) doing a passable take as a ghost. It is only downhill from there with Derek Nelson (Last Night of the Year 2015, Alcatraz Island 2018) bugging his eyes and flaring his nostrils at people to look tough; it does not quite work. Robert does a better job at looking creepy with just one expression.
There are few plus points with The Revenge of Robert the Doll: the camera quality throughout is clear and clean, with the occasional nice shot (lunar transforming trains aside). The music is okay too, adding some atmosphere to some scenes. Otherwise, once the 40-minute mark passes and Robert and the Toymaker show up, it goes to some silly places. The drama does not hit its mark, and there are few, if any, scares to be had.
Some could say the real Robert cursed the film for its lack of respect, but judging by its final credit the only ones cursed are the audience. Based on its first half against everything else, CrypticRock gives The Revenge of Robert the Doll 2 out of 5 stars.