Sometimes you get films that feel that they’ve been made in the wrong time period. Don’t take that as criticism for Dave Made a Maze (2017), out now on Disc and Digital Download. It’s not, it’s just that it feels like it should have come out ten years ago. Sure, the characters are all Millennials rather than Gen Xers and the style is definitely post 2010. No, what makes it feel like it should have come out a decade ago is that it is a quirky film from a first time Writer/Director with a cast of relative unknowns.
You don’t really get that these days, not even on the Indy film circuit. Almost early Kevin Smith in that regard.
After an animated prologue recounting the stories previous 48 hours, Annie (Meera Rohit Kumbhani) returns home to find that her artist boyfriend Dave (Nick Thune) has built a cardboard box fort in the middle of their apartment. Not only that, Dave claims he has been lost inside for the last 30 hours. Despite Dave’s warning of danger, Annie attempts a rescue, aided by their friends Gordon (Adam Busch), filmmaker Harry (James Urbaniak) and his crew, and a gaggle of curious onlookers. It is only once inside that they realise the TARDIS like dimesons of the paper labyrinth that has grown beyond Dave’s control, with deadly craft shop booby-traps, vicious origami birds, and a six-foot-tall cardboard Minotaur (John Morrison).
As symbolism and subtext go, Dave Made a Maze is pretty straight forward. Dave is a thirty-year-old man, a struggling artist and procrastinator, unable to complete anything, who finds himself trapped in a maze of his own creation, and one he started at the centre and worked out from. Unable to complete anything, Dave knows that once he completes the maze they’ll be free of it. But even though it’s blatant, doesn’t mean that it isn’t astute in its understanding. The key moment comes when Dave links being financially broke with being broken. Dave’s inability to complete anything comes from less from distraction and procrastination, and more from this existential dread; a feeling of worthlessness in a material focused society.
Dave bills itself as a fantasy adventure comedy horror. A quicker way to describe it is that it’s a magic realist film. We never find out why the maze is bigger on the inside, what controls it, or why it grows. And that’s okay; we are never meant to understand it, just accept it. The fantastical existing alongside every day enables a fantastical stylistic approach that allows people to bleed red yarn instead of the blood and transform into paper puppets of themselves.
Those things aside, Dave is not without its issues. Most of the characters lack the third demission and you can work out exactly who is going to die within the first ten minutes. I wouldn’t call them cannon fodder because fodder serves a purpose, more involuntary euthanasia; their deaths have no impact on the lead characters. For those making it through there is no arc, no growth or range with many of them. They fill single duty character archetypes, the nerdy best friend, the preppy girl, and the dim-witted slob. In moments of high emotional tension, Dave remembers that it’s a comedy and throws in a jarring shot that snaps you straight back out of it. Several scenes serve little to no purpose to the story, and none for the characters development and either should have stayed on the cutting room floor or have been edited down.
But these are little gripes, not major deal breakers. It is actually funny and will cause heavy laughter, though rarely at the absurdity of being trapped in a giant cardboard maze. The Blu Ray comes with making-of features, film commentary and trailers.
Made on a small budget, Dave Made a Maze is a fresh, innovative first for director Bill Watterson.
Dir: Bill Watterson
Src: Bill Watterson, Steven Sears
Cast: Meera Rohit Kumbhani, Nick Thune, Adam Busch, James Urbaniak, John Morrison
Prd: John Charles Meyer
DOP: Jon Boal
Music: Mondo Boys
Runtime: 80 minutes