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Dave Made a Maze (2017)

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Dave Made a Maze

Starring Nike Thune, Adam Busch, Meera Rohit Kumbhani, John Hennigan, Stephanie Allyne

Directed by Bill Watterson


Sometimes a movie comes along and blows you away with its inventiveness, its creativity, and its absolutely delightful presentation. Such is the case with Bill Watterson’s Dave Made a Maze, the practical effects-driven adventure film that proudly displays its love of horror without making it the focal point.

Dave Made a Maze follows Dave (Nick Thune), an artist who never seems to finish any project he sets his mind on. Unable to feel accomplished or like he has a purpose, he begins building a cardboard maze and finds that he cannot stop. When his girlfriend Annie (Meera Rohit Kumbhani) comes home from a trip, she finds their apartment in shambles and an intricate cardboard fortress in the middle of their living room. By talking with Dave, she learns that he apparently can’t find his way out of the box, which contains a maze that is much bigger on the inside than what is seen on the outside (think Mark Z. Danielewski’s House of Leaves). Gathering several friends, Annie and her band of merry misfits ignore Dave’s warnings to stay out and venture inside only to find that everything Dave said is true. Making their way through the labyrinthian maze, Annie and Co. stumble across deadly booby traps, surreal environments, and a bloodthirsty minotaur.

Right away, what is astounding about this film is the level of passion and love that went into each and every set. Using vast amounts of cardboard, Dave Made a Maze creates sets that are simply delightful, each one intricately detailed and full of character and charm. While it may seem impossible – or, at the very least, extremely difficult – for sets built using almost nothing but cardboard to have their own unique identity, that’s exactly what you’ll see here. Oftentimes I found myself laughing and smiling with pure glee at what I was witnessing. I felt like a child again, watching the joy of imagination come to life in front of my eyes.

As mentioned previously, the film loves horror but that’s not the foundation. Rather, it’s part of a greater story of romance, adventure, drama, and comedy. It’s like life, in that regard. It takes elements of each of these genres and combines them almost effortlessly into a fairy tale that is as genuinely human as it is magical and surreal.

While Thune’s Dave is the titular character, the real star of this film is Kumbhani, who is charming and engaging. Additionally, Adam Busch’s Gordon is wonderful with his deadpan delivery. I would also be remiss if I didn’t give a nod to The Mondo Boys and their thrilling, emotional score. Towards the end of the film, there’s a fantasy-esque scene with a sword (I won’t spoil it any further) and the music elevated the scene to a soaring crescendo.

I only have two gripes about Dave Made a Maze, the first being that Dave’s character feels very one-dimensional. The majority of his lines are centered around how he needs to finish the maze, even while people around him are dying or are in fear for their lives. At points, his repetition comes across as a childish tantrum where things either need to go his way or the highway. Secondly, even though the film is a lean 80-minutes long, there’s a period between the 2nd and 3rd acts that feels like it drags, slowing the pace of the film to a near tortoise-like crawl.

In conclusion, Dave Made a Maze is, without a doubt, one of the most entertaining and exciting films that 2017 has to offer. Bill Watterson’s directorial debut has set an amazingly high bar for whatever comes next.

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User Rating 3.39 (18 votes)

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Who Goes There Podcast: Ep 152 – Cloverfield Paradox & The Ritual

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Last week Netflix shocked the world by not only releasing a new trailer for Cloverfield Paradox during the Superbowl, but announcing the film would be available to stream right after the game. In a move no one saw coming, Netflix shook the film industry to it’s very core. A few days later, Netflix quietly released horror festival darling: The Ritual.

Hold on to your Higgs Boson, because this week we’ve got a double header for ya, and we’re not talking about that “world’s largest gummy worm” in your mom’s nightstand. Why was one film marketed during the biggest sporting event of the year, and why was one quietly snuck in like a pinky in your pooper? Tune in a find out!

Meet me at the waterfront after the social for the Who Goes There Podcast episode 152!

If you like what you hear, please consider joining our Patreon subscribers. For less than the cost of a beer, you get bonus content, exclusive merchandise, special giveaways, and you get to help us continue doing what we love.

The Who Goes There Podcast is available to subscribe to on iTunes right here. Not an iTunes user? You can listen on our Dread Central page. Can’t get enough? We also do that social media shit. You’ll find us on FacebookTwitterInstagramTwitch, and YouTube.

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The Housemaid Review – Love Makes the Ghost Grow Stronger

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Starring Nhung Kate, Jean-Michel Richaud, Kim Xuan

Written and directed by Derek Nguyen


Vietnamese horror films are something of a rarity due largely to pressure from the country’s law enforcement agencies that have warned filmmakers to steer clear of the genre in recent years. The country’s exposure to the industry is limited, but that doesn’t mean that there aren’t a handful of filmmakers out there that are passionate and determined to get their art out into the world. IFC Midnight has stepped up to the plate to shepherd writer/director Derek Nguyen’s period ghost thriller The Housemaid in hopes of getting it in front of American horror fans.

Aside from a few moments that delve into soap opera territory, Nguyen’s film is full of well-crafted scares and some surprisingly memorable scenes that sneak up at just the right times. For history buffs there’s also a lot of material to sink your teeth into dealing with French Colonial rule and mistreatment of the Vietnamese during the 1950’s. Abuse that, if you’re not careful, could lead to a vengeful spirit seeking atonement.

Desperate and exhausted after walking for miles, an orphaned woman named Linh (Kate) seeks refuge and employment as a housemaid at a large rubber plantation in 1953 French Indochina. Once hired, she learns of the dark history surrounding the property and how her mere presence has awakened an accursed spirit that wanders the surrounding woods and dark corners of the estate. Injured in battle, French officer Sebastien Laurent (Richaud) returns to preside over the manor and, unexpectedly, begins a dangerous love affair with Linh that stirs up an even darker evil.

Told in flashbacks, the abuse of workers reveals a long history of mistreatment that enshrouds the surrounding land in darkness and despair, providing ripe ground for a sinister spirit that continues to grow stronger. Once it’s revealed that the ghost has a long history with Laurent before her death, the reasons she begins to kill become more and more obvious as the death toll piles up. Using the real life history of indentured servants during Colonial rule, The Housemaid becomes more than just a self-contained ghost story, adding a good deal of depth to a story that could have just centered around a love triangle among Laurent, Linh, and the specter of Laurent’s dead wife.

Powered by desire to avenge tortured workers of the past and the anger fueled by seeing her husband in the embrace of a peasant girl, the apparition is frightening and eerily beautiful as she stalks her victims. One scene in particular showing her wielding an axe is the most indelible image to take away from the film, and other moments like it are what make The Housemaid a standout. The twisted sense of romance found in a suffering spirit scorned in death is the heart of the story even if the romance between the two living lovers winds up having more screen time.

The melodrama and underwhelming love scenes between Linh and Laurent are the least effective part of The Housemaid, revealing some of Nguyen’s limitations in providing dialogue and character moments that make us connect with these two characters as much as we do when the ghost is lurking around the frame. What does help to save the story is a well kept secret revealing a connection with the housemaid and the apparition.

Honestly, if this was an American genre film, the limitations seen in The Housemaid might cause more criticism, but seeing an emerging artist and his team out of Vietnam turn out a solid product like this leads me to highlight the good and champion the effort in hopes of encouraging more filmmakers to carry the flag. Ironically, the film is set for a U.S. remake in the near future.

The Housemaid hits select theaters, VOD, and digital platforms TODAY, February 16th.

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Summary

Using the real life history of indentured servants during Colonial rule, The Housemaid becomes more than just a self-contained ghost story, adding a good deal of depth to a story that could have just centered around a love triangle.

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Scorched Earth Review – Gina Carano Making Motherf**kers Pay In The Apocalypse

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Starring Gina Carano, John Hannah, Ryan Robbins

Written by Bobby Mort and Kevin Leeson

Directed by Peter Howitt


Let me preface this review by stating right off the bat that I’m a huge Gina Carano fan, and will pretty much accept her in any role that she’s put in (are you going to tell her no), regardless of the structure and plausibility behind it, and while that might make me a tad-bit biased in my opinions, just accept it as that and nothing more. Now that I’ve professed my cinematic devotion to the woman, let’s dive headlong into her latest film, Scorched Earth.

Directed by Peter Howitt, the backdrop is an apocalyptic world brought on by the imminent disaster known as global warming, and the air has become toxic to intake, generally leaving inhabitants yacking up blood and other viscous liquids after a prolonged exposure, unless you’re one of the privileged that possesses a filter lined with powdered silver. Filters of water and the precious metal are in high demand, and only true offenders in this world still drive automobiles, effectively speeding up the destruction of what’s left of the planet. Carano plays Atticus Gage, a seriously stoic and tough-as-nails bounty hunter who is responsible for taking these “criminals” down, and her travels lead her to a compound jam-packed with bounties that will have her collecting riches until the end of time…but aren’t we at the end of time already? Anyway, Gage’s main opponent here is a man by the name of Thomas Jackson (Robbins) – acting as the leader of sorts to these futuristic baddies, the situation of Gage just stepping in and taking him out becomes a bit complicated when…oh, I’m not going to pork this one up for you all – you’ve got to invest the time into it just as I did, and trust me when I tell you that the film is pretty entertaining to peep.

While Carano’s acting still needs some refining, let there be no ever-loving mistake that this woman knows how to beat the shit out of people, and for all intents and purposes this will be the thing that carries her through many a picture. There are much larger roles in the future for Gina, and she’ll more than likely take over as a very big player in the industry – hey, I’m a gambling man, and I’ve done pretty well with my powers of prognostication. With that being said, the thing that does hold this picture back is the plot itself- it’s a bit stale and not overly showy, and when I look for a villain to oppose the hero, I’m wanting someone with at least a shred of a magnetic iota, and I just couldn’t latch onto anything with Robbins’ performance – his character desperately needed an injection of “bad-assness” and it hurt in that particular instance.

In the end of it all, I’d recommend Scorched Earth to fans of directionless, slam-bang wasteland pics with a touch of unrestrained violence…plus, Gina Carano is in it, so you can’t go wrong. If you’re not a fan of any of the above, feel free to skate on along to another piece of barren territory.

  • Scorched Earth
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Summary

Looking to get your butt kicked in the apocalypse with extreme prejudice? Drive on up, and allow me to introduce you to someone who’ll be more than happy to oblige.

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