Dave Made a Maze (2017)

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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Jonathan Barkan

Lifelong horror fan with a love of music on the side.

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