Imagine coming home one afternoon and finding your other half has chosen not to complete the list of chores you left them, but has instead crafted a maze out of cardboard boxes on the floor of your apartment. Pretty frustrating, right? Well, when Annie (Meera Rohit Kumbhani) finds herself in this exact predicament, nothing can prepare her for the bizarre road that lay ahead. You see, her boyfriend Dave, (Nick Thune) has constructed the maze and managed to get stuck inside it, leaving Annie no choice but to venture inside, (with a few friends and a documentary crew), to rescue him.
Once inside, we discover Dave’s maze is a lot like the TARDIS – infinitely bigger on the inside, and expanding by the minute. What looked like half a dozen cardboard boxes from the outside, turns out to be a spiraling labyrinth, complete with booby traps, vicious origami birds, and its very own man-eating Minotaur (John Hennigan).
If this sounds like a weird concept for a movie, it’s because it is. Dave Made a Maze is very weird, but it is as great as it is strange. The world of Dave Made a Maze is one that you’d expect to see in a Terry Gilliam movie, or an episode of The Mighty Boosh. The sets may be cardboard but don’t be fooled, there has clearly been more time and effort spent making the claustrophobic feel of Dave’s maze than you might find in a Hollywood blockbuster.
Critics have described it as “Labyrinth for adults”, but that’s too easy. Sure, there’s an undeniable element of homage to Jim Henson’s iconic movie, but Dave Made a Maze is impressive enough to stand alone on its own bizarro merits. Directed by Bill Watterson (not that one), Dave Made a Maze is perhaps the cleverest movie you’ll watch all year. Part budget quest movie, part horror satire, it also speaks volumes about the ideas of isolation, and losing yourself inside your own mind.
Perhaps the only real failings of Dave Made a Maze, is that two thirds of the supporting cast mean nothing to us. They’re as 2-dimensional as a flat piece of cardboard, among a small handful of well sculpted characters. That would be fine if they had stayed outside of the maze, but once inside they merely operate the red-coat role, obvious cannon fodder for the traps hidden within. The filmmaker could have spent more time developing his cast so that we cared a little more when they met their inevitable doom.
Dave Made a Maze has only had a limited release so far, and it’s a given that it wont be breaking any records at the box office. That’s OK though, because it isn’t a film for the masses. It is more likely to be one of those word-of-mouth sensations that maintains a strong fan base among audiences who appreciate it for its simplicity and its whimsy. It’s a breath of fresh air that hints at exciting things to come from the mind of its creator. Dave might have made a maze, but Bill Watterson has made an unforgettable fantasy movie and it’s a-maze-ing.