By ALEX DELLER
Starring Nick Thune, Meera Rohit Kumbhani, Adam Busch, James Urbaniak and Rick Overton
Directed by Bill Watterson
Written by Bill Watterson and Steven Sears
Armed with a small budget and a bunch of big ideas, director Bill Watterson and his team have crafted a surreal and entertainingly individual hymn to stifled creativity and pointless, procrastinating compulsion.
DAVE MADE A MAZE introduces us to modern archetype Dave (Nick Thule): a humdrum, infinitely-relatable 30-something who whiles away his days on ambitious dreams that never reach fruition. Or so it seems, until long-suffering girlfriend Annie (Meera Rohit Kumbhani, armed with the film’s smartest lines) returns home to find an elaborate cardboard maze in their living room, and Dave lost somewhere within its winding corridors.
Dave is adamant that no one else enter and that the project be finished, and it’s not long before pals (hipsters, holidaying Flemmish tourists and, conveniently, a documentary film crew) turn up for beer, pizza and to see what the hell Dave has been up to over the course of this latest mid-mid life crisis.
Naturally it’s not long before said sightseers enter the maze despite Dave’s vehement protestations, and with the maze sucking up blood (drawn from a papercut, natch) like the HELLRAISER house it’s clear that the strange edifice is not entirely friendly.
“The unwitting visitors are despatched in confetti bursts of blood and silly string streamers of gut.”
The maze’s interior exhibits Tardis-like qualities: a strange, evolving, trap-strewn environment populated by origami birds and a dark, glowering presence stalking the halls. The unwitting visitors are despatched in confetti bursts of blood and silly string streamers of gut, giving proceedings the feel of dark 80s kid flicks like LABYRINTH or THE GOONIES colliding with the warped logic of KILLER KLOWNS FROM OUTER SPACE.
The genius is that the whole thing is, by its very nature, supposed to look homespun and hokey, meaning a low budget and a shedload of creative production design go a long way, whether delivering moments of frantic puppetry, a genuinely creepy carboard simulacrum or cute perceptual tricks and tics that seem to be thrown into the mix just for the sheer silly joy of it.
That it’s a debut feature occasionally shows (some of the humour misses the mark, while certain sequences sag a little in the middle) but, like Dave himself, the filmmakers have created something that shouldn’t really work but somehow takes on a startling life of its own.