Dave Made A Maze
"A film full of dazzling visual invention." | Photo: Arrow Video

Did you build mazes, forts or labyrinths as a kid? Most of us gave it a try at some point. Dave (Nick Thune) is in his thirties and may have better things he should be doing with his time, but he's bored whilst girlfriend Annie (Meera Rohit Kumbhani) is out of town, so he gets creative. When Annie returns home to find a complex cardboard structure in the living room she takes it in her stride, simply asking how long it will be there for. That's until she realises that he can't get out.

Has he had some kind of breakdown? Annie doesn't know. When she takes to the boxes with a Stanley knife, strange noises issue forth and he cries out in distress. So she calls all his friends (and a homeless man who says he knows a lot about cardboard), ready to stage an intervention. Instead, despite Dave's protestations, they end up heading inside the maze to look for him. There they discover that it's much bigger than it appeared, that it's full of potentially deadly traps, and that they're being hunted by a minotaur.

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The product of many years' dedicated work by a team that refused to give up, this is a film full of dazzling visual invention. Inside the maze, cardboard and paper creations come to life in spectacular ways, origami birds fluttering through the air and strange, tentacles beasts lurking in tissue paper swamps. There's an acknowledged debt to Jim Henson but Dave Made A Maze is never derivative - it has (literally) crafted a world of its own and it's a place that many viewers are likely to fall in love with. Although the characters are nowhere near as developed as the sets, the leads are likeable enough to keep us rooting for them and the screenplay neatly balances metaphorical elements with action.

It's not perfectly paced - some stretches are slow and have been padded out with repetitive dialogue. The film-within-a-film schtick (one of Dave's friends makes a documentary as they go) sometimes becomes too intrusive. The characters' befuddlement and uncertainty as to the best way to proceed is no doubt realistic - much more so than the snappy decision making we see in most films - but it saps energy from proceedings. Fortunately there is usually enough visual distraction to prevent these becoming major problems. There are also a few nicely paced jokes and references but they're never allowed to intrude on the story.

Aimed at adults but not unsuitable for children as long as they can cope with a bit of abstract cardboard sexual imagery, this is a true original. If you're intrigued by the concept and not put off by its playfulness, you'll find it a treat.

Reviewed on: 23 Jan 2019
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Dave Made A Maze packshot
One afternoon, Dave builds a cardboard maze in his living room, gets lost in it, and discovers that it's full of traps and monsters which he doesn't remember creating.

Director: Bill Watterson

Writer: Bill Watterson, Steven Sears

Starring: Nick Thune, Meera Rohit Kumbhani, Adam Busch, Kirsten Vangsness

Year: 2017

Runtime: 81 minutes

BBFC: 15 - Age Restricted

Country: US


Grimmfest 2017

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