Dave Made a Maze

Brandon Richardson | 1/09/2017

Actor-turned-director Bill Watterson’s initial venture into the world of direction is surely memorable, although not necessarily remarkable.

Annie (Meera Rohit Kumbhani) returns home from a weekend away to find that her struggling artist boyfriend Dave (Nick Thune) has commandeered their living room to build a cardboard fort. On investigating, Dave tells her that he has lost himself in the labyrinth he has built inside, complete with booby traps and obstacles, and warns her not to enter. Annie calls around Gordon (Adam Busch), Leonard (Scott Krinsky), Harry (James Urbaniak), Brynn (Stephanie Allynne) and others both to ridicule and help Dave. However, mounting their rescue mission, they soon realise the dangers Dave warned them of are very much real, and the maze has a life of its own.


To describe this film as unique would be an understatement. Creativity oozes from every aspect, highlighted by the surreal pretence of small cardboard fort containing an enormous, self-perpetuating maze. Watterson uses this backdrop to poke fun at 80s horror-movie cliches and lunacy, whilst also delivering some scares and a commentary on motivation to achieve. By far the most stunning aspect of this film is the wonderful set design, constructing a visual masterpiece entirely out of cardboard on a shoestring budget. Yet despite all this, there is still something deeply unsatisfying about this movie.


The film takes the somewhat ironic tactic of mocking horror tropes by using them, often to little comedic impact. The poorly explained and sometimes illogical plot points begin to take their toll and frustration develops. Indeed, it is difficult to completely immerse yourself in the idea that this simple mess of cardboard boxes can’t just be knocked down from inside. Even as a creative piece, the film sometimes falls into the trap of artistry for artistry’s sake. This is most evident in a later sequence with Annie and Dave repeating the same scene three times, but with different props and delivery of the lines giving each scene a different feel. If this sounds out of place with the film described above, it’s because it is very out of place with no discernable connection to what happens before or after.


The dialogue frequently contributes to this disjointed feel, most notably from the character of Dave. Responses can seem almost unrelated to the question that preceded it, and answers that any rational person would demand in the situation are not given. Although this may well be another jab at old horror films, it becomes an annoyance quite quickly. The comedy, despite feeling somewhat natural, does not always blend well with the serious tones of what is, in part, a horror film. This is not to say these elements cannot blend, as films like This is the End did so very well, but the comedy here is not strong enough to carry the film on its own, and so these elements sum to detract from the impact that this movie could have had.


Featuring at the Brisbane International Film Festival, it’s three showings have now all concluded, but pre-orders for digital, DVD and BluRay versions are available at www.davemadeamaze.com


While the creativity of Dave made a maze is certainly refreshing, aside from the wonderful set design and artistic flair, there is little that the film truly excels at.