Dave Made A Maze is exactly what it says it is. It's a film that revolves around Dave (Nick Thune) having made a maze. He has made his maze out of cardboard. A lot of cardboard. And is now lost somewhere in the middle of it. Well, that is what he tells his disbelieving girlfriend, Annie (Meera Rohit Kumbhani), who then calls in his friend, Gordon (Adam Busch), who calls in a motley selection of people. Despite protests from Dave, everyone heads inside the maze, and they find themselves in an elaborate cardboard world that includes booby traps, living cardboard creatures, and a certain maze-dwelling mythological character.
What this film lacks in budget and star power, although there is at least one familiar face in the cast, it more than makes up for with creativity, wonderful production design and plenty of wit. Director Bill Watterson, who co-wrote the screenplay with story originator Steven Sears, shows no signs of insecurity or indecision in his debut feature. Instead, he effortlessly draws viewers into the surreal world created onscreen and blends common movie moments with a delightfully childish selection of interpretations.
And it's not just the consistently inventive visual style that entertains. The script is full of wonderful gags that range from the sublime to the ridiculous, whether it's people finding themselves suddenly trying to discuss their problems in rhyming couplets or a running gag with people delivering a particular line from Raging Bull.
The cast also help to sell the silliness and make you care about something that could have easily been risible and too daffy to bother with. Thune and Kumbhani have the two hardest roles, because Dave has brought this upon himself and Annie could easily either come across as too weak for not standing up to him. Their performances are, however, helped by a script that places them where they need to be without dragging them to any annoying extremes, and it's easy to sense that the couple have problems, but also that they really do love one another and want to move forward when they next get the chance. Busch has an easier role, and he's arguably the highlight of the film with his mix of admiration for the maze and concern for his friend. James Urbaniak, Frank Caeti, and Scott Narver are also very entertaining as the small (amateur) film crew documenting the journey into the maze, and both Stephanie Allynne and Kirsten Vangsness at least get a couple of great moments.
Although horror fans will appreciate the absurd and elaborate moments that lead to enjoyably ungory deaths, Dave Made A Maze is definitely not one that should be sold as a horror film. It's a fantastical adventure with some time set aside for relationship counselling. And lots and lots of cardboard.
You can buy the film here, although I don't know about the shipping options.