Due to unforeseen circumstances, reviews of the fantastic horror movies showcased at the Popcorn Frights Festival trickle out slowly. In some cases, we’re not allowed to discuss the film or even talk about having seen it, but I saw you, and you know who you are. Through that coherent opening lingual labyrinth, we reach Dave Made A Maze. The film is a horror/fantasy with a premise that seems downright silly when trying to explain it to other people. However, like any movie, the suspension of belief is all you need and in Dave Made A Maze, if you get lost with the titular character it’s a joy-filled film that’s downright amazing in its execution.
LONGLINE: A man who never finishes anything starts to build a cardboard maze in his living room. But when it becomes real, Dave has to complete his maze or die trying.
Viewers will argue whether or not Dave Made A Maze is a horror movie in the strictest sense of the term.
Dave (Nick Thune) is a 30-something suffering from wanderlust and an inability to see things through in life. Regardless of his shortcomings, Dave lands a gorgeous girlfriend, Annie (Meera Rohit Kumbhani) who comes home from a trip to find a maze in their living room. Missing from the living space, however, is Dave, who is trapped inside the maze because “It’s bigger on the inside.” Dave is lost inside, and Annie is now determined to help. Unfortunately, destroying the cardboard construct would kill Dave. So, Annie enlists the help of friends. Friend-by-friend, an impromptu party forms in the apartment before the decision to launch a rescue mission sends (nearly) everyone inside.
Dave Made A Maze begins with a confession by Dave from within the maze. We know nothing about the structure at all at this point, so we only learn that Dave is responsible for the death of people. And as the people head in, viewers are made to wonder which one of the oddball characters, including Adam Busch (Warren to Buffy fans).
It only takes a few seconds for each person to realize that the maze is magically bigger on the inside. The cardboard labyrinth deserves endless praise. The filmmakers took heaps and heaps of cardboard and created sets that bring to life the ever-present maze surrounding the story. In one sequence, the maze comes alive with a talking wall. In another moment, a character is trapped in a cardboard body and manipulated like a puppet.
Variety threw some shade on the film saying that it’s “never particularly funny or meaningful” which, if you want to be a cynical asshat then you’d be right.
Viewers will argue whether or not Dave Made A Maze is a horror movie in the strictest sense of the term. It’s not. It is a fantasy film with horror elements, particularly those that subvert the genre in some fun ways. For instance, origami birds coming to life and attacking Dave and Annie or beheadings that result in silly string blood.
No self-respecting maze would be complete without a minotaur. As Dave and his gang work their way around the labyrinth, a stomping beast, played by WWE wrestler John Hennigan, roams the passages. On top of Hennigan’s thick, muscular body is a full bull head, horns, snout, and all, made out of intricately detailed cardboard.
Variety threw some shade on the film saying that it’s “never particularly funny or meaningful” which, if you want to be a cynical asshat then you’d be right. However, Dave Made A Maze touches on a sense that every generation and perhaps everyone goes through which is the weight of feeling inadequate; like you haven’t done enough. Dave Made A Maze isn’t some deep dive into the underlying psychology of that feeling. But the film’s simple metaphors work. The humor isn’t piss-your-pants funny, but it wouldn’t make sense for it to be. It’s a fantasy, not The Hangover or Rick & Morty. The film comes to life with likable characters, supremely smart sets, and fun, creative sequences (including animation and puppetry).