Directed by: Bill Watterson
Cast: Nick Thune, Adam Busch, Meera Rohit Kumbhani, James Urbaniak
A wall-shattering indie pic with a knack for artsy visuals and unorthodox comedy, Dave Made a Maze is the unexpected smash of the year. It’s the lighthearted, enlightening and unorthodox answer to some of the more standard style of horror films we’ve seen this year, and it’s infectious from the jump. If you’re interested in seeing a headed-nowhere 20-something look for the answers to breaking his own self-imposed barriers while seeing inventive death scenes, ingenious cinematography, perfectly written characters (and cast performers) and some absolutely amazing set pieces, this is the movie you have to see in 2017.
Annie arrives home from a business trip to find a cardboard maze assembled in her living room. Inside sits Dave, her boyfriend with a penchant for quitting and self-loathing. Initially it all just seems like a silly gag, as Dave refuses to exit the makeshift maze, and demands that no one enter the maze, because it’s bigger than it looks. And, after Annie and a handful of Dave’s buddies decide to march into the box and yank Dave out, they realize he wasn’t exaggerating. Even worse, this isn’t a maze, it’s a booby-trapped, minotaur-stalked labyrinth. The only way out, it would seem, is some self-realization and the discovery of Dave’s non-existent drive.
It’s genius. The comedy is quirky but sharp, and it’s both written and delivered in a manner that’s likely to appeal to a wide audience. The characters are – with the exception of Dave, who’s (intentionally written to be) so emotionally unstable it’s difficult to like his character much – all loveable and unique. Harry’s the documentarian with the tact of a tree stump; Annie’s a loveable dedicated girlfriend; Gordon’s the show-stealing bearded beast with priceless dry humor. They’re all genuinely loveable personalities brought to life by the talented James Urbaniak, Meera Rohit Kumbhani and Adam Busch, respectively. And yes, Nick Thune does a mighty fine job in creating the strangely layered, and conflicted Dave.
Bill Watterson really makes some waves with his debut film. If he has designs on giving us more pictures like this, drenched in engaging optical effects and wonderfully imaginative set designs, we could be seeing the early phase of a future great. Watterson also picks up co-writing creds with Steven Sears, and the two together deliver a story that pays homage to a few classic pics, all while proving to be a lot more human and realistic than it appears on the surface.
I loved Split and Get Out. The Devil’s Candy is a superb film that ranks right up there with the best of the year, as well. But the greatest surprise of the year, the movie that’s going to catch viewers right on the chin, is Dave Made a Maze. This is ambitious and creative, enjoyable and memorable – it’s also right at the top of the list of best horror films of 2017.