The charming, offbeat indie Dave Made a Maze is one of those efforts that truly feels hand-made and the product of a filmmaker who had a very specific vision and a very specific way of realizing that vision. Directed by Bill Watterson from a script he co-wrote with Steven Sears, this quirky and unconventional piece of psychological distortion is a startling and extra-cool debut for the helmer, while the film has a genuine novelty as a hook (30,000 square-feet of cardboard were used to create the titular maze) and there’s an exciting sense of originality at work all throughout the lean running time, which results in a movie where genre conventions are explored and upended, statements are made about viewer expectations and the decisions that the various characters face, with the overall surreal nature of the entire piece becoming a constant source of joy to discover. You legitimately don’t know what will happen next, which is one of the best compliments anyone could ever pay any particular film. Jon Boal’s inventive cinematography is a major plus for the entire production.
The art direction by Jeff White and production design by Trisha Gum and John Sumner is pause-button worthy, as the film takes on a humorous yet dark done that extends from everything to the performances to the aesthetic. The various actors, especially lead Nick Thune, are never arch with their line delivery or reason for being within the story, and you get the sense that Watterson and his collaborators were having serious fun with the shifting fantasy world that is on display. The narrative centres on an artist suffering from a serious case of creative block, and the complex maze which he creates in his living room as a way of escaping his frustration. But when the maze seemingly takes on its own life with surprising and dangerous ramifications, all bets are off, as the weird and wild story straddles multiple lines while dishing out something happy-creepy and new. After premiering at the Slamdance Film Festival and winning the Audience Award for Best Narrative Feature, Dave Made a Maze received a limited theatrical run this summer and is available as a streaming option via various providers.
Review by Nick Clement