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Dave Made a Maze (2017)

Gravitas Ventures
Blu-ray Disc Released: 10/24/2017

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Review by Mike Long, Posted on 10/27/2017

Well, here we are again discussing what is apparently my favorite topic: originality in movies. As I've mentioned in the past, I watch a lot of films and I often feel as if I'm watching the same movie over and over again. It's reached the point that if a movie does something which is just slightly different, I have to take notice. But, why can't a movie do something which I truly haven't seen before? Dave Made a Maze supports that old adage, "Be careful what you wish for, as it might come true."

Annie (Meera Rohit Kumbhani) returns home to the apartment which she shares which her boyfriend, Dave (Nick Thune), to find that a cardboard monstrosity has been constructed in her living room. She calls out for Dave, who responds from inside the structure. He reports that he built a cardboard maze, but the construction got out of hand and that he's now lost inside. Perplexed by this, Annie reaches out for help and Gordon (Adam Busch) comes to the apartment, soon joined by filmmaker Harry (James Urbaniak), along with his cameraman (Scott Narver) and boom man (Frank Caeti). Annie leads this group into the cardboard entrance in order to save Dave, and they soon find themselves insdie of a maze which is impossibly big on the inside. As if being in a maze isn't bad enough, the place is filled with booby traps and it's mere existence has attracted a mythological creature.

Well, I asked for an original movie, and I certainly got one. From the outset, Dave Made a Maze has a look and a feel all its own. Sure, one could compare it to some other quirky films form the past, and the entire thing has a certain Charlie Kaufman feel to it, but the unique aspects can't be denied. Annie walking in and finding this cardboard monstrosity in her living room may not seem all that original, but once one notices that there is smoke coming out of little chimneys on the thing, we begin to understand that something different is going on here. And while the inclusion of two many characters in the first act, including Flemish tourists, make things feel top-heavy, once the group enters the maze, things definitely get weird. I hate to say that you need to see Dave Made a Maze to understand it, but, in a way, you do. Inside of the maze, the sets are completely covered in cardboard. Even with an overview of how this was done including on the Blu-ray Disc...it's still hard to imagine how it was done. That aside, inside the maze, the group finds some interesting twists and turns. I don't want to give anything away, but let's just say that everyone changes form at one point and graphic violence takes on a different feel in the maze. This is a film which certainly isn't predictable, as there's no way of knowing what's around the next turn.

There's no doubt that Co-Writer/Director Bill Watterson and Co-Writer Steven Sears have created something unique here and I can say that I've certainly never seen anything exactly like it. However, when one looks underneath the cardboard, there is something missing from Dave Made a Maze. The movie is humorous in places, but it's never truly funny. (There's an opportunity for a great joke surrounding a mesmerizing object in the maze, but the movie misses it.) There is some mild drama, but it's not moving. Sears and Watterson have created an amazingly tantalizing movie which throws all kinds of wild ideas at us, but there's no substance to it. I can certainly recall some of the key visuals from the movie, but I never felt anything. The characters refrain from being annoying, a true feat for an indie like this, but there also very shallow and I never cared about anyone's well-being. It may seem unfair to call the movie "fluff", but it certainly feels that way at times.

Still, Dave Made a Maze must be commended for trying something new and succeeding in some ways. The story is very creative and the production design is truly amazing. The cast appears to be having fun on what had to be a weird shoot, and yes, that is the guy from OK Go. But, aside from a creepy moment involving a marionette (which reminded me of Evil Dead), the movie will leave no lasting impact on the viewer. The movie actually feels heavy in tone at times, but there is simply little meat on its bones. I can't say that getting lost in this maze would be a waste of your time. But, don't expect any lingering memories once you get out.

Dave Made a Maze may owe some likeness rights to Fandango on Blu-ray Disc courtesy of Gravitas Ventures. The film has been letterboxed at 1.85:1 and the Disc contains an AVC 1080p HD transfer which runs at an average of 18 Mbps. The image is sharp and clear, showing no overt grain and no defects from the source materials. The colors look good, most notably reds, and the image is never overly dark or bright. The level of detail is good, although some shots are somewhat soft, and the depth looks fine. The Disc carries a DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track which runs at 48 kHz and an average of 3.7 Mbps. The track provides clear dialogue and sound effects. The maze offers an array of noises which come through the surround and stereo speakers nicely. There are some individual sounds here. The subwoofer effects come into play in the third act, adding more atmosphere to the movie.

The Dave Made a Maze Blu-ray Disc offers a few extra features. We begin with an AUDIO COMMENTARY from Director Bill Waterson and Screenwriter Steven Sears. "Behind the Scenes" (22 minutes) takes us on-set to witness the construction of the cardboard setting and an explanation of where the materials came from. Aside from that, we get interviews with the cast and the creative team, who discuss their involvement in the film and what it was like on the set. The footage comes from on-set chats and moments from film festivals. The Disc contains three DELETED SCENES which run about 3 minutes. These are simply extended versions of scenes from the finished film. The extras are rounded out by the "Slamdance Film Festival Trailer" and another TRAILER.

Review Copyright 2017 by Mike Long