The search for meaning has never been more puckishly considered than in DAVE MADE A MAZE, an ingenious horror-fantasy-comedy of existential angst. Rife with metaphor and deadly origami come to life, it finds the time-space continuum falling victim to one man’s determination to finally finish something he started, and explores the deadly results of leaving a man in the throes of an early-life crisis alone for the weekend.
The eponymous Dave (Nick Thune) is an artist, endearing, yet infamous for never finishing what he starts. That all changes during the ci-mentioned weekend, when he takes cardboard and craft materials to constructs a labyrinth in his living room, starting from the center and working his way out. When his girlfriend Annie, (the deliciously deadpan Meera Rohit Kumbhani) returns to their apartment, she tries to take it in stride that her home has been taken over by Dave’s project, and that he claims to be lost inside it. She’s even willing to humor him about not tearing it apart so that he can put the finishing touches on his creation that emits steam and peculiar sounds when jostled. Eventually, though, she calls for help in the person of Dave’s best friend, hipster non-dufus Gordon (Adam Busch), who ignores the request to come alone. Despite Dave’s warning that it’s dangerous to enter the labyrinth, they do, along with Harry (James Urbaniak), the pretentious documentarian, his stolid, yet intrepid boom operator (Frank Caeti), and assorted giddy friends, none of whom know what they’re getting into, literally or figuratively.
As Dave warned them, the labyrinth is much bigger on the inside, and boobytrapped, because as Gordon explains, a labyrinth without booby traps is just a series of articulated hallways. It’s also as dangerous as he said it would be, signaled by the way the blood that drips from Gordon’s papercut and mysteriously disappears into the cardboard. Yet, there is also an enchantment to the playful celebration of handmade craftiness, in many sense of the word, as the travelers encounter whimsical forced perspective, an interlude where they are all turned into puppets, a variation on the dreaded vagina dentata, and a decapitation that features Annie’s good yarn instead of conventional blood.
If DAVE MADE A MAZE were just a variation on Alice’s trip down a rabbit hole, it would be eminently charming, but there is a psychological subtext at work here that is both pointed and perceptive. The labyrinth’s nascent self-awareness has an id-like quality, while the minotaur that stalks the cardboard halls is a perfect manifestation of the shadow self. Combine that with dry black humor, sharp satire, and clever animation that annotates the action and what you have is a film that tickles the intellect as well as the funny bone.