Bill Watterson’s indie film Dave Made a Maze is a quirky hybrid of comedy, adventure quest, horror and cardboard. A lot of cardboard.
Dave (Nick Thune) is a slacker, the sort who can’t ever seem to finish anything. But when his girlfriend Annie (Meera Rohit Kumbhani) comes back from a trip, he greets her from inside his latest project. In the middle of their small apartment, Dave has constructed a maze out of old cardboard boxes. It looks like a kid-sized fort, but Dave’s echo-y voice from inside the maze assures Annie that it is much much bigger inside. So big, in fact, that he’s lost — and no, she shouldn’t come in to help him, it’s dangerous. Regardless, she rounds up some of Dave’s pals, including a film crew, and into the maze they go.
Inside, it’s pretty fantastic. Watterson has created some amazing (sorry) sets, constructed out of cardboard. Room after room reveals new oddities and perils. The maze — which Dave later clarifies is actually a labyrinth — is alive, and also harboring paper-made beasties, such as vicious origami butterflies and a minotaur. Watterson uses stop-motion animation to bring these elements to life.
The story is pretty basic, and the film struggles at times to define its characters and plot points beyond the most basic tropes. But the execution is fairly clever, and the set pieces are impressive. (A budget film made with literal cardboard sets is a good in-joke.) If you’re a fan of, say, Michel Gondry’s films that lean harder into the art direction than the plot, you should enjoy the journey through this maze.