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I came across this movie in an odd way. It was literally lying on the floor in the library; someone meant to check it out, but dropped it while browsing through graphic novels. I looked at the cover, read the back, then opened wikipedia to make sure the Rotten Tomatoes score was not below 40%. Then… sure. Why not?

Especially since my wife has a soft spot for artsy, oddball movies with interesting production design.

The premise is simple: Annie returns from a business trip to discover that her boyfriend, Dave, has built a shitty cardboard fort in their living room. And he’s inside it. And he won’t come out.

Well, he claims that he can’t come out. And he begs her not to mess with it, because it’s his latest project and he wants to finish it. And he doesn’t want her to come inside. He says it’s bigger on the inside, and he’s lost in a maze that he constructed. He doesn’t want her to get lost too. Or set off one of the booby traps he created. Or run into the minotaur that has somehow appeared.

Annie thinks Dave is having a full on breakdown. She invites one or two close friends to help draw him out, but of course a bunch of his jerk pals show up and take nothing about the situation seriously. They all push into the entrance of Dave’s little fort and discover that yeah, it’s bigger on the inside. Which means they spend the next hour and ten moving from room to room, hallway to hallway, inside a living cardboard maze built out of Dave’s frustration and self-loathing, while the minotaur and booby traps take them out one by one.

Let’s talk about the flaws first, and I have to start with the dialog. It’s rarely more than perfunctory, and the movie isn’t nearly as fun as it would have been with dialog that startled and entertained. Lackluster dialog is literally the only factor that keeps this from becoming an honest-to-god classic. If Dave’s motivation for creating the weirdo labyrinth that’s killing his friends is “I wanted to make something,” you don’t need him to say that a bunch of times. Have him say it once, and shoot it so that the audience knows that it matters.

I don’t think it’s a surprise that its the supporting cast who get most of the best lines. They get most of the personality, too.

Another problem (one I’d normally be willing to forgive) is that Dave himself is the worst. He’s an “artist” who never finishes a project, and who lives, at least in part, off of his parents. He’s so frustrated, you guys, because he hasn’t amounted to anything, and he’s already thirty years old! Can you believe it? So old!

As a 52-year-old who didn’t sign a publishing deal until he was 42, and who might never sign another under my real name again, Dave sounded like a toddler crying over a dropped ice cream cone. Sure, I understand why that might make you unhappy, but this is petty compared to the shit that’s on the way, believe me.

Plus, he has Annie, who starts the movie nine-tenths done with Dave’s self-indulgent bullshit (and his awful friends) but falls in love with him all over again by the end. And is she hot? Suuuuuuper hot.

Despite those two flaws, I still enjoyed the hell out of this movie.

It’s the maze that’s the real star here, with its patchwork cardboard walls, weird rooms, and elaborate traps. The estrangement effect is in full swing, because the film never stops reminding you that it’s a film. Every room, effect, or plot twist makes you think “Wow, they’re knocking this out of the park” or “They put in a lot of work for that two-second shot” where “they” = “the filmmakers.” You never suspend disbelief or invest in the character’s emotional dilemma, and that’s okay.

And intentional. The tone is light and ironic. Even the deaths are played for laughs (and wow, did we laugh). Plus, three of Dave’s friends who are caught in the maze with him are a documentary film crew more concerned with documenting the situation than solving it. The movie keeps telling you you’re watching a movie and daring you to enjoy it nonetheless.

I’m trying not to spoil any of the stuff that makes this movie such a fucking delight. The less you know going in, the better. Dave Made a Maze may not be a great movie, but it sure is a lot of fun.

Mirrored from Harry Connolly. You can comment here but not there.

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( 2 comments — Leave a comment )
sartorias
May. 12th, 2018 12:04 am (UTC)
Never seen, or even heard of the movie, but I can totally understand.

Way back when, during my teaching days, I happened to have a class full of boys, most of them rejects from other schools, and a single girl. We were expected to come up with a Halloween idea for the school. Being a school project, of course it couldn't be full of blood and guts as the boys wanted. Being stone cold broke, as usual (my pay was a cool twelve hundred a month), I couldn't like some of the teachers with wealthier husbands front a bounce house or some other elaborate thing. I told the boys to bring in a butt-ton of cardboard boxes, I'd supply the duct tape, and we'd make a maze in the supply room.

At first about half brought in boxes, but once we started strapping them together the guys got so jazzed that they went to town scaring up boxes of all sizes, so we built this enormous maze, so big that we had to cut air holes. With it tentacling all over the supply room, with frequent circle backs and intersections, and only flashlights providing a tiny bit of light from above, the thing seemed to take on a life of its own.

Come Halloween night, though the various classes offered plenty of expensive stuff to do, a lot of those kids (this was a private school) had already had those things for their birthdays, and the line for the maze went around the side of the PE building, as kids kept coming back again and again to crawl the maze. To the rest of the faculty's disgust, it was THE hit of the night.

(For the Open House Science Exhibit, I took them over to Boeing, and we built a replica of the space capsule.)

Edited at 2018-05-12 12:06 am (UTC)
burger_eater
May. 12th, 2018 02:31 pm (UTC)
There's something compelling about mazes. They're hard to resist.
( 2 comments — Leave a comment )