Annie (Meera Rohit Khumbani) returns home from abroad to find her boyfriend Dave (Nick Thune) isn't there. What is there is a collection of cardboard in the middle of their living room floor - but it turns out Dave is inside. She asks him what he is doing, and he tells her he grew bored while she was away and so he built a maze out of cardboard, in which he is now trapped. She tells him to stop being silly, but when she tries opening the boxes, he yells at her to stop, for the construction is bigger on the inside than it is on the outside, and if she sends it crashing down it will kill him. Therefore Annie has a dilemma, one she tries to solve by inviting a bunch of people over...
Very much a hipster epic, to the extent that it lasts eighty minutes long and features a Michel Gondry-lite appearance, Dave Made a Maze created some buzz when it was released to film festivals and quickly became a cult movie. This was more or less justified, as it channelled the kind of humour of British weirdo sitcom The Mighty Boosh (another hipster favourite) with its DIY aesthetic into a highly inventive series of scenes that were mainly held together by the presence of cardboard, which appeared in every scene, just about every shot in fact, and crafted an indelible look for what were some pretty cool shenanigans of the sort that used to be termed "pseudo-intellectual".
Not a phrase you hear very often post-nineties, but Dave's issues in the real world where he is part of a generation that are stuck without a satisfying career or set of relationships, leading them further into themselves and their own minds to the point of self-obsession, have manifested themselves in the maze. Which is actually a labyrinth, as his pal Gordon (Adam Busch), is fond of pointing out, as a collection of his acquaintances ignore Dave's warnings not to enter the thing and are initially enchanted. Or they are until it is apparent he wanted it to be authentic, so has not only laced it with booby traps, but also has generated a flesh-eating Minotaur which roams the rooms and corridors.
After all, what's a labyrinth without a Minotaur? There was more, and as inventive as its director Bill Watterson could manufacture it on an admittedly substantial reserve of inspiration, even if this came across as a concept for computer gaming more than it did a narrative film. Such was fantasy storytelling in the twenty-first century, though technically this was more of a horror as people were killed by the maze, dispatched in cartoonishly gory methods as their innards are represented by sprays of silly string, ribbons or scraps of paper. Really, the only truly creepy scenes were with another pal, Brynne (Stephanie Allynne) who has been devoured and refashioned as a cardboard puppet endlessly requesting high fives in a chirpy, sing-song voice.
That said, the main six characters turned into puppets too, but cute ones, and they turned back into humans. They consisted of Dave, Annie, Gordon and a three-man camera crew, for a pertinent point about the subject of their generation's preoccupation with recording everything they do despite it not being of any interest to anyone else (except a stalker, perhaps). Here, the director of the film within the film may have a point too, in that this would have been genuinely worth capturing for posterity as there was very little like it in reality, never mind the world of fiction. The dialogue verged on the smartassed, and we were watching people with very little self-awareness outside their own bubble which left us with the position of being aware for them (or of them), but Annie grounded it as while she could be caught up in the oddities, she remained the sole sensible voice, maybe a cliché in bro comedy, but necessary, even in the weirdo kind. Music by Mondo Boys (and a track by The Equals over the titles was a great rediscovery).