Lasso takes place somewhere no horror movie in recent memory has dared set foot: the rodeo. It begins, somewhat disconcertingly, with a young woman waking up to find herself chained to a radiator. Bottles of the horse tranquilizer Ketamine (the “Special K” of which Placebo so memorably sang) are scattered all around. So, we’re definitely not in the old west then…
The bad fake tattoos klaxon soon sounds as the story switches focus to a group of active elderlies being shepherded to the rodeo by an odd couple of sorts, Kit (The 100‘s Lindsey Morgan) and Simon (Paranormal Activity: The Marked Ones‘ Andrew Jacobs), he of the bad tattoos — for readers across the pond, one of them appears to say “Frankie & Benny’s” suggesting he’s a fan of low-priced spag bol and endless Pepsi refills.
Kit is the responsible one, because she’s the woman, and Simon is the screw-up, because he’s the man. She tells him to shape up and, in response, he attempts to win something for her in one of those dick-measuring strongman carnie game things, run by the most obviously evil rodeo bloke. Texas Pexas, as I’ll be calling him, doesn’t blink the entire time. Later, he will gurn. He will gurn so hard.
Although Kit and Simon are ostensibly the leads of Lasso, the film soon separates them as the lady we met at the beginning returns, running for her life as she’s pursued by a black-clad guy on a horse, with the titular weapon in his hand. Things soon get gory AF, but in a way that involves chunks of skin being ripped off and random characters dying as a result. Kit flees with the older folk on their bus, leaving Simon to perish.
Lasso is director Evan Cecil’s feature debut, following a lengthy and varied career in TV. Likewise, his cohort, Roberto Marinas, is tackling his first script. The concept is strong, and the two of them come up with a variety of surprisingly gruesome ways for people to die at this here rodeo, but the makeup and FX aren’t hugely impressive, and the movie isn’t as much fun as the subject matter suggests it would be.
The thing is nasty but not mean-spirited. There’s no sexual violence or racism but, considering the villains are hicks, Lasso almost feels toned-down in how it portrays them as roided-up psychos intent on…what? Killing for sport? Certain descriptions of the movie (but not, it must be said, the official one on IMDb) suggest there’s an occult element, but it certainly didn’t present itself to me while watching.
The stranded bus angle (because obviously the elderlies and Kit do not escape) recalls The Windmill Massacre, which was a better concept, and established more coherently where the characters were in relation to their assailants. Here, it’s not clear how far the bus is from the rodeo or how vast the surrounding woods are. Still, at the very least it’s nice to see older actors in roles more traditionally occupied by nubile teens.
Both Morgan and Jacobs do fine, but Simon is gifted the more interesting trajectory as a loser who has to rise to the occasion. The standout performer, however, is naturally the great Sean Patrick Flanery as a one-armed man (with his own arm very obviously tied behind his back) who has more lives than Jason Voorhees and somehow has to save the day in spite of his disability.
There’s definitely an argument to be made for casting an actual disabled person, as Fury Road so memorably did in several key roles, but Flanery is such a likeable screen presence (and he carries most of the action, to be fair to him) that it can be mostly forgiven here. After all, in a movie that showcases its villains shooting up anabolic horse steroids, surely sensitivity to the realities of the world isn’t high up on the agenda.
Weirdly, the lad in black who shows up brandishing the actual lasso of the title isn’t in the movie that much. It’s unclear whether he’s the Big Bad or just another cog in the murderous machine, but considering how big his introduction is, the fact he barely features in the story afterwards is jarring. It’s hard enough keeping track of all these characters without worrying what happened to the leader of the other team.
Lasso isn’t completely terrible, nor is it without a selection of enjoyable, individual moments of stomach-twisting gore or all-out lunacy. The stranded bus element makes it feel slightly more disjointed than if all of the action took place solely at the rodeo, but it was presumably added to widen the scope. Still, Flannery is a joy to watch as always, and the premise is better mined for content than the execrable Funhouse Massacre, which was in a similar vein.
WICKED RATING: (5/10)
Director(s): Evan Cecil
Writer(s): Roberto Marinas
Stars: Sean Patrick Flanery, Lindsey Morgan, Andrew Jacobs, Karen Grassle
Release date: November 13, 2018
Studio/ Production Co: Dragonfly Films
Length: 97 minutes