I’ve seen a lot of genre films with weird themes, but surprisingly, Evan Cecil’s LASSO is my first rodeo-themed piece of horror. It’s hard to believe it hasn’t been done before, since the backdrop is ripe for the picking. You’ve got clowns, creepy cowboys, and unbridled rootin’ tootin’ masculinity that’s enough to make even the most hardened millennial yearn for the comforts of the more enlightened age.
Perhaps it’s fitting that LASSO centers on a couple of millennials who work with folks a few times their age. Kit (Lindsey Morgan) and Simon (Andrew Jacobs) work as guides for an “Active Seniors” tour group, and their destination is a day at the rodeo. Harmless enough fun for the grey-haired brigade, until the cowboys start killing people.
It’s not long before the titular lasso makes an appearance, swinging with a sharp bladed tip that tears flesh in squirts of fake blood and prosthetics that recall a better time for horror special effects. Simon is abducted and locked in a cage alongside rodeo girl Rosheen (Heather Mignon) and one-armed horseman Ennis (Sean Patrick Flannery), while Kit and her bus full of seniors are hunted in the wilderness by the crazed cowboys.
LASSO imparts a distinct disgust for the unethical treatment of animals. The camera focuses scornfully on the rodeo’s sale of leather handbags, souvenir horns and the nonchalant execution of a horse with a broken leg as the crowd looks on in horror. It’s clear that Cecil is passionate about animal rights, and I guess the point here is that we’re shocked at seeing the human characters lassoed, prodded, branded and executed, and we should be just as shocked when those things happen to animals in reality.
Is the film good enough to prop up discussion of such important themes? Well, it’s at the very least in the upper echelons of indie horror in terms of technical competence. It’s shot decently and the editing and sound design both work. However, the script is plagued with the usual eye-rolling levels of character stupidity reserved for these types of flicks. The biggest surprise is that most of this comes from the older characters, who not only have no idea how to use a phone, but also can’t keep their shit together. You’d think a bit of a earned wisdom would help them outlive the younger folks in a slasher situation, but if LASSO is anything to go by, then… nope.
There’s a streak of absurdity and over-the-topness to the script that I got a kick out of. In one scene, the big bad bald cowboy shoots up anabolic steroids. Anabolic horse steroids. It’s no wonder that these guys are able to swing a senior citizen around their heads and smash them against a tree like Jason destroying a camp counselor. Sean Patrick Flannery’s one-armed character also manages to be a constant source of pitch black humor.
While I personally find great enjoyment in Raimi and Jackson-esque splatstick, the jokeyness of the kills is at odds with the seriousness of the animal rights theme and as a result LASSO doesn’t feel like it knows what it wants to be. The characters aren’t strongly drawn enough to get the audience on board with them and the humor doesn’t come through as much as it should to bolster the tone. Don’t get me wrong though, I admire the killer cowboys and some of the more outrageous death scenes, I just would have liked to see LASSO pull a little stronger in either direction.
LASSO arrives On Demand everywhere November 13.