(By Matt Konopka) Growing up near Wisconsin where I had rancher family, things like horses, cowboys, and rodeos were a pretty common part of my life. I was one of the few kids that didn’t love horses, and I always wanted to be a werewolf instead of a cowboy, but going to the occasional rodeo, that was the real treat. To me, those cowboys were almost superhuman, riding around out there like jean-clad gladiators. Now, Lasso has permanently destroyed that childish wonder...
…Directed by Evan Cecil (Bunker) with a script from Roberto Marinas (Headgame), Lasso joins the ever-growing Dread Presents line of films, which includes this year’s early hit, Terrifier. This latest flick follows an “Active Senior Tour Group” as they attend a local rodeo attraction. What was supposed to be a fun afternoon of overstimulation and heart pills for the group turns into a rowdy nightmare when they discover that the Cowboys hosting the rodeo are bloodthirsty killers.
Honestly, I’m astound it has taken this long for someone to do a film like this, (and if it’s been done before, I’m not aware). I don’t mean the idea of slasher-esque killer cowboys-which is also fun-but the setting itself. There is all sorts of gruesome terror to dig up in the confines of a rodeo, and its clear Marinas sought to indulge his imagination. Lasso does for Rodeos what Jaws did for the ocean. The characters in Lasso are put through all sorts of torture which is a commonality in the life of cattle. These people are branded, lassoed and stretched, cattle prodded, horse-shoed, etc,. If its associated with Cowboys, Marinas finds a fun way to work it into the pleasantly inventive script, which also so happens to have the side effect of making viewers reflect on just how horrendous the life of rodeo animals really is, and how nightmarish these places can actually be when the crowd goes home and the veil of a good time is lifted.
Lasso is a film which is all about shouting “yippee ki yay” at the top of your lungs while a torrent of blood and gore rain down from above. It’s like Gladiator, trapping our characters in a ring of insanity where they are forced to face one brutal challenge after the other, only instead of depth and emotion, we’re given loads and loads of (sometimes literal) gut-wrenching gore. The cowboys which stampede through Lasso are ferocious, armed with clawed-lassos that rip and tear at human flesh, leading to an array of queasy moments. The gore is done effectively, and despite the outlandish concept, never quite feels too over the top. I do however wish that these guys had a little more personality. No, they don’t all have to be Freddy Krueger, they don’t even have to talk, but as it is now, none of the villains really ever stand out. Lasso does not contain one, or even two killers, but a whole gang of tobacco-chewing baddies, which I feel can go one of two ways. Either you have one central cowboy leading the way, with an evil personality as big as his gallon-sized hat, or you take what John Carpenter smartly did with Assault on Precinct 13, which also featured a whole crew of villains, but kept them hidden in the shadows, never seeing their faces, so that they felt like one unstoppable force, as opposed to a horde of individuals. As it stands, these cowboys are all well-lit and out in the open for us to see, and they just don’t stand out from one another in any positive way. Not even the rodeo clown is used for scares! It also doesn’t help when the “henchmen” as I’ve deemed them-villains who don’t have a scene before the chaos kicks off-are running around in what appear to be black leotards, which is perhaps a little sillier than Cecil intends. Oh, and did I mention that these cowboys take some kind of mysterious steroid that has no visual impact on them, but gives them Superman strength? Don’t worry about it, it’s an undercooked subplot which could have been a riot, but ends up coming off as bland and unnecessary…though I’m not going to complain about cowboys that can swing a person around on a rope one handed and slam them into a tree with a spectacular crunch.
As for our heroes, this is either a cast that you’re going to love or you’re going to hate. Marinas script veers off from just about every possible expected stereotype when it comes to slashers. Our “final girl” is actually a “final boy” in the somewhat cowardly Simon (Andrew Jacobs), while the rest of our squad includes but is not limited to a bus full of old folks and a one-armed cowboy (Sean Patrick Flanery). Kit (Lindsey Morgan), the rough and tough leader of the group, may be the only traditional protagonist in the bunch. Most filmmakers would have found a way to cram a bunch of horny teenagers into the plot, but Marinas makes a bold choice here with an unexpected group of characters that will have you asking, “how the hell are these people going to get out of this alive?” It’s one thing to watch some dude-bro fist fight a bigger dude-bro, but to see a bony old woman taking on a hulking mammoth of a man? That’s something else entirely. I get the sense that Marinas intends for the cast to be treated from a more tongue-in-cheek viewpoint, but whether its Marina’s script or Cecil’s direction, Lasso is less focused on the quirks that make these people unique to the situation, and more concerned with hog-tying them and lining them up for slaughter. Either way, I appreciate the choice to compile a less traditional cast. It would be refreshing to see more horror films take the note that dumb teenagers are not the only people we want to see in horror movies.
However, it’s a bit frustrating that the potential for a riotous horror-comedy is squashed by a tone as dry as the leather boots worn by the villains. That isn’t to say that Lasso isn’t fun, quite the contrary, but simply to iterate that the film is disappointing in how much more entertaining it could be. You’ll have a great time with the creativity of Marina’s script, since Lasso is loaded with unique kills and weapons, which is all slasher fans will really want. Tonally, though, Lasso takes itself too seriously. Most of the time, the audience isn’t sure if they’re supposed to laugh or shrug. We get the occasional moment like a few characters needing to hide in a pile of dead bodies, and Simon declaring “it’s kind of unsanitary” before they decide to move on, but that’s probably the funniest line in the movie, and, well, is it really going to get you rolling on the floor like a Rodeo clown? I don’t think it’s crazy to assume that Marinas is aiming for a more comedic element, especially when you consider certain villains in the script are gifted with such winning monikers as Prodder (Morgan Benoit), Noose (Tim Lajcik), and my personal favorite, Brodeo (Travis Andre Ross). Yet in watching the film, you would never know that the filmmakers want these characters to tickle your funny bone in the way their names would suggest. Between the concept and Marinas inventive talent, Lasso rage-screams like a bro hyped up on protein for the chance to be something more, but like a lot of the comedy, falls flat in key areas.
That being said, Lasso rides like a bull, tossing its audience in this strange direction and that, before flinging us off with dizzy stars over our eyes. The film may underperform with what feels like a necessary comedy element, but meets all expectations when looking for a different sort of slasher film to get you through the afternoon. Giddy up and take this horse for a ride. It’s good for at least a few gallops around the block.
Lasso is now available on VOD.
By Matt Konopka