Before we go any further, one thing should be made clear: Lasso is some bullshit. Mildly entertaining and often incomprehensibly absurd bullshit, but bullshit nonetheless. A bizarre combination of torture porn and slasher picture, it sends a busload of old folks to the rodeo, only to have a cadre of cowboys from hell hunt down their barely paid caretakers/counselors, treat their young bodies like broncs to be broken, brand their behinds with a red-hot spit, and then kill the fuck out of them. Imagine the worst parts of a Pantera record put to film, and you have a pretty good idea of what we're dealing with here (only, not as fun as any of that sounds).
The main problem is: there aren’t enough old people getting tortured/massacred. Much like a moment in Jason Takes Manhattan suddenly found the iconic, machete-wielding Mr. Voorhees barreling down a subway car and somehow ignoring the stray passengers who could’ve easily become graphic collateral damage (thus marking the film as an all-timer), it's a massive missed opportunity. In fairness, we just don't get enough geriatric murder in movies, period. But here, the actual set up is presented, and then not capitalized upon. This saggy stock could've easily been put out to pasture in disarmingly upsetting fashion (rendering Lasso a mean spirited classic), but director Evan Cecil and writer Roberto Marinas sadly exercise restraint when wanton cruelty and disregard for life is called for.
That's not to say there aren't some demented dust covered delights to be had on this demonic dude ranch (which is essentially run by a regiment of ‘roided out rednecks). From the moment these active seniors arrive at the rural amusement park, crudely painted clowns and aggro bros pose a threat in equal measure. By the time a sinister black-clad hombre riding atop a midnight stallion comes around the corner and utilizes his bullwhip to remove a rogue tourist's liver, you can't help but admire Lasso’s wrong-headed commitment to the bit. Credit where credit's dude, Cecil does not skimp on the psychobilly action, delivering plenty of (somewhat poorly CGI'd) gore at the hands of these apocalyptic horsemen.
The hero of Lasso is unexpected: a single-armed ranch hand named Ennis (Sean Patrick Flanery) who wakes up in a pen with one of the counselors (fake ass Taylor Lautner, Andrew Jacobs), the rodeo's pageant queen (the appropriately named Heather Mignon), and an androgynous body-building cow-person (Skyler Cooper). Spoiler: Ennis spends a solid amount of the picture getting his ass handed to him, as his other arm is torn off, he's impaled, tossed in a ditch and left for dead, only to come roaring back with a vengeance and get slapped down again (but not before enjoying a last-ditch bit of silly bravery). Flanery is just going for it, wriggling around like a limbless worm as he struggles to live and see one last sunset, not caring about the ludicrousness of his part one bit. It’s super admirable in a participation trophy sort of way.
In fact, if anything makes Lasso special, it's the movie’s unified, straight-faced approach that never winks at the audience once. Everyone involved is totally into taking a movie where cowboys kill old folks on a day pass from the retirement home 100% seriously, and it's pretty marvelous. Had Lasso ever implied that it owned any sort of self-awareness, it'd probably fall flat on its face. Combine this obliviousness with a serious dose of creative splatter – including decapitations, cattle prods melting eyes, and the aforementioned dismemberment – and you’re saddled with a work of legitimate exploitation, where all the talent involved should've probably known better, yet still charged on into the breach because that's what professionals do, damn it.
In the end, Lasso is an above average DTV offering, but also too competent to become anything more than a passing curio. Had the movie displayed a level of sloppy ineptitude to complement its insane premise and plentiful bloodletting, then it could've become a secret handshake picture amongst the devoted. Instead, it's merely satisfactory, which is a shame. All the elements for a legendary guilty pleasure are here; they just needed to be handled a little more carelessly to truly have a lasting impact.
Lasso is out now on Blu-ray, courtesy of Dread Central Presents and Epic Pictures.