You see the poster for Evan Cecil's Lasso, and you're not impressed. It's a cowboy rearing back on his horse, flipping a bullwhip of some kind towards you, the person who has chosen to look at the poster for Lasso. The cowboy and his horse are both surrounded by flames, which you suppose means they must be pretty badass, but even still - it looks like the kinda thing we all skip past at 2AM when trying to find something to watch on Netflix.
But then you head on over to Rotten Tomatoes and see that this is the plot synopsis they've given Lasso:
"An Active Senior Tour group outing turns deadly when the crazed, bloodthirsty cowboys from a local rodeo attraction start abducting and killing people!"
Alright, now we're getting somewhere.
Active Seniors on an ill-fated outing to the rodeo? "Bloodthirsty cowboys", who are criminally-insane but are also apparently capable enough to organize and execute a full-scale rodeo? And Sean Patrick Flannery is in it, playing a particularly determined dude with one arm? Yeah, alright. The poster kinda sucks, no doubt. But come on, now: how could anyone turn down a little horror movie about a bunch of Olds getting absolutely wrecked by mean-spirited cowboys? With no further information, that sounds like the recipe for something truly amazing.
The reality of Lasso is much different. The film's clearly the work of a creative team who share a, uh, unique worldview, and the whole thing's about as mean-spirited as you'd expect, given the synopsis above. But like so many high-concept horror jams, this movie needed to be either substantially worse or way weirder in order for it to really work. This puts the critic in something of a predicament: on the one hand, there's a fair amount of solid filmmaking in Lasso, just enough that you'll never get bored while watching it. On the other hand, it's too competently-made to ever nosedive into the truly awful territory you might expect based on the synopsis.
Also, speaking of: that synopsis above is misleading. Yes, there's a group of Active Seniors who've arrived out in the middle of nowhere to watch a rodeo, and yes, bloodthirsty cowboys show up to give them what-for, branding irons and silly-looking bullwhips at the ready. But the bloodthirsty cowboys aren't just hunting old folks; they're also mowing down anyone else who happens to be around once they decide to quit playing games. A movie where mean cowboys hunt old people for sport sounds great (indeed, that logline has the makings for a cult classic), but that's not really what this movie is. Outside of a few truly bizarre set pieces - including a hilarious extended sequence wherein a critically-injured Sean Patrick Flannery must drag himself to safety - it's not all that memorable.
Here's the thing, though: even though Lasso doesn't entirely work, it left me feeling very curious about what its director (whose credits include VFX work on Steven Spielberg's A.I.: Artificial Intelligence and a "Miscellaneous Crew" credit on the 1995 Hugh Grant vehicle, Nine Months) might do next. Give this guy a reasonable budget, a solid cast and a script that really commits to the insanity, and I think we'd be in for a treat. I'm legit curious to see what Evan Cecil does next (according to the iMDB, that'd be a feature by the name of Bunker, but good luck finding anything out about that one), which is definitely not something I say after viewing most cheapie horror films from first-time directors.