I’m gonna be blunt with you folks: Lasso is not what you’d call a good movie. In fact, in some respects it’s pretty damn terrible, with paper-thin characters surviving contrived circumstances that are completely devoid of emotional stakes or engaging plot turns. This is a slasher flick with a rodeo as its setting, so if you’re looking for something a bit meatier than seeing a bunch of randos killed for the sin of breathing anywhere near a steer’s tookus, Lasso probably isn’t going to rope you in. But let me let you in on a little secret: I’m pretty sure the creators of Lasso don’t give a shit about any of that. They care about delivering on the promise of low-rent, cowboy-themed body horror, and they deliver it to such absurdly goofy effect that it’s hard not to find the film at least a little bit charming.
The story, for what it’s worth, follows Simon (Andrew Jacobs) and Kit (Lindsey Morgan) as they lead a senior citizen tour bus on a trip to a local rodeo. However, as they’re leaving, some… people – I don’t recall ever learning who these people are or what their motivation is – start taking the place over, leaving Simon imprisoned with some of the rodeo workers while Kit escapes far enough in the bus with her elderly charges to get a little bit down the road before the engine dies on them. Simon meets a one-armed cowboy named Ennis (Sean Patrick Flanery), and the pair conspires to escape with the other prisoners, while Kit and her charges act as the blood fodder for the evil cowboy gang.
As I alluded to, there isn’t really much of a sense of who these villains are or why they’re bothering to round up and kill the rodeo workers or the tourists. An early scene alludes to animal rights activists pleading with the tour group to reject the treatment of the animals used in the rodeo, but any connection to the murder gang is tenuous at best, and it seems like there’s an unclear division between good and evil rodeo workers. The general rule is that if someone is dressed in a cowboy hat, they’re a bad guy, and if you’re an old person, you’re a bumbling entitled incompetent ripe for the slaughter. Simon and Ennis are ostensibly the characters with the most going for them, but Simon’s underdeveloped rivalry with an evil strongman carnie – seriously, it amounts to Simon being ungracious about his own lack of physical strength and this one dude being pissed off about it for no reason – and Ennis’ mysterious backstory about his missing arm aren’t so much plot points as dressing on a thin excuse to kill some folks with rodeo implements.
And thankfully those kills make the film worth it, especially when we finally ramp up into the third act and drop any pretense about this film being about the characters. You get to see people torn apart by a whip with hooks on the end, burned with a comically large brand, sawed in half with a two-person logging saw, shocked to death with a cattle prod, quartered by horses, and impaled in the eyeholes by a horseshoe, just to name some novel kills off the top of my head. Ennis gets his only arm ripped off, so he nonchalantly cauterizes the wound, only to get impaled on a pitchfork immediately afterward. The bad guys inject themselves with horse steroids to get super strength, which manifests itself so intensely that one guy is able to lasso an elderly woman and swing her entire body over his head until she bashes into a tree. A lot of these scenes are tragically underlit, most likely to mask the limitations of the film’s budget, but so many of these kills are so conceptually silly that it’s worth sitting through the nonsense plot just to experience the gory extremity.
It does leave one wishing that Lasso took itself a little less seriously in its grimy direct-to-video horror aesthetic, but there are some legit great moments of unintentional comedy to be found between title card and credits. My favorites include a casual look off a cliff with a deadpan line reading of “He’s dead,” and there’s one point when Ennis is attacked off-screen by a gang of villains, and among the screams we hear the armless Ennis yell “Ah! My legs!” There’s also an incident with a hairbrush that is too good to spoil, and if anyone can explain to me who this mysterious rodeo clown that keeps popping up is supposed to be, I’ll be grateful for as long as I continue to care about this movie… so probably sometime next week.
Lasso is an extremely minor pleasure, and it doesn’t quite rise to the level of must-see ill-advised cinema, but those moments when it shocks you with its goofy gore antics are certainly worth the rental, especially if you’ve had a few preparatory drinks to prime you. Seeing as it’s Thanksgiving, maybe see if you can trick a family member into renting it with you, and you can get a giggle as they bewilderingly question any sense of good taste you may have. If nothing else, this acts as a pretty decent antidote to tryptophan drowsiness.