Lasso first published by SciFiNow
When, in John Landis’ The Blues Brothers (1980), Jake and Eliot roll up at Bob’s Country Bunker claiming to be booked artists the Good Ol’ Boys, half the joke is the absurdity of seeing an urban rhythm and blues band having to impersonate a country-and-western outfit. Though more horror than comedy, Lasso (2017), the feature debut of TV director Evan Cecil, plays a similar game of incongruity, as a group of city slickers must quickly learn to adopt the violent ways of the wild west if they are to survive being roped, thrown and branded by a posse of maniacal, musclebound cowboys.
Kit (Lindsay Morgan) and her feckless new assistant Simon (Andrew Jacobs) have brought a busload of senior citizens to the rodeo show run by Roy Hackett (Thomas Cokenias) – a man whose very surname encodes the slash and dash to come. When the show is over, the tour group, a couple of vegan activists and a trio of rodeo competitors – one-armed horseman Ennis (Sean Patrick Flanery), transgender hay-stacker Trish (Skyler Cooper) and beauty queen Rosheen (Heather Mignon) – find themselves being hunted down by Hackett and his men, to be slaughtered as human cattle.
“Why are you doing this to us?” asks one character halfway through the film. No clear answer ever comes, but as these ‘roid-abusing rodeo men use whips, lariats, brands, electric prods, hooks and yokes to break their quarry, perhaps the only real explanation is that it is all a continuation of Hackett’s livestock show for our entertainment. As Kit, Trish, the elderly Lillian (Karen Grassle) and the disarmed Ennis fight back, Simon learns to stand up for himself in an oater environment where a man (or woman or African-American gender-bender) has gotta do what a man’s gotta do.
Falling somewhere between the aggressive rural disgruntlement of The Texas Chain Saw Massacre (1974) and the fish-out-of-water torture porn of Hostel (2005), Cecil’s film is less interested in establishing strong characters, compelling dialogue or a remotely credible scenario than in bringing together an arbitrary series of ranch-flavoured murder set-pieces. Simon’s boy-to-man story arc under Ennis’ paternal tutelage may be central, but is never particularly engaging, and, to put it reductively, the best reason to watch Lasso is – if it’s your thing – for the grotesque, gory kills or – also if it’s your thing – for the sculpted musculature of the cowboys’ bodies. Rawhide!
Strap: Evan Cecil’s feature debut is a rootin’-tootin’ round-up of torture porn, the slasher and ‘roid-abusing rodeo entertainments.
© Anton Bitel