A formula gore movie on the model of Herschell Gordon Lewis’s Two Thousand Maniacs! – in which a mixed party of tourists visit the wrong attraction, and are gruesomely tormented and killed by a malign bunch of showfolks – this has several potentially cool notions, but doesn’t really develop them in a particularly satisfying way. The ghostly Civil War revenge aspect of Lewis’s film gets a lot of mention in the literature about the film, but actually isn’t that big a deal in the picture. Director Evan Cecil and writer Roberto Marinas dispense with even a token motivation for their killer rodeo, which means that we just get a series of scenes in which the unwary are roped, branded, etc. without any context.
It’s kind of an innovation that, though there’s young heroine type Kit (Lindsey Morgan, from Chastity Bites and Beyond Skyline) as tour arranger and reluctant sulky kid Simon (Andrew Jacobs) as her sidekick, most of the victims aren’t horny teenage stereotypes but horny/grouchy/bewildered senior citizen stereotypes who have been driven into danger on a bus tour. And bronc-riding champ Ennis (Sean Patrick Flanery), who finds himself pitted against the sort of cowpokes he used to be, is one-armed. The set-up is that folk who linger after Hacket’s Rodeo has finished its daytime show get hauled into the ring by night and killed off by evil but dull cowboys. Given that many recent horrors have traded in coulrophobia, it ought to be a fresh touch that the creepiest villain here is a rodeo clown (Michael Gomes), but – like the boss of the killer outfit (Thomas Cokenias) – he’s not actually that spooky or interesting.
If ever a film wanted that in-depth cameo casting for villains, this is it – but we just get a bunch of characterless stuntmen joylessly going through the business of slaughtering tourists in rope- or Western-related fashion. It doesn’t even try for the kind of creepy, end-of-the-West ghost town vibe found in films like Curse of the Headless Horseman or Revenge of Bloody Bill, and we’re sorely missing the sort of cowboy gravitas casting Woody Strode in The Outing or Kurt Russell in Bone Tomahawk brought to horror-western hybrids.