The accusation for more than a half-century is that rock’n’roll is the devil’s music and that such satanic influences will inevitably infect those hapless youths who cheerily gobble up all those records. But what if, “Studio 666” posits, evil forces really were channeling their malicious doings through the minds of famous musicians?
That’s the admittedly half-baked setup for this new horror comedy, which on its face might not merit a second thought were it not for the fact that Dave Grohl and the rest of the Foo Fighters play fictionalized versions of themselves in the film directed by BJ McDonnell, who works from a script by Jeff Buhler and Rebecca Hughes—naturally based on an idea by Grohl himself.
That Grohl is an immensely talented songwriter is not in doubt, nor that he is charming, intelligent and very funny, as evidenced by his many interviews. Therefore, the DNA was there for “Studio 666” to be a sendup of the trope of evil manifesting itself in music, but alas Grohl and the Foos have taken the easy route to over-the-top slasher film. It’s a bit of a missed opportunity, though Foos fans will likely not care once they get to see their favorite rockers toying with their own images.
Accordingly, the movie’s fictional Dave and his real-life bandmates Taylor Hawkins, Pat Smear, Rami Jaffee and Chris Shiflett are sent by their dyspeptic manager (Jeff Garlin, criminally underused) to record their next album in a house that, well, is not just haunted but severely so. Dave begins experiencing visions and inspiration for new music from beyond, and it isn’t long before things go from strange to hellish.
Fans far more knowledgeable than I about the Foo Fighters and their inner-workings will likely laugh at the in-jokes of producing music, and the eccentricities of their favorite musicians sending up their own outsize personalities. Sometimes it works, such as when the fellas make use of a BBQ grill to stoke the creative juices, but far too much of the time, the film relies on the bandmates lobbing four-letter words at one another in a way that was funny when Spinal Tap did it, but here it feels forced.
But what does work? “Studio 666” is at its best when the band is working on the new music, channeled through Dave from the evil beyond. When Taylor asks what key his new song is in, Dave responds “L Major!” It’s a nice music nerd joke that, in other hands, would have been expanded upon, but here that’s the extent of the joke. Dave becomes possessed, literally and figuratively, by the devilish forces to write their song into existence. Unsurprisingly, the guitars and drums are soon joined by hammers, chainsaws and the aforementioned BBQ in a manner in which the manufacturer surely never intended.
The supporting cast does their best, including Will Forte as a wide-eyed delivery guy who can’t believe his luck at delivering food to the Foos—until such luck goes decidedly twisted. A cameo by Lionel Richie is funny, if not especially appropriate to the scene in question.
In the end, you’ll like “Studio 666” if you’re here for the blood and guts or for the Foos themselves. I am an admirer of their music, but the film didn’t have enough music to keep me enthralled nor was it enough of a straight-up horror flick to keep me entertained. For a story like this to work. it needs an outsider main character, say the delivery guy, to continually marveling at what idiots his heroes are—which would make it all the more enjoyable to watch them turn into homicidal maniacs.
Alas, it’s a road not taken.
Rated R for buckets of blood, bagfuls of profanity and some L Major chords.