3 out of 5 stars

With their tendency to simultaneously shock and entertain, rock music and horror have proven to be a perfect combination. For decades horrors including Trick or Treat (1986) and Deathgasm (2015) embraced hard rock as part of their narrative. However, there are few horror films originated by musicians who also take the lead roles. So while most people know the Foo Fighters for selling out stadiums across the globe, now they’ve extended their dedication to music into the realm of film. Having produced some of the most memorable music videos over the past three decades, it feels like a natural progression for the band to transition onto the big screen. What began as Dave Grohl’s artistic experiment during the recording of their 2021 album Medicine at Midnight blossomed into a cinematic mixtape of mayhem. Balancing humour and horror on the tip of a chainsaw blade, Studio 666 delivers big laughs and nauseating gore.

Set in the present day, the Foo Fighters are struggling to produce their upcoming tenth album. The band’s frontman, Dave Grohl (Bill & Ted Face the Music), insists they do something special to capture a unique sound, so their longtime manager (Jeff Garlin) urges the musicians to move into a secluded mansion to find inspiration for their latest record. Upon viewing the residence with a real estate agent (Leslie Grossman), Grohl’s quickly impressed by the building’s otherworldly acoustics and, after convincing his bandmates to begin recording immediately, they decide to live there until the album is completed. However, unbeknownst to them, a band called Dream Widow was slaughtered on the premises and a supernatural force resides within the house. So, after listening to a demo tape hidden in the basement, the frontman becomes possessed by an evil entity, which reinvigorates Grohl’s inspiration and forces his bandmates to continue recording the album before they end up as bloodstained footnotes. 

Since their inception, the Foo Fighters have showcased their charmingly comedic presence in several memorable music vids. Their unabashed disregard for embarrassment and humility has always radiated from the band. Although none of the bandmates are seasoned actors, their infectious energy permeates Studio 666 as they showcase their comedic acting chops. Portraying a heightened version of himself, Grohl’s an absolute pleasure to watch as the egotistical and unpredictable musician. The charismatic frontman leans into the self-deprecating jokes with glee. While suffering from “songwriting constipation” he throws childish tantrums and boasts “I have the best parking whenever I want.” However, once he becomes possessed by supernatural entities haunting the house, Grohl dominates the screen with hellacious fury. As he begins menacing his unsuspected victims, he channels his inner demon from Tenacious D in The Pick of Destiny (2006), effortlessly translating his charismatic stage presence to the screen while embracing the outlandish screenplay and committing to its grotesque requirements.  

The other band members all have their moments to shine as they all display an affable camaraderie. Injecting delightfully quirky energy into his performance, guitarist Pat Smear proves to be an excellently offbeat supporter. Striking the exact right notes once the film hits its campy horror stride, he provides plenty of high-pitched screams and reliably funny cutaways. Similarly, Rami Jaffee proves to be a natural comedian with his freewheeling spirit and high libido. His sarcastic wisecracks provide some hilarious satire to the proceedings (“Dave has gone One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest crazy”.) They’re graciously supported by a host of famous faces that inject some comedic energy into their peripheral roles. Whitney Cummings (Made of Honor) stars as their neighbour who provides a batch of questionable lemon cakes for the band, while Will Forte (Booksmart) appears as a delivery driver who confesses that the Foo Fighters are his second favourite band behind Coldplay.

The cast’s natural chemistry is matched by a gleeful amount of practical effects ladened with gore. Utilising his experience from the outrageous slasher Hatchet III (2013), director BJ McDonnell delivers a series of gruesome deaths. It’s clear the director’s in his element he’s conducting violent scenes that reach Tom Savini (Two Evil Eyes) level of bloodshed. As the story leans into supernatural territory, McDonnell borrows elements from Sam Raimi’s Evil Dead (1981) and John Fasano’s Rock ‘n’ Roll Nightmare (1987). Once Grohl becomes possessed after discovering a mysterious book made out of human flesh, he dispatches his bandmates in increasingly outrageous fashion, using objects like drum cymbals and garden shears to dispatch people. One deliciously gruesome sequence involving a chainsaw outshines any of the carnage during the recent Texas Chainsaw Massacre (2022) film. Tony Gardner’s (Bad Hair) combination of animatronics and gory practical effects deliver exciting shocks and thrills that’ll appeal to fans of Peter Jackson’s Braindead (1992). Although the violence is sporadic, it injects a much needed manic energy into proceedings.

Studio 666 thrives whenever it’s showcasing its grotesque horror, but its captivating visual and auditory design shouldn’t be understated. Michael Dallatorre (Brightburn) and Eric Leach’s (Malignant) cinematography perfectly captures the visual style McDonnell envisioned. While borrowing ideas and concepts from horror classics, the director celebrates the genre’s legacy within his visual landscape. One particular sequence captures a delivery driver waiting outside the frequented mansion, with one light source illuminating his frame to evoke the famous lamppost shot from The Exorcist (1973). Naturally, there’s an abundance of heavy rock playing throughout as the band records their cursed track. However, legendary horror director John Carpenter (Halloween) provides the score alongside Roy Mayorga, which is the perfect counterpart to Studio 666’s horror influences.

As a longtime fan of the Foo Fighters and horror enthusiasts, Studio 666 mostly strikes all the right chords. However, the story by Grohl and co-writers Jeff Buhler (Pet Semetery) and Rebecca Hughes isn’t without some flaws. The unsteady pacing and repetitive jokes become a recurring problem. Unfortunately, McDonnell seems more interested in focusing on the band’s monotonous recording sessions instead of crafting a cohesive story. The second act primarily focuses on the musicians arguing as they attempt to record an endless song in an impossible key. Meanwhile, there are hints of another band who were brutally bludgeoned to death due to “creative differences”, along with a Necronomicon and a cursed song which the band finds themselves compelled to finish. However, the details surrounding the haunted house and why the supernatural forces possessing Grohl remain unexplored. Studio 666 would’ve benefited from McDonnell digging into the the previous tragedy and trimming the overlong scenes of the recording process.

Studio 666 is at its best when it fully leans into its own ridiculousness. Filled with nauseating gore and grotesque horror, it serves as a love letter for 1980s genre classics. McDonnell’s has created a camp horror that’ll appeal to horror enthusiasts and Foo Fighters fans alike. However, due to a limited concept and languorous pacing, it does begin to outstay its welcome by the third act. The lethargic moments between the gruesome sequences lack the momentum to justify its 104-minute runtime. Regardless, if Foo Fighters are using their tenth album to commemorate the band’s accomplishments over their career, Studio 666 is a great addition to the band’s impressive history.

USA | 2022 | 106 MINUTES | 2:35:1 | COLOUR | ENGLISH

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Cast & Crew

director: BJ McDonnell.
writers: Jeff Buhler & Rebecca Hughes (story by Dave Grohl
starring: Dave Grohl, Taylor Hawkins, Pat Smear, Chris Shiflett, Rami Jaffee, Nate Mendel, Whitney Cummings, Jeff Garlin, Jenna Ortega, & Will Forte.