The Foo Fighters are well known for their iconic music videos in the late ’90s and early ’00s, so it only stands to reason that if the band were to ever make a full length feature film, it would be as outlandish and tongue-in-cheek as the videos for “Learning to Fly,” “Everlong,” or “Big Me.” But I don’t think anyone could have predicted the band would make a full-on horror film, and yet here we are with Studio 666, which opens in theaters this weekend.
Studio 666 continues the grand tradition of avant-garde bands playing themselves in a movie. These types of films were big in the 1970s and ’80s, as KISS Meets the Phantom of the Park featured, well, KISS; The Ramones played themselves in Rock ‘n Roll High School; and more recently, Tenacious D sought out The Pick of Destiny. You can even go back to “the beginning” and count the Beatles starring in A Hard Day’s Night and Help! The list goes on and on.
Rock bands and movies go hand-in-hand, and Studio 666 fits in nicely with the aforementioned group, as the Foo Fighters have fun splattering the screen with ridiculous death scenes and copious amounts of gore, all presented with the wink of an eye that lets the audience in on the joke.
The story of Studio 666 centers around the Foo Fighters — Dave Grohl, Taylor Hawkins, Pat Smear, Nate Mendel, Chris Shifflett and Rami Jaffee — trying to come up with an idea for their 10th studio album. Their manager, Shil (Jeff Garlin), is begging for new music, but Dave isn’t sure what direction the new record should take. Shil suggests changing locations to record the new album, and offers up a house he knows of where another band tried to record their last album until they all met their gruesome and untimely demise. Instead of balking at the idea (as any normal person would), the band checks it out, only for Dave to become immediately enthralled by the house’s spell.
Once all moved in, bad things start to happen, and Dave just can’t find the sound he’s looking for. He explores the estate and finds a secret room that looks like it was used for ritualistic sacrifices, and discovers a reel-to-reel of an unfinished song from the last band to live in the house. When he plays the tape he unleashes evil spirits that possess him and he and the rest of the Foos begin recording a special, epic song that could open the gates of hell and doom us all.
Studio 666 pushes the horror elements hard and doesn’t hold back. As each member of the band is brutally dispatched in gruesome ways, the film gets away with an amount of gore that would have scared the censors just a few years ago. In fact, I watched Studio 666 and the new Texas Chainsaw Massacre back-to-back, and the Foo Fighters’ film was much more graphic and gory.
The film was directed by BJ McDonnell, whose background is as a cameraman on other films, and the screenplay was written by Jeff Buhler, who has a background in horror, writing 2019’s Pet Sematary remake, and Rebecca Hughes, based off a story by Dave Grohl. Grohl reportedly got the idea while recording the Foos latest album, a “thrash-metal” record. The song from the film is the album’s first single, so, in a way, Studio 666 serves as the world’s longest music video.
As for the film itself, aside from the gore, the surprise cameos — including from Lionel Richie and John Carpenter, who also composes the film’s main theme — it’s just an middling “okay” experience. Fans of the band — of which I am one — will find plenty to enjoy. I particularly enjoyed the running “Pearl Jam high-five” gag. But as a critic who judges films on acting, story, and directing, Studio 666 doesn’t hold up very well, and doesn’t have the legs to transcend the Foo Fighters and/or extreme-horror film fanbases.
Studio 666 is rated R and is in theaters now.
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