Anyone who has ever seen a Foo Fighters music video knows of their capacity for goofballery. Strange characters, comically gigantic hands, drag, horror, violently kinky truckers — you name it, and chances are they’ve depicted a cartoonish form of it to go along with even their most serious tunes. And if you’re a fan of Tenacious D (if you’re not, I don’t want to know you), you know of Dave Grohl’s penchant for playing Satan incarnate. The devil has been joined at the hip with rock music for as long as stuffy assholes have been trying to use Christianity to put an end to fun, but luckily for us, most rockers have embraced the devil as their inspiration, even if it’s in a parodic, trolling way. Studio 666, the horror comedy based on a story by Dave Grohl, and starring the Foo Fighters themselves, leans hard into all of this to deliver a fantastic bit of gruesome fun, all at their own expense.
I’m not talking about finances — I couldn’t tell you a single thing about how the film was paid for — but more about ego. The Foo Fighters aren’t necessarily the most compelling actors on the planet, but damn do they know how to do comedy. Here, each member of the band plays a Scooby-Doo Mysteries version of themselves. Their personalities are heightened, with self-deprecation serving as the fuel for laughter. In this version of the Foo Fighters, Dave Grohl is the main creative force behind the music, and it’s his stated goal to make the band’s tenth album the best thing they’ve ever done. It’s going to be a concept album, and if the Foos wish to stay in their producer’s good graces they need it to be a quick hit. Said producer (Jeff Garlin) has an idea: have the band post up in an abandoned house/studio until the album is complete. It’s a novelty move, sold to the Foos on the strength of the house’s inherent acoustics, but what they don’t know is that way back in 1993, another rock band died while trying to record an album in the same space.
The Foos move in to the dilapidated mansion and get to work, but are soon interrupted by demonic forces and a possession that takes advantage of Grohl’s creative drive to record a song of its own. A song which, if completed, could destroy the entire world!
It’s an entirely ridiculous concept, and Studio 666 knows this from moment one. By taking a This is the End approach with the characterizations of the band members, we get a window into why the Foo Fighters have been such an enduring musical force: they always seem to to be having fun. And as previously stated, they have no fear of being over-the-top goofy in order to elicit a response from the audience.
Director BJ McConnell crafts a spooky, insane horror flick on top of the comedy, using creepy supernatural imagery and gallons of practical blood at pretty much every turn. A few shots directly reference other movies in the genre, and it’s nice to see the filmmakers showing off their horror bonafides. One could be forgiven for expecting a mediocre flick that coasts on the charm of its celebrity cast (which also features a hilarious Whitney Cummings and a cameo from John Carpenter, who composed the theme), but such expectations are ultimately unfounded. Behind the comedy and the star power is a wicked horror movie. A few of the supernatural effects err on the side of “After Effects,” but are so well composed and so drenched in practical blood that the seams fade pretty quickly. One scene, in which a chainsaw is used to bisect a couple of characters, is one of the coolest practical gore gags I have EVER seen, and I’ve seen a lot of gore gags in my day. Between this and Texas Chainsaw Massacre, it’s been a good season for chainsaw carnage.
What really brings the madness home is not the sharp direction or the buckets of blood, but rather the willingness of the Foo Fighters to go for broke in every moment. These guys are naturally funny, and all are willing to be the butt of the joke. Rhythm guitarist Pat Smear seems like such a strange bird, but he leans into it, while also delivering a scream of terror that rivals the legendary horror pipes of Sheryl Lee or Mark Patton. The keyboard player, Rami Jaffee, has the image of a yoga-enthused spiritualist-who-also-wants-to-smash-some-gash and plays it up for some tremendous moments of humor. Drummer Taylor Hawkins and guitarist Chris “Shifty” Shiflett are given the gargantuan task of playing the straight foils to the madness around them, and they pull it off with class. Nate Mendel, who embraces the stereotype of “quiet bass player,” proves to be the best actor of the bunch, and is appropriately given some of the more dramatic moments in the third act. Also Will Forte shows up, which is always incredible.
It’s been a long time since a band has placed themselves at the center of a fictional film narrative. The Beatles had A Hard Day’s Night, Tenacious D had The Pick of Destiny, Prince had Purple Rain, and Kiss has a handful of animated adventures involving circuses or some shit. Now the Foo Fighters have Studio 666. Of the bunch I just listed, this is the one I am sure I will be revisiting most. Fans of Foo Fighters will love it, fans of splatter horror will go INSANE for it, and everyone else can kick rocks.
Directed by BJ McDonnell
Written by Dave Grohl, Jeff Buhler, Rebecca Hughes
Starring Jenna Ortega, Whitney Cummings, all of the Foo Fighters
Rated R, 106 minutes