When it comes to band movies, documentaries (The Sparks Brothers (2021); a-ha: The Movie (2021)), and biopics (Straight Outta Compton (2015); Walk The Line (2005)) offer opportunities for audiences to get to know the music and members that they perhaps didn’t know as well. Documentaries certainly offer the possibility of more truth than a biopic, but it’s still limited to the perspective of the director and editor. Then there’s a third kind of band film, one which blends reality with fiction, often creating something glorious, even if not immediately beloved. The Beatles did it with 1964’s A Hard Day’s Night, the Spice Girls did it with 1997’s Spice World, Tenacious D did it with 2006’s Pick of Destiny, and, now, the Foo Fighters do it in Studio 666. Conceived by lead singer/writer Dave Grohl, written by Jeff Behuler (Pet Sematary (2019)) and Rebecca Hughes (Cracking Up), and directed by BJ McDonnell (Hatchet III), Studio 666 takes the imaginative imagery of a Foo Fighters video and blends it with the slashers and demonic horror tales of yore, crafting a tale that balances humor and terror on the tip of a bloody chainsaw blade.
With their 10th album on the horizon, rock band Foo Fighters decide that they need to go big. Wanting the album ASAP, their manager Jeremy Shill (Jeff Garlin) arranges for them to rent out a house in Encino to hole-up in until the record’s done. Despite a few set-backs that go beyond personality clashes, the six members — Dave Grohl, bassist Nate Mendel, guitarist Pat Smear, drummer Taylor Hawkins, lead guitarist Chris Shiflett, and keyboardist Rami Jaffee — try to stay focused on the music. But when bodies start popping up and Dave refuses to give up, they realize something else is afoot and it’s come for them all.
As a young teen, I wasn’t really into Nirvana, so, as a result, upon the untimely death of Kurt Cobain, I didn’t really get into the Foo Fighters (formed by Nirvana band member Grohl) as I presumed the sound would be the same. Then I saw the music videos for “Everlong” and “Big Me,” each hilarious in their own spoofy way, either playing with the trappings of Evil Dead-like horror or just goofing on the Mentos candy commercial. Over time, many of their videos followed suit, offering silly visuals to go with their melodic music and sometimes somber lyrics. It makes sense then that other creatives would utilize Grohl and his humor in other music videos or movies, sometimes as himself (Bill & Ted Face the Music), sometimes as Satan (Pick of Destiny). With this in mind, Studio 666 is an understandable extension of what Foo Fighters create as musicians/storytellers and Grohl as an actor, offering an opportunity to just do the kind of wild shit that’s been fermenting in Grohl’s mind that could never play on MTV back in the day or whatever passes for a music video channel now.
There’s no doubt that Studio 666 is not a big budget horror spectacle like 2021’s Malignant or a gorefest like 2021’s Halloween Kills, but what we get is ::chef’s kiss:: in terms of the merging of practical effects and CG. The demons prowling the Encino house appear to be people dressed in black, wearing masks with eyes and mouths that glow, with CG used to create a phantasmagorical look around their edges. This gives off a wonderful sense of mixed tangibility that makes the simple design believably unsettling. Similarly, the makeup and animatronic effects by Tony Gardner and Alterian, Inc. go from obviously fake to gruesomely life-like depending on what the situation requires. Grohl’s having a nightmare? Let’s make it uncomfortable, but clearly phony. Grohl’s awake and it’s time for mayhem? How do we make it as disquieting as possible in its realism, while pretty hilarious, too. Seriously, there’re some kill gags you see coming a mile away that legitimately produce laughs upon their execution (no pun intended). In fact, one kill is deliberately set-up for the audience to know it is coming, building up to a peak with great enthusiasm, before a premature slaying (a clear homage to Friday the 13th Part 2 (1981)).
I have another confession to make: if they’re not Grohl, Smear, or Hawkins, I couldn’t pick any of the band members out of line-up. I know both Grohl and Smear from in the early Foo days and Hawkins from his time with The Darkness. Beyond that, the remaining three are enigmas. Yet, the script from Behuler and Hughes makes sure that we, even if unfamiliar, know enough about the dynamic of this version of the band in order to know why they matter to each other. We don’t necessarily feel anything particularly profound at any of their individual losses. This is probably why the supporting cast includes Will Forte (Booksmart), Whitney Cumminings (How It Ends), Leslie Grossman (Can’t Hardly Wait), and Jenna Ortega (Scream), so that there’s other fodder to help raise the kill count and increase emotional investment. If all this film had were kills, it would be a fun entertainment, but fairly soulless and unworthy of a rewatch. Instead, the story lays the groundwork for something satisfying through and through and you don’t have to be a Foo Fighters fan to appreciate it.
If there’s a recent release that immediately comes to mind as a perfect pairing with Studio 666, it’s the Nic Cage-led Willy’s Wonderland. Also primarily set in a single location dealing with demon possession amid exaggerated circumstances, there’s a grounded reality that makes everything that happens between *and to* characters that just makes sense in the greater context of the reality before us. One could certainly divine a deeper meaning about the state of rock ‘n roll music, the ways in which fame comes at great cost, and how we all become caricatures of ourselves in pursuit of maintaining the ethereal orrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr we can just go for a blood-soaked ride.
Take the ride.
In theaters February 25th, 2022.
For more information, head to the official Studio 666 website
Final Score: 4 out of 5.