Horror cinema is littered with cameos, vanity projects, and sincere efforts by rock musicians wanting to show some love to the genre — Roger Daltrey in The Legacy (1978), David Bowie in The Hunger (1983), Ozzy Osbourne in Trick or Treat (1986), Alice Cooper in Prince of Darkness (1987), and on and on. There are just as many horror films that embrace hard rock as part of their narratives. What there are very few of, though, are horror films originated by musicians who also take the lead roles. Studio 666 fits into that latter group as a story idea by Dave Grohl has led to he and the rest of the Foo Fighters starring in a horror/comedy that delivers big laughs, bloody gore, and some headbanging good times.
Foo Fighters are already late on delivering their tenth album, and their record label exec (Jeff Garlin) is pushing them hard. Dave and the rest of the band — Taylor Hawkins, Rami Jaffee, Nate Mendel, Chris Shiflett, and Pat Smear — want to record it somewhere magical and weird, and they hit the rock history jackpot by landing a mansion in Encino where the legendary band Dream Widow perished in a murder/suicide. Dave finds himself constipated musically. but after a visit to a creepy basement reveals a sacrificed racoon, a book of the dead, and an undiscovered thrash track from Dream Widow, Dave’s demonic inspiration is reinvigorated. If he and the band can complete the track it will give birth to a demon, but getting there is going to require a few sacrifices…
Studio 666 will most obviously appeal to fans of Foo Fighters as all six current members take lead roles and have a great time riffing on their personalities, star power, and rock in general, but even non-fans should have a good time with it. None of them are professional actors, but their charisma and charm are more than enough to power through with a real sense of fun. The end result is a horror/comedy that, while never scary, fills the screen with some terrifically gory set-pieces and an abundance of laughs. It is far, far better than you’re expecting.
Director BJ McDonnell has dabbled in horror/comedy before with the lesser Hatchet III (2013), but he nails the formula here by trusting the script and performers with the comedic beats while crafting some wonderfully bloody kills. From a beheading via drum cymbal to a glorious, mid-coitus double-homicide with a chainsaw, Studio 666 doesn’t shy away from the red stuff. The bulk of it is accomplished practically, and while some elements are victims of the budget, they’re never less than entertaining. You’ll be a bit less forgiving of the cg, but again, the film is such a fun ride that it’s all part of a highly enjoyable time. Ghostly figures are brought to life with an aggressive energy and visuals that feel like a blend of We Are Still Here (2015) and The Banana Splits (1968), and the horror beats work well delivering spooky haunted house vibes.
We don’t get new songs here, per se, but the band does unleash a tease of the thrash music that Dream Widow had attempted before their demise. Grohl is actually releasing a companion album of 80s-style thrash under Dream Widow’s name, so fans of that part of the film will be doubly pleased. It’s not all hard-grinding guitar riffs, though, as Grohl gives a brief rendition of Lionel Richie’s “Hello” before being interrupted by the man himself. And yes, hearing Richie say “fuck” is surprisingly funny.
Practical gore, nods to other horror films (including a cameo from a certain master), and some fun-loving set-pieces hold up the genre side of things, but Studio 666 is a comedy through and through. I’m hoping their “Pearl Jam high five!” is something the Foo Fighters actually do to amp themselves up — I seriously love it and agree that “‘Jeremy’ is fucking smoking!” The band holds their own (I’m Team Pat), but Grohl is the big ham who knows how to play to the camera with his expressions, line delivery, and smile-inducing kick-fight with Garlin. It’s not his first horror/comedy rodeo either as he previously played Satan in Tenacious D in the Pick of Destiny (2006).
The band detects an “overwhelming sense of death and doom” in the mansion, but Studio 666 is more about an overwhelmingly good time. This is the Foo Fighters’ show even as Will Forte, Whitney Cummings, and Jenna Ortega join in on the fun. “You’re welcome, music,” says Dave at one point, but he could just as easily be saying “you’re welcome, horror/comedy fans.”
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