Focusing on the rising tensions between band members that ultimately results in bloody separation – and, no, we can’t blame this one on Yoko Ono – the Foo Fighters throw themselves wholeheartedly into the lunacy of Studio 666, opting for a more parodic This Is Spinal Tap temperament to storytelling over a documentative approach, resulting in a ridiculous, sometimes enjoyable, sometimes “Everlong” (ahh, see what I did there?) horror comedy that, at least, is aware that it’s entirely a lark.
In on the joke around any band that sequester themselves off in a colourful, off-the-grid locale for the sake of art and “good sound” – “Like Zeppelin, when Zeppelin went to the castle”, lead singer Dave Grohl explains to his fellow bandmates – Studio 666 follows the group (lead vocalist and guitarist Grohl, guitarists Pat Smear and Chris Shiflett, bass player Nate Mendel, drummer Taylor Hawkins, and pianist Rami Jaffee), adopting heightened personalities of their own psyche as they try to re-tool their energy for the recording of their 10th studio album. Unable to find satisfaction in traditional studio surroundings, their manager (Jeff Garlin) suggests an expansive, abandoned home – that may or may not have a chequered past (hint: it totally does!) – as their place of virtue, and, initially, the group feel as if they’ve made the right decision.
Following an opening that brings to mind the slasher trope of offing an attractive young actress (here being one that feels far too related to the recent Scream to feel purely coincidental), Studio 666 makes no apologies about the fact that it’ll be a bloody, gory ride. Mixing CGI-enhanced supernatural effects with a more practical mentality – there’s one kill piece involving a chainsaw that is a bloody marvel – director B.J. McDonnell (Hatchet 3) delights in the film’s 1980’s mind-frame as it goes all in on its lack of subtlety, both regarding the performances and the narrative ingredients.
It’s evident that all the members of the band are having an absolute ball here, with Grohl the stand-out; not entirely surprising given the film was his idea, though the horny, pansexual vibe Jaffee gives off runs a close second. He ultimately ends up as the film’s villain, being possessed by whatever evil entity is lurking within the Encino mansion’s walls, driving him to the point of madness to achieve his killer sound. He uncovers a new note – “L Sharp” – and drives the boys to the brink with a 40 minute track that he won’t stop expanding until he finds the perfect ending.
Therein lies the irony though. For a film all about the frustration in finding a satisfying ending, Studio 666 entirely overstays its welcome. At 106 minutes it’s already longer than it needs to be – if ever a film was designed to be a tight 80, it’s this – and just when it feels as if the demonic nonsense has found a wrap-up, it protrudes further with unnecessary explanation. Admittedly, this extension does allow for a final burst of spurting gore, but it doesn’t feel earned or as shocking by this point, with our patience starting to wear thinner than Grohl’s plot.
Foo Fighter fans are likely to be entertained the most by what unfolds here. Whilst horror enthusiasts will get their fill throughout, the film’s random approach to comedy and the extended musical sessions could put some viewers on the back foot, resulting in an uneven effort that can’t be faulted for the pure joy the band so clearly has for the genre and one another, but doesn’t extend itself beyond a built-in fanbase. We may not get “the best, the best, the best of” a film, but if it starts an odd trend of 90’s musical acts throwing caution to the wind and investing their stock in hairbrained genre products, it certainly wouldn’t be the worst starter. Apocalyptic heist movie starring Garbage, anyone?
Studio 666 is screening exclusively in Australian cinemas for a week-only engagement from February 24th, 2022. It will be released theatrically in the United States from February 25th.