All their lives, the Foo fighters clearly wanted to be horror movie stars — and the Dave Grohl-fronted band gets their chance in this gonzo, gory, extremely goofy and indulgent film.
February 24, 2022
As the drummer for Nirvana and the frontman for Foo Fighters, Dave Grohl doesn't have many mixed bags on his resume. The music superstar has been in the spotlight for three-plus decades now, and boasts success after success to his name, complete with a list of awards and hits bound to make almost everyone else in the industry envious. But all their lives, Grohl and his fellow Foos must've dreamt of being horror movie stars — and the result, the pandemic-shot Studio 666, shouldn't entice any of them to quit their day jobs. A haunted-house horror-comedy, this rockstar lark is gonzo, gory and extremely goofy. It's a clear bit of fun for everyone involved, and it's made with overflowing love for the genre it slips into and parodies. But it's an indulgent and stretched exercise in famous folks following their whims at times like these, too. Achievement unlocked: there's Grohl's mixed bag.
Studio 666's setup revolves around Grohl, drummer Taylor Hawkins, guitarists Chris Shiflett and Pat Smear, bassist Nate Mendel and keyboardist Rami Jaffee packing their bags for a live-in recording session at an Encino mansion. As the movie's 1993-set prologue shows, their temporary new home has a dark past, after the last group that inhabited the spot met bloody ends; however, ignorance is bliss for the Foo Fighters. Actually, an obligation to deliver their tenth album to their overbearing manager (Jeff Garlin, Curb Your Enthusiasm) inspires the move, as does the band's creative lull in conjuring up the record otherwise. Grohl instantly falls for the sound of the space as well, to an unhinged degree, and his bandmates begrudgingly agree to the month-long stay to make musical magic happen.
Recording an album doesn't usually spark The Evil Dead-style murderous mayhem, cursed book and all, but that's Studio 666's gambit. Its Californian abode isn't just stalked by a grisly ghoul with a love of gut-rumbling tracks — it possesses Grohl with the need to craft a killer song, length be damned, and with satanic bloodlust, cannibal cravings and prima-donna rocker behaviour. Is he monstrous about doing whatever it takes to get the tune because he's bedevilled by the house's resident evil, he's on a power trip or both? That's one of the film's big gags, and also a hefty splatter of the kind of sense of humour it's working with. Winking, nudging, satirising, and sending up fame, egos and the all-devouring nature of entertainment stardom: they're all on the movie's menu, alongside as much gleefully cheap-looking viscera as any feature can manage to splash around.
Amid the deaths by cymbal, barbecued faces and projectile-vomited guts — no, what's left of the Foos at the film's end won't be getting their bond back — there's zero doubt that Grohl and company are enjoying themselves. Actors, they aren't, but playfulness has always been part of Foo Fighters' mood. When the band began in 1994, initially as a one-man project by Grohl after Kurt Cobain's suicide the same year, it was instantly perkier and sillier than Nirvana. For the 'Big Me' music video from the group's self-titled first album, they shot an unforgettable Mentos ad parody in Sydney. With the 'Learn to Fly' clip in 1999, they satirised airline flicks — Airplane!, which was already a send-up, plus disaster fare Airport 1975 and Airport '77 — aided by Tenacious D's Jack Black and Kyle Gass. Getting so delightedly bloody might be new, but refusing to take themselves seriously definitely isn't.
Surrounded by Lionel Ritchie cameos and Will Forte's (MacGruber) bit-part as a delivery driver-slash-wannabe muso, all in the house where they did actually record 2021's Medicine at Midnight, the Foos are in on all of the jokes — Grohl goes overboard with his eye acting, Jaffee couldn't be more buzzed to revel in New Age-y stereotypes and Smear is gloriously flippant about sleeping on the kitchen bench — but they also overestimate how entertaining their mucking around is for audiences. The ever-longer it sticks around, the more Studio 666 resembles viewing your mates' holiday videos and hearing them relive their in-gags from that trip you didn't take with them. The Grohl-originated story, as scripted by the Pet Sematary remake and latest American The Grudge flick scribe Jeff Buhler with Rebecca Hughes, a veteran of mid-00s sitcom Cracking Up, has more to it than a mere clip for a Foo Fighters song could sustain. There isn't enough for Hatchet III and Slayer music video director BJ McDonnell's 107-minute movie, though. Splitting the difference, a tight half-hour short like the Beastie Boys' 2011 Fight for Your Right Revisited might've hit the mark perfectly, but then no one could've sold cinema tickets.
Studio 666 is a tad haunted by those other alliterative American music icons given that the Beastie Boys made ridiculously parodying movie genres an art in their clips for 'Sabotage' — aka the best music video ever made — and 'Body Movin'. This Foos' effort strives for the same vibe, but more is less here. There's a bit of A Hard Days Night to Studio 666, too. Obviously, The Beatles-starring 1964 film doesn't care too much for horror, or at all, but the two movies share a days-in-a-life angle that peers beyond the facade of fame. That's a nice piece of music synergy, in fact, given that Grohl was part of a makeshift band tasked with playing the British group's songs for the Backbeat soundtrack back in 1994, the same year Foo Fighters was born.
Not just due to Grohl's flannelette-heavy wardrobe, the Nirvana of it all proves a monkey wrench for Studio 666. In coming up with a story that includes a hit early-90s band's demise after the suicide of their lead singer, it's impossible not to see Grohl's bad-taste cribbing from his own history — a piece of satire that doesn't land for a second, was never going to and is mind-bogglingly ill thought-out. When the film does work, however, it's a screwy, entrails-strewn jape. When it toys with horror fans' knowledge of the genre by using Halloween-style text with an opening theme to match, then reveals the track to be the product of the iconic John Carpenter (who also cameos on-screen), it's knowing in an ideal way. But, when Jason Trost of the cult-fave The FP franchise shows up briefly, Studio 666 lays bare its own demons. This Foo-driven film wants to be the best of that exact kind of midnight movie, but is really just a cover version.