‘Studio 666’ is Nothing But a Good Time
The Foo Fighters play themselves in this comedy-horror romp, which promises joyful stupidity and provides exactly that.
When it comes to sweaty, guitar-pummeling rock music, I’m a firm believer that silliness is fundamental. Though I envy the musicianship of the Foo Fighters, their songs have always struck me as excruciatingly dour, lacking the playful sensibility that defines other bands composed of men with greasy hair. It’s strange, then, to see frontman Dave Grohl and his bandmates star in a film as unrepentantly absurd as Studio 666, which embraces the tropes of D-grade ‘80s horror to deliver brainless entertainment. This trashy genre pastiche is exactly what you’d imagine: A woefully acted, profanity laden tribute to metal mythology that revels in self-awareness. And if you understand that going in, you’ll enjoy yourself.
Suffering from writer’s block, the Foo Fighters move into an abandoned mansion in Encino, California to create their tenth album. It rapidly becomes apparent that the house is haunted by a demonic force, which possesses Grohl for some generically nefarious reason and leads him to become obsessed with completing an increasingly elaborate song. The band members gradually realize that something is wrong with Grohl beyond mere perfectionism, while odd occurrences and grisly killings ensue.
There are plenty of laughs to be had throughout Studio 666, but the comedy is inconsistent. Most of the gags stem from the repartee between the Foos, which smacks of heavy improvisation on set. The juvenile dialogue is littered with an equal amount of hilarious one-liners and awkward fumbles that should have been left on the middle school playground. Allusions to horror classics ranging from The Exorcist to Evil Dead II surface throughout alongside references to the rock ‘n’ roll canon and the occasional Foo in-joke, though these are surprisingly few. At its best, the script offers moments of genuine inspiration. In the film’s most memorable sequence, Grohl attempts to overcome his writer’s block by experimenting with different musical genres, only to be dissuaded by an unexpected celebrity cameo. Later on, the murder scenes are so twistedly creative and contain such a hilariously excessive amount of gore that it’s impossible not to guffaw. Studio 666 is most effective at its most adventurous, and it’s regrettable that the film does not stray further from genre hallmarks.
Grohl—who, distractingly, both looks and sounds like a slender Jack Black—is agreeably hammy as the film’s lead and has the presence necessary to justify his substantial screen time. His bandmates make no pretense of even trying to act, but their ironic performances are likable and never irritating. B.J. McDonnell’s direction is satisfactory—though the scenes of raw horror are filmed with greater panache than the rest—and the oppressive, chugging soundtrack provides an ideal complement to the film’s sinister yet jovial atmosphere.
But Studio 666 suffers from inconsistent pacing. Certain scenes could easily be shortened and there are too many moments where the film sags, particularly as it enters its muddled third act. Writers Jeff Buhler and Rebecca Hughes attempt to respect their cinematic influences by crafting a florid mythology behind the entity that inhabits the house. But the result is so nebulous that the film’s climax devolves into an incomprehensible mess of random special effects and clichéd horror images presented without any sharp subversion. A leaner, more focused screenplay could have elevated both the humor and the terror.
Yet despite its obvious flaws, Studio 666 remains an enormous amount of fun, irresistible in its unpretentious nature. When the film is most enjoyable, it is often at its most understated. Gags involving raccoons, Ranch dressing, and mythical guitar keys are more conducive to successful schlock than gratuitous F-bombs, and plenty of other peculiar elements are included to keep things amusing. Still, even at its loudest, the film will satisfy any viewer seeking a simple good time, and it exists to serve no higher purpose than that. Throughout, I was reminded of Kiss Meets the Phantom of the Park, a hysterically awful emblem of ‘70s Americana that holds similar comic value. But the makers of that movie believed it would be taken seriously, and it endures only as a guilty pleasure. Here, there’s no guilt involved: Grohl and his peers set out to create pure, shamelessly terrible escapism, and they succeeded. In times like these, what’s wrong with that?