Let’s address the Marshall stack in the room. Rock and roll movies, specifically ones that feature musicians in starring roles, only work if you already like the starring band. If you like the Beatles, then the odds are high that you’re going to enjoy A Hard Day’s Night. If you’re not a fan of the Beatles, there’s a copy of Spice World out there with your name on it. Studio 666, which stars the stalwart rock band Foo Fighters, defies that rule which I just made up. Love the Foos or hate them, there’s a lot to enjoy in this movie for both camps.
It’s time for the Foos to record their tenth album. Leader Dave Grohl decides he wants to make a grandiose Led Zeppelin type record with “wizards and dragons and shit.” The band’s shifty manager, played by Jeff Garlin, rents a mansion in Encino, California, for the band’s recording sessions. That house is crawling with demonic entities, the spirits of a band murdered in the home while they were making an album during the 1990s, who wreak havoc on the Foos’ efforts to make a masterpiece. Grohl himself slowly becomes possessed.
Grohl has built a real-life reputation as one of the nicest humans in rock. Watching him mutate into an agent of darkness is hilarious and a little frightening. Evil Dave bullies the rest of the Foos into recording a 44-minute-long song. He snarls at neighbours and food delivery drivers. Studio 666 presents a bizarro version of Grohl that some fans may find more unsettling than when Grohl, in full-body makeup, played the Devil in the Tenacious D movie, The Pick of Destiny.
The backbone of Studio 666 lies in long-held tales of rock and roll folklore. There are allusions to stories of Led Zeppelin guitarist Jimmy Page and his experimentation with black magic. Nine Inch Nails recorded their seminal album, The Downward Spiral, in the same house where members of the Manson Family killed Sharon Tate and others in the 1960s. The creators of Studio 666 never explicitly mention those events, but if you know, you know. To some extent, all the satanic heavy metal tropes show up in the movie from backward masking to Aleister Crowley.
While Grohl does a fine job as the obvious star of Studio 666, the other members of the band do not get short shrift. Guitarist Pat Smear has tremendous comedic timing, providing the biggest laughs of the movie. Keyboardist Rami Jaffe gets a bedroom scene with the next-door-neighbor, played by the daffy Whitney Cummings, that doesn’t end as one would expect.
Studio 666 is gory, damned close to gruesome. Chainsaws, wood chippers, and in one beautiful visual callback to the 1980s horror classic, The Burning, a pair of hedge clippers. This is a horror comedy movie, but some of the scenes of graphic violence work as showstoppers instead of story enhancers. Don’t get me wrong. I like gore, but the script isn’t bulky enough to soak up that much blood.
Like any good rock and roll story, Studio 666 indulges in its excesses. In going over the top, the inherent charm of its stars is overshadowed making the movie a bit uneven. Watching the film is like listening to a record that starts off great, but then there are those two tracks toward the end that you end up skipping past to get to the final song. In that respect, Studio 666 is all killer, some filler.
What you say about Studio 666 is what you say about Dave Grohl and Foo Fighters. If you like the band, then you’re going to have a great time watching them bounce around the screen, playing music and bantering. If you’re not a big Dave Grohl fan, then you’ll probably have fun watching him become an evil satanic monster that kills people, including his own bandmates. There. Are you Foo haters happy now?
Studio 666 is slated for theatrical release in the United States on February 25, 2022.