Synopsis: Legendary rock band Foo Fighters move into an Encino mansion steeped in grisly rock and roll history to record their much-anticipated 10th album.
Stars: Dave Grohl, Taylor Hawkins, Nate Mendel, Pat Smear, Chris Shiflett, Rami Jaffee, Whitney Cummings, Will Forte, Jenna Ortega, Leslie Grossman, Jeff Garlin
Director: B. J. McDonnell
Running Length: 106 minutes
TMMM Score: (5/10)
Review: I think it’s essential to go into a review of Studio 666 with complete transparency. I know next to nothing about Foo Fighters, save for Dave Grohl’s history with Nirvana and his charity work. If I were forced to name a song of theirs or do a backflip off a high board into a pool, I’d be choking on chlorine pretty quickly. I like a good horror picture, and making it as meta as possible will always get my antennae up and interested. Finding out Grohl and his Foo Fighters comrades made Studio 666 mainly in secret and reading more about the production, one couldn’t help but get a little excited about this type of specific genre filmmaking becoming popular again.
Based on their reaction to a movie, you can often comfortably divide a film into two camps, but in the case of Studio 666, I think a third one has to be considered. There will be people who like the film for the foul-mouthed, gory horror DIY indie feature it is, while others will be turned off by the filmmaker’s fallback on profanity to fill in gaps of dialogue in a script that’s not exactly breaking new ground where haunted houses and demonic possession are concerned. The third and final group will be the Foo Fighters fans who won’t care if the film is bad or good, they’re showing up to support their band and hear some music, and to those people, I say with confidence that you are going to get your money’s worth on every level. It’s the people seeking more who are in for a rough stay.
Years ago, an up-and-coming band moved into a sprawling mansion in the California hills to record their album but never got to finish it after one team member snapped and everyone wound up dead. After a brief prologue finding Jenna Ortega crawling on the ground with a wound and scenario eerily similar to what the actress experienced in January’s Scream requel, the Foo Fighters are introduced being tongue-lashed by their agent (Jeff Garlin, Safety Not Guaranteed), wondering where their 10th album is. Creatively blocked, lead-singer Grohl needs more time to produce something extraordinary with his band. That’s when the agent hatches the idea to find a location nearby to hunker down and get something together quickly.
With the help of Leslie Grossman’s (Miss Congeniality 2: Armed & Fabulous) chipper agent, the band is shown to the mansion we saw in the prologue, minus the corpses that formerly decorated the place. Grohl instantly finds a connection with the space. However, he comes to find out the link is less heaven-sent and more devilish in its charms, and the other Foo Fighters ensemble eventually agrees to move in for a brief stay to get the album laid down even faster. Despite a nosy, horny neighbor (Whitney Cummings, The Wedding Ringer), the band gets to work, and viewers begin to hear some of the excellent music Foo Fighters created for the film, nearly all of which is quite memorable in construction.
Each band member comes to have some encounter with a sinister force within the house, either manifesting itself through some presence or via the possession of Grohl’s body. As they lay down their tracks individually, Grohl makes a few cuts within the band…and not just in the music. While bodies start to pile up, the gang’s remaining members learn the history of the house and what it might take to stop the entity from taking over Grohl. As an evil spirit is on the loose, brutally murdering all that stand in its way, director BJ McDonnell (The Conjuring: The Devil Made Me Do It) and writers Jeff Buhler (The Prodigy) and Rebecca Hughes attempt to inject humor when they can, but pretty quickly it’s clear this is a battle that amateur actors shouldn’t fight. Experienced comedians like Garlin, Grossman, and Cummings do their best to try to make this material work, but they wind up looking like ghoulish cartoons struggling to make situations funny and playing opposite musicians moonlighting as actors.
For his part, Grohl is every bit as affable and engaging as an actor as he is when playing music or as a consistently exciting interview. He’s essentially playing himself, so none of the band members are doing much in the way of acting, but Grohl is the one among them that could (and maybe should) continue if he chooses. The acting side of the equation is not what interests the rest of the gang; being a rock star is, and that is something they do exceptionally well. It’s just too bad that much of Studio 666 is dependent on performances being as strong as they can be – and they aren’t that great.
McDonnell knows how to stage good and efficient suspenseful sequences, and there are a few clever scenes of a bloody massacre that will send fans of sickening kills straight through the roof. Unfortunately, there has to be more than just a well-liked cast and a few nice jolts to keep a picture humming along, especially one as long as Studio 666. Sadly, it never makes good on its early promise of consistency in coherence as more than a series of strung-together scenes or sustained engagement. If you like horror films, even a little bit, you’ll want to check it out but keep your expectations a simmer.