Dave Grohl and the Foo Fighters face demons in underwhelming horror comedy Studio 666

click to enlarge Dave Grohl and the Foo Fighters face demons in underwhelming horror comedy Studio 666
"Make my way back home when I learn to... die?"

Given Dave Grohl's affection for some of the cheesier aspects of classic rock, it's a little surprising that he and his Foo Fighters bandmates hadn't already starred in a movie. They've given hammy performances in numerous music videos, but sustaining a feature-length narrative is another matter, and the well-meaning but plodding horror comedy Studio 666 is proof that they probably should have stuck to music-driven clips.

There's surprisingly little Foo Fighters music in this Foo Fighters movie, which stars the six band members (Grohl, Pat Smear, Chris Shiflett, Nate Mendel, Taylor Hawkins, Rami Jaffee) as themselves and was shot in the real house where they recorded their 2021 album Medicine at Midnight. Although the plot of Studio 666 also involves the Foos recording an album, their only musical performance is snippets of a single instrumental song, a "cursed" 40-minute epic that, if completed, will unleash an evil presence on the world.

The movie opens with a 1990s-set prologue establishing the house's haunted past, when the frontman of hard rock band Dream Widow slaughtered his bandmates while possessed by a demonic force. But once the Foos set up shop in the house at the direction of their impatient manager (Jeff Garlin), the aimless movie takes its time getting back to the horrors. Eventually, the demonic force takes possession of Grohl himself, who becomes fixated on completing the mystical musical composition and seems to be on track to repeat the crimes of Dream Widow's lead singer.

In the meantime, the band members goof around, with Grohl (who also receives story credit) taking the lead and clearly having fun starring in a glorified B-movie. The musicians aren't particularly good actors, but they aren't that much worse than the typical stars of actual low-budget horror movies, and they're better than, say, the Ramones in Rock 'n' Roll High School. Director BJ McDonnell throws in a few ringers, including Whitney Cummings as the nosy next-door neighbor who knows more about the house than she lets on, and Will Forte as a delivery driver with his own musical aspirations. Aside from Grohl, the Foo who makes the biggest impression is Jaffee, who delivers spiritual pronouncements and has a fling with Cummings' flirtatious neighbor.

McDonnell is a music video veteran who connected with the band while working on their video for the song "Run," and his one previous feature is the 2013 horror comedy Hatchet III. He and Grohl obviously have a lot of affection for horror and for rock star-driven movies, from classics like A Hard Day's Night to kitsch like KISS Meets the Phantom of the Park. But there's little of the exuberant silliness that makes the Beatles' movies (or even Spice World) entertaining to watch, and the horror is disappointingly tame, although McDonnell eventually stages some gory kills. Horror legend John Carpenter composes the theme music alongside his regular collaborators Cody Carpenter and Daniel Davies, and he makes a cameo as a recording engineer, but none of his filmmaking spirit infuses the storytelling or the bland visual style.

When Garlin's smarmy industry executive returns for the finale, Grohl and screenwriters Jeff Buhler and Rebecca Hughes briefly raise some intriguing ideas about the decline of rock music and the need to make it dangerous again, but Studio 666 isn't interested in exploring deeper themes. It's just a vehicle for good-natured rock stars to play around with horror effects and make dumb jokes. For Grohl and the rest of the Foos, it was probably a great experience, but by the end of the 105-minute running time, even diehard Foo fans may find themselves wishing for a three-minute music video instead. ♦

Two Stars STUDIO 666
Rated R
Directed by BJ McDonnell
Starring Dave Grohl, Pat Smear, Rami Jaffee

Backcountry Film Festival @ Garland Theater

Thu., Nov. 30, 6-9 p.m.
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