The Foo Fighters star in their own horror movie, Studio 666 – what could go wrong? Well, quite a few things, as it happens.
Anyone luckily enough to have a job in the arts knows what it’s like when the synapses of creativity suddenly cut themselves off. Versions of writer’s block exist across the creative world and afflict everybody for varying periods of time. Most artists, however, don’t form a terrifying, murderous bond with a Satanic entity in order to break out of the rut. And if they were to ever consider it, Studio 666 serves as a very clear and very bloody cautionary tale.
The movie is a star vehicle for veteran rock outfit the Foo Fighters, who play versions of themselves as they decamp to a secluded home – with a dark, secret history – in an attempt to record something special for their tenth album. Indeed, filming took place in the same house the band used while making their actual tenth album – last year’s Medicine at Midnight. On arrival at this apparent creative haven, it becomes clear that Dave Grohl is finally out of ideas. “I’ve written all of my songs,” he says solemnly after he is only able to conjure riffs from his past rather than anything new. A late night encounter with a dead raccoon and a mysterious book in the basement suddenly gives Grohl a deluge of ideas for a 30-minute rock opus, but this comes at the cost of something malevolent lurking inside him.
There’s a rich heritage of rock stars making the jump to macabre cinema, with the underseen 2017 Faustian pact chiller American Satan – starring Black Veil Brides frontman Andy Biersack – a solid recent example. Over the years, the acting ability of these moonlighting performers has varied considerably and it’s often down to the movie itself to decide how much actual thesping the musicians will have to do.
In the case of Studio 666, it’s a game of two halves. When the blood gets flowing, the fangs are bared and the inventive mayhem begins, the movie is an utter delight. Director B J McDonnell, who helmed Hatchet III and a number of Slayer music videos, relishes the bountiful quantities of spilled crimson and showcases an inventive flair for getting the most possible out of every mutilated cadaver. One particular moment involving a whirring power tool, for example, makes Leatherface look like he’s been edited for pre-watershed television. Gorehounds need not worry, because there’s gallons of the stuff sloshing around.
Much of the movie, however, requires the six Foos to shoulder a significant amount of drama and comedy, with which they visibly struggle. While the gang are fitfully entertaining while sniping at each other, there’s a stilted and listless quality to the way they deliver Jeff Buhler and Rebecca Hughes’ script. It seems to hope a lazy F-bomb or two is enough to make up for a missing punchline.
While devout fans might be familiar with the distinct personalities of the band members, the film does little to differentiate them. Whenever they have to shoulder emotional moments, there’s no weight behind them at all. You find yourself longing for the next decapitation and by then, unfortunately, it’s difficult to care much once the dust and viscera settles.
Grohl is, of course, the star. The movie was his brainchild – he gets a ‘story by’ credit – and he throws himself wholeheartedly into every moment of it. Sometimes he’s being disembowelled in a dream sequence, sometimes he’s chowing down on completely raw steaks and sometimes he’s even bickering with a foul-mouthed, cameoing Lionel Richie. In all of those scenarios, Grohl gives it everything to make the film work, with his rock star charisma ideally suited to the increasingly manic storytelling. While his acting can be questioned, his commitment certainly can’t.
There’s not much about Studio 666 that’s particularly original and, often, it can be a bit of a slog to get through. However, its second half flickers into life with plenty of slashing and silliness, accompanied by bombastic rock music. Foo Fighters fans will find it utterly irresistible, but those who don’t know their Everlong from their Monkey Wrench may struggle to get behind this particular thrill ride.
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