Reviewed by GREG KING
Director: B J McDonnell
Stars: Dave Grohl, Taylor Hawkins, Pat Smear, Nate Mendel, Chris Shiflett, Rami Jeffee, Jeff Garlin, Whitney Cummings.
Studio 666 is something of a vanity project for Dave Grohl, former drummer with Nirvana and founder of the rock band Foo Fighters, but this high concept premise falls short in the execution.
The Foo Fighters are about to record the tenth album, and Dave Grohl wants to make it special. He is tired of the usual familiar studios and is looking for somewhere different to record to give the album a special vibe. The debt-ridden CEO of their record company (Jeff Garlin, from Curb Your Enthusiasm, etc) rents an old abandoned mansion in Encino. Grohl recognises something in the acoustics within the mansion, and the band settle in to begin the recording process. But unfortunately he seems to be suffering from a bout of writer’s block. The only tunes he composes are based on his own early riffs.
But it turns out that the house is haunted. Two decades earlier another heavy rock band set themselves up in the house to record an album, but it was never finished as the lead singer became possessed by an evil demon and murdered the rest of the band before taking his own life.
In a basement Grohl discovers the recordings left behind by that ill-fated band, and becomes obsessed with the hard rock track he hears. He decides that the band will finish off that track, and this leads to an epic, demonic jam session. Before too long Grohl himself becomes possessed by the very same demon and begins killing off the members of his band, who have grown increasingly unhappy with his demands.
The film itself is based on an idea conceived by Grohl, and is full of moments of self-awareness, but it also becomes a little self-indulgent. The script has been written by Jeff Buhler (The Midnight Meat Train, tv series Nightflyers, etc) and first time feature writer Rebecca Hughes who have taken Grohl’s concept and infused it with many of the cliches of the haunted house horror genre. The film has been directed by B J McDonnell (Hatchet III), who comes from a background of music videos, having worked with bands like Slayer. He also seems attuned to the gross out demands of this schlocky B-grade horror material. There are plenty of second rate gory and grisly effects which include projectile vomiting, dismemberments and torrents of fake blood.
However the performances are less than convincing, as most of the band members are not really known for their acting prowess. Often their expressions appear more like stunned mullets or deers caught in the headlights. Only Grohl gives a passable performance and seems to delight in playing a heightened version of himself as an egocentric and sinister musician. Of the rest of the band only keyboard player Rami Jaffee makes a mark. Garlin is over the top as the foul mouthed record company executive, while Whitney Cummings is fine as the eccentric next door neighbour who knows the horrible history of the house. Will Forte has some fun with his small role as a pizza delivery guy who meets a sticky end.
The film was shot during the pandemic as something of a way for the band to pass time. Studio 666 should be ideal for fans of the band except that there may not be enough of their music to satisfy them. This is mainly a throwback to the gonzo horror films of the 70s and 80s full of cheesy effects. The film’s opening theme and the tune that obsesses Grohl has been composed by horror master John Carpenter himself, and it sets the eerie tone for the material.
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