I'll start this review with full transparency: horror and comedy are my two favorite movie genres, and my favorite band is Foo Fighters. So when I heard Foo Fighters were making a horror-comedy, I knew I'd probably like it no matter what. Despite admittedly being in the bag for this movie from the start, Studio 666 exceeded my expectations. This is genuinely one of the best horror-comedies I've ever seen, and it works whether you listen to the band's music or not.
Imagine a rock-and-roll version of The Shining and you've got the overall gist. The band owes their record label a new album. Wanting a fresh environment for inspiration during the recording process, they rent a huge mansion, which they decide to live in until completion. An evil force resides within its gates. That force possesses frontman Dave Grohl, making him obsessive about creating an epic thrash-metal song that lasts for more than half an hour. When the others - guitarists Chris Shiflett and Pat Smear, bassist Nate Mendel, drummer Taylor Hawkins, and keyboardist Rami Jaffee - start to question Grohl's sanity, he becomes violent toward them.
There are fun supporting performances from Jeff Garlin as the band's manager; Will Forte as a starstruck food delivery man; Jenna Ortega as a previous occupant of the house; and Whitney Cummings as the neighbor who starts a wacky flirtation with Jaffee in between issuing dire warnings.
Studio 666 is often laugh-out-loud hilarious. Screenwriters Jeff Buhler (Pet Sematary) and Rebecca Hughes (the TV sitcom Cracking Up) have crafted smart dialogue and scenarios that play on the personalities of the individual members, as well as on the image of the band itself. Grohl is the enthusiastic leader with wild ideas, Jaffee is the hippy-ish one, etc. Hearing the sarcastic wisecracks the musicians make as Grohl starts to exhibit bizarre behavior proves funny. (“Dave has gone One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest crazy!” Smear says.) Because these men know each other so well, they're able to achieve a humorous rapport that feels totally legitimate. The way Grohl's possession symptoms present themselves is another source of comedy, and his committed performance helps sell the entire concept.
Foo Fighters are known for rocking hard. On the horror level, the movie does likewise. Director BJ McDonnell doesn't hold back, delivering some of the most creative gore sequences you'll see in any fright flick this year, including one where Grohl cooks and eats a bandmate. What he does with a chainsaw in another scene would make Leatherface jealous. There are shadowy demon creatures with red eyes, a sinister reel-to-reel player in the basement, and a bit where someone has half their head decapitated with a cymbal. Although the violence is extremely graphic, there's a hint of spoofery in how over-the-top it is. This is one of those pictures where you laugh and squirm simultaneously a lot of the time.
Making movies centered around a well-known musical act is always a high-wire act. For every Purple Rain, there's a Spice World. Studio 666 works because it knows precisely what it wants to be. Grohl devised the story himself, so the film is starting out as a distinctly Foo-ish project. And because the band has made a number of funny music videos over the years, the members are comfortable with comedy. They've chosen a cinematic vehicle that fits perfectly into the band's vibe.
Do you have to be a Foo Fighters fan to enjoy Studio 666? I don't think so. You just have to like wicked dark humor and outrageous, balls-to-the-wall blood and gore. The movie gets the mixture of those things 100% right, taking the whole horror-comedy genre and cranking it up to eleven. There's something impressive about how determined the film is to out-do every other horror-comedy. In concert, Foo Fighters have the goal of rocking the socks off everyone in the audience. Studio 666 has the exact same goal, and it succeeds brilliantly.
out of four
Studio 666 is rated R for strong bloody violence and gore, pervasive language, and sexual content. The running time is 1 hour and 46 minutes.