The tradition of having musicians star in movies is a long and dubious one. I’m not talking about the practice of putting song and dance performers in leading roles; no, I mean casting people primarily known for performing music in acting roles (think Prince, Kiss, Lady Gaga) in a movie about music. The results may vary, but every so often, you get a stone-cold classic. The Foo Fighters’ vehicle Studio 666 is not such a classic, but it’s not without its charm either. And it may actually fail at its own game because there isn’t enough rock to go around.
Directed by music video/commercial and Hatchet III director BJ McDonnell, Studio 666 finds Dave Grohl (the film is based on his story idea), Taylor Hawkins, Nate Mendel, Pat Smear, Chris Shiflett, and Rami Jaffee being pressured by their manager (Jeff Garlin) to manufacture a new record. This being their tenth album, the band decides to take a different approach to recording by renting a mansion in Encino, one that has a shady past that involves a death metal band who attempted to record there years earlier, until the lead singer killed his band mates and then himself before finishing their final song. The movie actually opens with these grizzly killings, setting the tone for the exceedingly bloody excitement to come.
The acting talents of the Foo Fighters varies, with Grohl probably being the most expressive and keyboardist Jaffee being the one most willing to look like a weirdo. As in real life, Grohl’s fellow Nirvana compatriot, guitarist Pat Smear, isn’t much of a thespian but he has adorable charm to spare. Screenwriters Jeff Buhler and Rebecca Hughes have cobbled together a story that involves an evil force in the cellar, dead animals, Grohl getting possessed, real-life English occultist/ceremonial magician/dirty old man Aleister Crowley; a nosy neighbor (Whitney Cummings); a wannabe rocker/delivery man (Will Forte); and a host of beheadings and other dismemberments.
It seems whatever evil force is in the house and possessing Grohl wants the band to finish an epic-length rock song in order to open some portal to hell or another dimension loaded with unpleasant demons. We hear fragments of this song, but nothing really new or interesting from the band, which is partly why I signed up to watch this movie in the first place, being the Day 1 Foo Fighters enthusiast I am. Even worse, the things possessing Grohl seem to want him to end the band and do the solo thing, which may be the most nightmarish aspect to Studio 666. The film is mostly played for laughs, and even when things get wildly gross, it’s in such an over-the-top way it’s hardly offensive or repulsive.
Studio 666 is probably 10 minutes too long, and most of what passes for humor here is just the band swearing at each other. But Satan worshiping is a big part of rock ’n’ roll mythology, so it’s sometimes fun to watch the band play in that sandbox while still openly mocking those who think there’s an actual connection between the Foo Fighters and devil worship (these guys are in the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame; I think they’re safe). The movie is a minor hoot while it’s playing, but it mostly plays like a forgettable, amateur-hour production.
Studio 666 is now playing theatrically.
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