REVIEW: “Studio 666” (2022)

(CLICK HERE for my full review in the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette)

It’s hard to argue with the Foo Fighters’ sensational music career. Now the freshly minted rock and roll hall of famers take a brief detour from music to try their hand at movies with their first feature film “Studio 666”. While the group has been the subject of two documentaries, this is their first foray into drama. It’s a gallant effort. But after sitting through this baffling and at times astonishingly bad rock and roll horror comedy, I think the Foo Fighters might be better served sticking to their strength.

Just judging from the trailer, “Studio 666” looked outrageous and that’s a big part of what drew me to it. My impression was that the film would be a crazy mix of grisly grindhouse horror, absurd black comedy, and an assortment of old (and possible new) Foo Fighters tunes. Well, I got the grisly grindhouse horror part right. This thing goes all-out when it comes to gore – exploding heads, sprays of blood, entrails galore. It’s all present in unbridled over-the-top grindhouse glory. Even the title “Studio 666” resembles something you would see on a cheap mid-70s downtown marquee.

Image Courtesy Open Road Films

The black comedy part doesn’t work nearly as well. We get a few moments where the movie has fun with its more twisted elements, but not nearly enough of them. Instead of going full gonzo, the film often tries to be a straight comedy. But the numbingly bad gags rarely land – a problem that’s exacerbated by some horrible deliveries. To be fair, performances were never going to be a strongpoint here, and at times the band intentionally overplays certain scenes. But at other times it’s plain old bad acting and it becomes a distraction.

As for the music, don’t expect to hear any new Foo Fighters songs or to sing along to any of the band’s classics. Strangely there are none to be found. We get a couple of short jam sessions and a brief drum track or two, but that’s all. It’s an odd omission, and there were several times when I would have loved a Foo Fighters musical interlude to break up the growing monotony, especially in the first two acts (the third act isn’t great either, but it turns into a full-on splatter film which proves to be a welcomed distraction from all the other nonsense).

The film (directed by B. J. McDonnell, written by Jeff Bulher and Rebecca Hughes) is based on a story written by the band’s charismatic high-energy frontman Dave Grohl. It begins with the Foo Fighters butting heads with their manager (Jeff Garlin) over the group’s next record. It’ll be their tenth album so Grohl and bandmates Taylor Hawkins, Nate Mendel, Pat Smear, Chris Shiflett, and Rami Jaffee want to do something epic.

Their manager hooks them up with what seems like the perfect recording location – a mansion in Encino with a “rock and roll pedigree” (fun fact – it’s the same house where the band recorded their 2021 album “Medicine at Midnight”). Unfortunately for the Foo Fighters, that “pedigree” happens to include demonic possession, a gateway to Hell, and an unholy flesh-bound book ripped straight out of “The Evil Dead”.

Image Courtesy of Open Road Films

Rather than finding his creative energy in the spacious Encino estate, Dave suddenly loses his songwriting mojo. But just as his writer’s block (or as the movie so eloquently puts it, “songwriter’s constipation”) threatens to derail their much anticipated album, let’s just say Dave finds his much-needed “inspiration“ from a dark supernatural source. Horror hijinks ensue as the half-baked truth behind the house comes to light. Meanwhile several ‘friends of the family’ pop up in small roles or cameos including Lionel Ritchie, Will Forte, Whitney Cummings, Jenna Ortega, and Kerry King.

Ultimately the whole thing plays like one big running joke – one that might work if this were a 30-minute special on Netflix. But as a 100-plus minute feature-length movie, it’s tough to endure. The over-the-top gore-soaked final 20 minutes make it all a little more bearable, but not much. And while it’s true that without the Foo Fighters this movie would have never been made, it’s also true that without the Foo Fighters name stamped on it “Studio 666” would have never seen a movie theater screen. That’s because quality-wise it’s the kind of movie that drops unceremoniously on VOD only to end up in the digital bargain bin a few weeks later. And to be honest, they’re a dime-a-dozen. “Studio 666” is now showing in theaters.

VERDICT – 2 STARS

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