Director: BJ McDonnell (USA). Year of Release: 2022
Encino, 1994. One of those big houses that has its own swimming pool. A drum kit is set up in the main downstairs room with some amps and guitars in the background. A woman drags herself across the floor, her white trousers sodden with blood. She is followed purposely by a large man carrying a hammer. We don’t see his face. But we do see him lift his hammer.
Cut to a Corporate media consortium in the present day. The Foo Fighters are talking to their management about where to record their Difficult Tenth Album. Rock music has got stale lately, so they want to find something different. Somewhere like the castles where Led Zeppelin used to record with all those wizards and shit. Their manager picks up the phone. He has just the place for them.
Studio 666 is slightly untypical for a film starring a band. If you think of the Beatles films, or the Monkees tv series, or even Slade in Fame, they were based on each band member having distinct characteristics. So there was Ringo the funny one, John the rebel, Paul the cute one and George the sensitive artist, Here it is just Dave Grohl and five blokes. Keyboardist Rami Jaffee is allowed a little character development as a new age hippie lothario, but it’s clear that Grohl is in charge.
This is probably a good thing, Grohl is a talented actor, even if he doesn’t stray much from the affable personality that he’s been displaying for decades now (and by all accounts is what he’s really like). Sure there are some scenes where the Nicest Man in Rock turns out to be a bit of a bastard when you get to know him better, but we know he’s sending himself up, and he knows that we know.
Back to the plot, although plot is one of the least important parts of this film. The band visit the old mansion which they still don’t know was the site of a grizzly murder and at least one suicide. They’re not really convinced until Grohl claps his hands and realises that it has perfect acoustics. They decide to stay. Grohl bags the master bedroom. Pat Smear – the man who toured with Nirvana but was never listed as a band member – ends up sleeping on a table in the kitchen.
Initially Grohl has writers block, churning out lots of riffs, all of which he’d already written 20 years earlier. Then he finds some old tapes of a lost band who were going to be the next Jane’s Addiction in the celalr (there’s also a holy book and a light bulb that fills with blood, but we won’t worry about them for the moment). Suddenly he becomes inspired, discovering a new note L Sharp. He badgers the band to get up in the middle of the night to complete their masterpiece.
Said masterpiece is rapidly turning into a new Jazz Odyssey – already well over half an hour long. It gets longer and longer, largely because Grohl hasn’t thought of a way to end it. Instead he just tells the band to keep going until the drummer gets blisters on his blisters, and the guitarists start walking out in frustration. This is where they start to realise that Grohl must be demonically possessed, because he’s just too nice to be that sort of dictator in the studio.
Studio 666 is not always sure whether it wants to be a horror film or a comedy, but when push goes to shove, it tends to go for the cheap laugh (by the way, it is a goof thing that this is not a film that takes itself too seriously). Outside the opening scene, no-one is killed or even hurt too bad in the first hour, and that’s a roadie who electrocutes himself. True, there is more bloodshed towards the end, but this is arguably the least effective part of the film.
The bloody scenes remain effective as long as they are obviously stupid. Towards the end the film tries to make some sense of its horror-fuelled plot. This is a mistake, as there is no sense. It means that everything starts to drag towards the end, and goes on a little too much (cue joke about the film being Everlong). This is a shame, as until then it had been a rollicking ride.
As long as Studio 666 is reeling off gags about the music industry, it remains thoroughly engaging and fun – it has a higher proportion of jokes that are actually funny than any film that I can remember seeing in a while. You even laugh at the Lionel Richie cameo, and that’s a phrase I never remember using before tonight.
Something strange about the film is that there is very little music from the Foo Fighters in it. Apparently the main song was written by John Carpenter (yes, that John Carpenter). This doesn’t worry me too much as it’s a while since I heard a new Foo Fighters song that I really liked (which made the scene of Grohl regurgitating songs he’d written decades ago particularly near the knuckle for me), but don’t go and see this if all you want is to hear the band playing.
If you fancy a fun night in the cinema, though, there is a whole load of worse films than this to see.