Judged by the liberal standards of horror-comedies starring rock bands — a sub-genre that peaked and crashed with Kiss Meets the Phantom of the Park — the new demon possession chiller Studio 666 (★★★☆☆), starring the Foo Fighters, really only needs to fulfill two requirements: kick ass and rock hard.
Director BJ McDonnell and the Rock and Roll Hall of Famers fulfill that assignment and then some, turning in a shockingly good and gory horror flick, filled with grody kills, Foos jamming, and chuckle-worthy humor, mostly at the band’s expense. Based on a story by frontman Dave Grohl, the script’s sharpest jabs take aim at Grohl himself, whose role as the band’s benevolent dictator takes a sinister turn towards an Amityville-style deadly rampage when the sextet books the titular studio to record their 10th album.
Actually, the creepy hilltop mansion in Encino is booked by the band’s manager, played rather hoarsely by Curb Your Enthusiasm‘s Jeff Garlin. Joined by a host of other comedy pros in supporting roles and cameos, the non-actor Foos thankfully aren’t forced to carry the whole shebang. Still, guitarist Chris “Shifty” Shiflett proves to be an able comedian, while drummer Taylor Hawkins holds his own, especially once the tension kicks in, and bodies start to drop.
Bandleader Grohl is no Olivier, but he’s consistently amusing, and occasionally alarming, as the increasingly unhinged “rockstar genius possessed by an evil spirit.” Of course, the evil spirits are compelling Grohl to finish a hard rock record that can open a portal to the underworld. And to eliminate anyone who gets in his way, including his bandmates — just not before each one records his part on the epic 40-minute masterpiece that demon-Grohl intends as the album closer.
Accordingly for a movie featuring one of the world’s biggest rock bands trying to record an album, there’s wall-to-wall music, but it’s not all Foo Fighters. The score by composer (and heavy metal drummer) Roy Mayorga is simple, effective ’70s-inflected horror music, supplemented by a spooky main theme composed and performed by none other than horror master John Carpenter, his son John Cody Carpenter, and Daniel Davies.
From the band, we mostly get them laying down strong riffs and hooks, though not any full songs, except for Grohl performing an impromptu solo rendition of Lionel Richie’s “Hello.” He also gets to bang his head to some pounding solos, but the only real Foo Fighters song on the soundtrack is “Love Dies Young,” from 2021 LP Medicine at Midnight. Even that’s no match for the movie’s best use of music, timing the buzz of a chainsaw to the grind of a guitar riff.
The ensuing chainsaw kill is one jaw-dropping moment of many that McDonnell stages with gripping suspense and tongue firmly in cheek. Be warned, somebody’s going into the wood chipper. That said, the film’s demonic entities, smoky figures with glowing red eyes, cast the darkest shadows. Concealing a mysterious past, they’re at times genuinely frightening — even moreso than a rampaging rockstar possessed by the undead soul of another rockstar who murdered his whole band. Dave Grohl and the boys might not all live to discover the house’s secrets, but maybe the next band booked in the studio will.