A famed rock band retreats to a new studio to record their latest album, banking on artistic revitalization from an alien environment. A new song shows great promise – if only they can get it right. But while they keep coming close, the song remains a challenge, the end not quite coming into focus. No, this isn’t a scene from Peter Jackson’s Get Back, although there are some weird parallels. The band is Foo Fighters, not The Beatles. And instead of Yoko Ono hanging out while the band records in the Encino mansion they are also living in, it is demon in possession of front man Dave Grohl.
The film is Studio 666, based on an idea of Grohl’s. And instead of dealing with London bobbies trying to shut down their rooftop concert, the Foos grapple with trying to live long enough to finish their record and figure out exactly what Dave means when he says the new song is in “L sharp.”
It is as absurd as it sounds and delivers a lot of what Alex in A Clockwork Orange would have described as “the old ultraviolence.” Do not come to the movie expecting great art, or even necessarily a good movie, but met on its own silly terms, this dance with the devil of a horror comedy is entertaining.
There is a little bit of verisimilitude in Studio 666. The band really did record their 2021 album Medicine at Midnight at that Southern California mansion, but similarities to real life end there. Instead, nearly 30 years into their existence, Foo Fighters expand past the realm of charming music videos, and take a swing at being movie stars (not actors). There are shades of A Hard Day’s Night and Help!, goofiness reminiscent of The Monkees (particularly in the performances of keyboard player Rami Jaffee. who also has all the animation of a human Muppet, and guitarist Pat Smear, the sweet, Peter Tork-like one made to make do with sleeping on kitchen counters in absence of a bedroom), and Alice Cooper in the made-for-TV movie The Nightmare.
The house, it seems, has secrets as the audience already knows thanks to a grisly prologue that quickly spins the tale of the last unfortunate band that recorded in the house. Grohl wanders into the basement where a recording set up and a dead raccoon should tip him off to run back upstairs, grab the guys, and flee screaming into the night. But, nah, he stays long enough to become the latest vessel of stone cold evil – albeit a presence with big plans for one particular song.
The possession leads to perfectionism that puts Grohl at odds with his oblivious bandmates who only gradually realize just how much – and how lethally – their friend has changed. Phantom of the Paradise, Equinox, Evil Dead (and Evil Dead 2), and a whole host of grislier horror movies clearly served as inspirations for Studio 666 and maybe even a little Fargo (yes, there is a wood chipper on the premises). But while there is some horrific, black comic violence, there are no real scares here, no matter how many Foo Fighter lives are threatened. Playing themselves is not much of a stretch, playing themselves in peril (or embodying evil, in the case of Grohl) is and it is a stretch a little too far.
Not that it matters. Studio 666 is, as they say, what it is. No suspension of belief is required once you strip away the horror trappings. What’s left is a bunch of pals getting together to make a movie, one that is gruesome and goofy in equal measure. –Pam Grady