Let’s start with an aspect of STUDIO 666 that is bound to make many horror fans (such as myself) cheer (quietly, shhh we’re in a theatre): John Carpenter (along with Cody Carpenter and Daniel Davies) wrote and performed the main theme to the movie. Even the opening credits are in the Carpenter film font. Though the film itself is very different than his works, it contains references to and reverence for Carpenter.
This reverence is the key to Studio 666. The people the film is aimed at will appreciate John’s involvement, along with the love of the genre present across the movie. This love of the genre gives the film a great deal of goodwill to help smooth past some of the rougher patches. As a horror-comedy pastiche, writers Jeff Buhler (Pet Semetary) and Rebecca Hughes, working from an idea from Dave Grohl, never feel cloying or dismissive of the genre. There is an awareness of genre expectations, and knowledge the viewers know every step. But “Here’s what you want, fun ain’t it!” in tone, leaning into cliché, rather than a “ain’t I clever” that one gets from folks like Ryan Murphy.
That familiar story: The Foo Fighters, with the band playing heightened versions of themselves, drained of their creative juices, move into a haunted mansion in Encino to record a new album. But it’s got a curse… it’s got a DEATH CURSE! Thus, instead, they bring about hell via a book in the basement. Studio 666 is a ton of fun, but a little uneven.
The viewer can tell Grohl and the rest of the band had a lot of fun and it was a labor of love for them. The band members are all non-actors but they mostly acquit themselves well. Fear not, those who have seen other band-led films like KISS Meet the Phantom of the Park and Can’t Stop the Music, the acting is far from painful. The natural chemistry of a band that has worked together for so long allows for ease with one another. It works best when they are hanging out and riffing. It is less so when giving plot continuing lines. The Foo Fighters are Dave Grohl, Pat Smeer, Chris Shiflett, Nate Mendel, Taylor Hawkins, and Rami Jaffee. Grohl, as the lead, naturally has to carry the move on his shoulders, and he is exceedingly well. But of the other others, Pat Smeer gets the most screen time and laughs (despite Jaffee trying to steal it with a Cheech and Chong-like stoner delivery). It’s strange, although I was annoyed with Smeer’s perpetual “this is fun but awkward” smile, I was continually pleased to see whatever he’d be up to next. They were all having fun, and I was enjoying watching them, especially the over-shocked school play reactions. If any further notes, the improv-sounding dialogue being peppered with “fuck” every other word did come off sophomoric. I’m not a “ew swearwords” but it sounded like middle schoolers trying to be funny by cussing. But this soon wore off.
There are also some regular actors on hand for the surrounding characters. Jeff Garlin as their manager Jerry Shill (heh), Will Forte as a delivery driver super-fan (for another rock-based horror-comedy with him, check the utter fantastic Extra Ordinary), Leslie Grossman as a scummy real estate agent, and Jenny Ortega as a 90s rock star. She doesn’t get to do much here, but it’s awesome to see Ortega again so quickly after a star turn in Scream. She’ll be in Ti West’s X next month as well. A new scream queen for 2022!
The main issue with the film is the length of 1h50m is a bit too long. After the great setup, it plateaus with plenty of repetition as the band tries to work on the album as Grohl becomes affected by the evil book that needs blood and music. Some ideas, such as Whitey Cumming’s “Knows Too Much” neighbor are introduced and vanish for a while. There is also some awkwardness within scenes, cutting in too late, leaving too early, and obviously cutting around flubbed takes of non-actors.
But thankfully, the third act pays off. Director BJ McDonnell , who previously made Hatchet III, sets up sequences and pays off well. Kills are fun, plentiful, and practical. The last act moves with great speed and has some wonderful twists and turns.
Leaning into goofy genre-fun with great gags, and a sense of energy STUDIO 666 is a joy for fans of the genre.
PS. This isn’t the greatest review in the world. NO! This is just a tribute. I’d be remiss not to mention Grohl playing the Devil during the climax of Tenacious D & The Pick of Destiny. I’ve had that finale in my head this whole review. For your fun, I link it below.