If you ever wanted to hang out with the Foo Fighters, and get killed by them, there’s only one game in town: “Studio 666,” a goofy horror comedy that, if nothing else, seems to have given the Foo Fighters a time-consuming little project to help get them through the pandemic.
The whole movie exists to waste a few hours away, chilling with one of the most popular rock bands in the world as they share their love of scary movies, act like dorks and eat an alarming number of Doritos.
“Studio 666” stars, in descending order of screen time, the Foo Fighters, Doritos snack chips, and Whitney Cummings. There are so many Doritos on-screen throughout “Studio 666” that we can only imagine that either a lot of money has changed hands or, like Joan Crawford before them, at least one of these so-called “fighters of foo” married into the PepsiCo dynasty and is doing their new family a solid.
The plot is simple: the Foo Fighters, the top-selling rock band behind such classic songs as “Learn to Fly” and “This is a Call,” are about to record their 10th album, and it needs to be special. Inspired by Led Zeppelin, who famously recorded an album in a castle with — as frontman Dave Grohl puts it — “wizards and dragons and shit,” they rent a large estate in Encino, California, with a storied history in the music industry of wild parties, famous rock bands and a whole lotta corpses.
Grohl, suffering from “musical constipation,” can’t seem to write a riff that doesn’t plagiarize his own extensive back catalog. He’s so wrapped up in his creative block that when one of their roadies gets electrocuted by the building’s lousy wiring and dies, he convinces the rest of the band to ignore the obvious red flags and to finish at least one song at the murder house in tribute to their fallen comrade.
Before long, Grohl finds an unholy altar in the basement — complete with the clearly fake, but still genuinely unpleasant remains of a sacrificed raccoon — and the remnants of a recording session by the ill-fated previous tenants. Grohl takes it upon himself to finish their magnum opus, a song that quickly balloons from a promising beginning (Grohl invents a new key called “L Sharp”) into a never-ending concept record involving pagan images and, eventually, blood sacrifices.
“Studio 666” may have some gross-out moments — to the film’s credit, there’s a chainsaw death that’s nothing short of awe-inspiring — but it’s not trying to make anybody lose sleep at night. Filmmaker BJ McConnell (“Hatchet III”) loads the film with lots of amusing references to scarier horror movies like “The Evil Dead” and the original “Friday the 13th,” and seems particularly inspired by the carnage. But this is a movie about chilling in a house with the Foo Fighters, and the Foo Fighters are eager to deliver.
When it works, “Studio 666” is a cheerful and charming comedy about a group of musicians who really like each other and don’t mind looking like doofuses. Their clarion call of “Pearl Jam High Five!” immediately followed by happy cries of “We’re still alive!” is straight out of retro live-action kids shows like “The Kids from C.A.P.E.R.” Keyboardist Rami Jaffee either had no problem with, or specifically requested, being portrayed like a horny New Age space-case who can tell you how long a corpse has been dead just by listening to its vibes. The perpetually put-upon Pat Smear doesn’t even get a bedroom in the gigantic house, but he chipperly sleeps in the kitchen because, obviously, it’s closer to the Doritos.
And then there’s Grohl, who came up with the story of “Studio 666,” and initially plays himself as a slightly out-of-touch dweeb who loves sconces, and isn’t afraid to tell you about it, but gradually falls prey to the darkish side of celebrity and transforms into a selfish meanie who also, if they’re getting in the way of his mojo, murders his bandmates with their own barbecue. Sure, he’s the villain, but he’s also (like the rest of the cast) completely laid back in every possible way. You can’t be mad at him when he kills people, because the movie isn’t mad at him. The whole “Studio 666” enterprise is just goofing on us.
Also — and it seems impolite to bring this up, like a guest at a party whining that their favorite flavor of Doritos isn’t on the snack table — but there’s at least a little disappointment that comes from watching a brand-new film starring the Foo Fighters as themselves that isn’t a musical or at least packed with brand-new tunes. At least the ominous rock track they’re recording throughout “Studio 666” (composed by horror legend John Carpenter, alongside John Cody Carpenter and Daniel Davies) is a satisfying musical centerpiece. But it’s still mostly window dressing, an excuse to work with a horror legend on a laid-back horror comedy.
It’s remarkable how far McConnell’s film can coast on little more than novelty power, star power and Doritos. But there’s no denying that “Studio 666” hits a wall after about an hour, and spends the next 50 minutes stumbling around in a daze. Nothing goes especially wrong with the production (although some of the goriest gore may be a turn-off for casual Foo Fighters fans); it’s just hard to remain emotionally invested in a film where everyone’s clearly just having a wacky time making home movies with their friends, and nobody has a story they desperately needed to tell, or an important topic of conversation on their minds.
If you can imagine getting invited backstage at a Foo Fighters concert and spending so much time eating Doritos and talking to the band about John Fasano’s “Rock ’n’ Roll Nightmare” that, frankly, you’d rather go home now, that’s kind of what it’s like to watch “Studio 666.” But for a solid hour, and in occasional moments of gross inspiration as the film reaches its violent finale, the film also plays a lot like “A Hard Day’s Night” if it was directed by William Castle, and sponsored by Doritos. And if that’s not a selling point, what the hell else could be?
“Studio 666” opens Friday in U.S. theaters.