Dave Grohl horror film 'Studio 666' misses mark

Katie Walsh
Tribune News Service (TNS)

Horror is so hot right now, everyone wants a bite. No longer relegated to the midnight movie, the often low-budget, high-profit genre isn’t just flourishing at the box office in the lingering pandemic market, it’s practically saturated it. So it’s no surprise that a beloved rock band, especially one as affable as the Foo Fighters, might want in on the action.

What they’ve come up with is a goofy, gory horror comedy, “Studio 666,” directed by BJ McDonnell, written by Jeff Buhler and Rebecca Hughes, from a story by Foo frontman Dave Grohl.

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The Foo Fighters have always been a band with more personality than most, especially since the videos for “Everlong” and “Learn to Fly,” which showcased the acting and comedy skills of Grohl, drummer Taylor Hawkins and guitarist Pat Smear, or at least their willingness to attempt humor. That set them apart from the rest of the modern rock brigade, and Grohl, a rock legend, has legitimate star quality, often showcased as a talking head in rock documentaries, on social media and in TV appearances. But as “Studio 666” proves, rock star charm and personality does not necessarily translate into the acting chops to carry a feature film.

With a stronger screenplay and more dynamic filmmaking, the amateur acting wouldn’t be quite as painfully obvious, but the Foos are stuck with a crass, crude, dated and terribly unfunny script, and McDonnell’s filmmaking is rather inert. Neither funny nor scary, “Studio 666” is lacking in all tension and suspense. Not even the presence of the Horror Master himself, John Carpenter, making a cameo, or 2022’s newly minted Scream Queen Jenna Ortega (“Scream,” “X”) can offer true horror bona fides to this flick, while stand-up comic Whitney Cummings can’t make this thing funny either.

Dave Grohl stars in "Studio 666." The movie opens Thursday at Regal West Manchester, Queensgate Movies 13 and Hanover Movies 16.

The Foos play themselves in this tale of songwriter’s block and demonic possession. Under pressure to deliver a new album to their demanding manager (Jeff Garlin), they hole up in a rundown Encino mansion said to be haunted with the spirit of a '90s band that never finished their album after one member went on a killing spree (seen in flashbacks).

Dave, searching high and low for fresh inspiration, stumbles upon a new riff after encountering the demon in the basement. Murder and mayhem ensues.

The whole thing feels like it was a lark for Grohl, who gets the meatiest (literally) role, while the rest of the band feels held hostage, standing around delivering flat reaction lines to their lead singer. The jokes are stale, the energy is stilted, and the whole thing feels like a misbegotten vanity exercise cooked up in the pandemic to keep them occupied.

It’s also about an hour and a half too long: excise the corny dialogue and jumbled plot and cut together the kills, and “Studio 666” would be a fun extended music video, which is what it should have been in the first place. But as it stands, the film version is for die-hard Foo fans only. Not even the bloodthirstiest horror hounds will be able to slake their thirst for gore with this one.

‘STUDIO 666’

1.5 stars (out of 4)

MPAA rating: R (for strong bloody violence and gore, pervasive language, and sexual content)

Running time: 1:46

Where to watch: In theaters Friday

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