Studio 666 opens in 1993 with Skye (Jenna Ortega, Scream, X), the last member of the band Dream Widow being killed by a hammer-wielding intruder. Flash forward to the present day Dave Grohl and the rest of the Foo Fighters are struggling to get their tenth album recorded. Grohl (who’s starting to look a lot like Danny Trejo) says they need a situation like “When Zepplin recorded in the castle with the devil and everything”.
Their manager Jeremy (Jeff Garlin, Curb Your Enthusiasm, Safety not Guaranteed) knows just the place and books them into a mansion/recording studio that’s going cheap due to some unpleasantness that occurred there back in the 90s.
The script for Studio 666 was based on a story idea by Grohl and written by Jeff Buhler (Midnight Meat Train, Nightflyers) and Rebecca Hughes (Der Vulkan). It opens up with a sharp dose of violence before going for some laughs at the expense of artist managers and real estate agents in the person of Barb Weems (Leslie Grossman, 10 Things I Hate About You, American Horror Story). Director BJ McDonnell (Hatchet III, Dead Island) has more experience directing music videos than feature films, but that and a long list of credits as a camera operator serve him well here as he supplements Barb’s tour of the house with some revalant flashbacks.
It doesn’t take long for the deaths to resume as the band’s head roadie Krug, played by Slayer’s Kerry King, gets electrocuted in a freak accident. But it’s not until Grohl finds the reel to reel recorder Dream Widow left behind and a book full of odd writing that looks like it was bound in human flesh that things really get out of hand.
To answer the obvious question first, no you don’t have to be a fan of the band or even familiar with their music, to like Studio 666. I like their early material but haven’t really followed them since somewhere in the mid-2000s and I was just fine with it. There are a couple of scenes, such as the one where Grohl is trying to come up with a new riff and just keeps getting ones from their hit singles, where it helps. But even then the band is there to remind him, “That’s from a really great song called Everlong, you wrote it like twenty years ago.”
Actually, the music they’re working on in Studio 666 doesn’t sound like their material anyway and has a heavy metal feel to it. One piece in particular sounds like vintage Black Sabbath with a Yngwie Malmsteen solo added in. Songs on the soundtrack include clips from Gojira, Motorhead and Slayer. Jackyl’s The Lumberjack of all things makes a wicked appearance as well.
As a horror film, Studio 666 is more fun than outright frightening. It’s not as goofy as something like Rock N Roll Nightmare but it’s more into outrageous gore gags featuring practical blood and body parts, but CGI or at least computer-enhanced demons, and jump scares than being truly frightening or disturbing.
There are also plenty of references to everything from The Evil Dead to The Burning tossed in along the way. Going along with those references are cameos by John Carpenter, (he also wrote the film’s theme) and Jason Trost, writer/director/star of cult films such as The FP, How to Save Us and FP2: Beats of Rage. And, in a different kind of horror, Lionel Ritchie and a few lines from “Hello” turn up as well.
While they’re far from great actors the band does have a feel for the film’s material and are obviously enjoying what they’re doing, especially in Studio 666’s more humorous moments. Whitney Cummings (The Ridiculous 6, Grizzly Park) stands out as the former groupie turned psychic warrior living next door.
While it takes a bit too long to get into the horror and, at an hour and forty-six minutes is a bit long overall, Studio 666 is a lot of fun. It’s in limited theatrical release now via Open Road Films in the US and MK2 Mile End in Canada. It comes to Digital and VOD on March 18th. You can check the film’s Facebook page for updates.