Rock ’n’ roll and horror go together like demons and haunted houses. If you drunkenly smashed those four things into one movie, you’d get something resembling the Frankenstein’s monster that is “Studio 666.”
Lovable Seattle-born rock juggernaut Foo Fighters, who play themselves, hold the stitches together with their usual brand of hard-rocking whimsy. When they stumble into a haunted Encino mansion, director BJ McDonnell tortures them with darkly hilarious heavy-metal shenanigans and gallons of blood. “Studio 666” gives new meaning to the phrase “creative differences.”
Legend is filled with artists who sold their souls to the devil in search of musical immortality. Dave Grohl and the rest of the Foos would settle for just finishing their long-overdue 10th album. Berated by their exasperated manager (Jeff Garlin), the Foos sequester themselves in the mansion to recapture their creative spark. Just like “when Zeppelin went to the castle with the devil and the wizard and the dragons,” Grohl observes. It’s not long before the haunted mansion pits our heroes against ethereal demons, an ancient book of spells and a disemboweled sacrifice that resembles Rocket from “Guardians of the Galaxy.”
McDonnell is well-suited for this material as a veteran director of heavy-metal music videos for bands like Slayer and Exodus. He understands the metal aesthetic needs to be menacing yet harmless. Those two descriptors perfectly encapsulate “Studio 666.” It takes the horror elements seriously but never loses its sense of humor. Think “Help!” dipped in a bucket of blood and set on fire.
The acting here is refreshingly serviceable. Most members of the band (Nate Mendel, Pat Smear, Taylor Hawkins, Chris Shiflett and Rami Jaffee) are given one unique characteristic, like Hawkins’ dude-bro attitude or Jaffee’s dabbling in mysticism. Still, none of these guys will ever be confused with master thespians. Grohl, a natural ham in front of the camera, is an absurdly likable presence who keeps things humming along, even during the tedious expository passages. Whitney Cummings rounds out the cast as Samantha, the ditzy groupie-next-door who knows more than she’s letting on.
“Studio 666” delivers on the two things you’d expect from a movie with the Foo Fighters staying in a demonic house; the killer riffs and the killings. The killings, in particular, are first-rate. Makeup effects guru Tony Gardner delivers quality gore incorporating animatronics, digital effects and good old-fashioned fake blood. Fans of the Foos should be warned, however, that the boys are rocking a bit heavier than their usual arena-rock stylings. Here, their music comprises what sounds like discarded Slayer chug-chug riffs. It fits the film’s sensibility, but it’s a twist some might find jarring from these unrepentant practitioners of consumer-grade rock ’n’ roll.
Wild headbanging and excessive gore help overcome the film’s prodigious running time. While the second half reaches giddy heights of over-the-top murder and mayhem, the first half grows tedious as it obsessively works to establish the mood. Still, “Studio 666” is good B-movie fun! Time will tell if it deserves the same cult status as heavy-metal horror classics like “Trick or Treat” (1986) or “Black Roses” (1988), but there are still plenty of midnight thrills to be had.