Rock/pop stars often love horror movies so much they want to be in one – or, better yet, have a horror film entirely built around their stage personae … a phenomenon to which we owe such oddities as KISS Meets the Phantom of the Park, Jack Jones in The Comeback, Alice Cooper in Monster Dog, Snoop Dogg’s Hood of Horror and the entire filmography of Ron Zombie. Not to mention such metal-themed VHS era items as Slaughterhouse Rock, Trick or Treat and Black Roses. An issue with all these things is that musicians like to pretend to be scary – with Satanic symbols, horror movie homage songs, etc – but mostly in a kind of joke pantomime manner, which goes back to Screamin’ Lord Sutch or even Bobby ‘Boris’ Pickett. A few minor films have tried serious muso ghost/horror stories (Reverb, Bloodthirsty) that tap into urban legends about lost tapes, Satanic contracts, death discs and tabloid excess.
Studio 666 opens with some extreme gore as Dream Widow, a 90s band once hailed as ‘the next Jane’ Addiction’, die horribly when their resident genius (Marti Matulis) summons ill-defined demonic entities while working on an album track. Thirty years later, the Foo Fighters – all gamely playing themselves, mostly as idiots – are pressured by a raspy agent (Jeff Garlin) to deliver and album and rent the very same Encino Mansion that was the site of the prologue. Dave Grohl, resident genius, is blocked – and even abused by a vision of Lionel Richie (as himself), one of he film’s funnier non-sequiturs – until he finds the tapes of that abandoned Dream Widow track and becomes literally possessed with a need to finish it (the rest of the band go along with it, but make Spinal Tap-like comments on its length) and complete a ritual designed to bring demons to Earth (or something) or bring about a remake-in-disguise of The Evil Dead.
Freak accidents befall a roadie (Kerry King) and a delivery guy (Will Forte), and Dave sees a sinister figure who looks and acts a lot like the villain of The Burning (I guess there are only so many camera angles to use when filming a garden shears murrder). The band members get killed off in Fangoria cover set-pieces. Red-eyed smoke-shapes lurk in the garden. Whitney Cummings has a funny bit as a sexy, exposition-delivering neighbour – and bows out along with band member Rami Jaffee in a chainsaw variant on the in flagrante slashing of Bay of Blood; Leslie Grossman is the suspect estate agent who didn’t mention the massacre; and John Carpenter (billed as Rip Haight) has a matey cameo as a sound engineer and worked on an okay theme.
As directed by BJ McDonell, who gave you the one Hatchet not directed by Adam Green and a bunch of pop videos, this probably falls into the category of amiable vanity project. It has a lot of things and people in it that Dave Grohl – who devised the story, though Jeff Buher and Rebecca Hughes directed – likes, including plentiful barbeque with ranch dressing, but goes on for 106 minutes where the likes of, say, 976-EVIL got everything done in 92 (the six-man line-up of the Foo Fighters was obviously non-negotiable, but a smaller band would have made for a more concentrated, focused picture). The band chat is fun but doesn’t allow for any build-up of suspense or dread, and the horrors are of the pile-‘em-on variety. Grohl, wearing Count Yorga teeth when possessed, manages to play a funny version of himself (a different one from his turn in Bill and Ted Face the Music) but that’s about it. Hard to take against, but not easy to be too fussed about either.