I’m not much of a Foo Fighters fan, so I probably shouldn’t be reviewing something that could be described as Foo Fighters: The Movie. And yet, the Foo Fighters vanity project that somehow got pushed into wide distribution this year was a tribute to something I am a huge fan of: 80s metalsploitation. Studio 666 is a goofball throwback to metalsploitation classics like Trick or Treat, Shock Em Dead, and Rock n Roll Nightmare, complete with authentic plot tropes about backwards Satanic recordings & ancient incantations that open portals to Hell. It’s telling that even the Foo Fighters know their usual Dad Rock riffage does not hit the genre metrics of that tradition, so they traded their signature stadium sound for a thrash metal soundtrack under the pseudonym Dream Widow. They demonstrate a genuine, nerdy appreciation for vintage metalsploitation here, so even though I don’t care much about the band, I still think it’s cute they wasted everyone’s time & energy making a tribute to the genre, then distributing it as if it were a Real Movie.
Even if it is cute on a big-picture conceptual level, in practice Studio 666 is a constant battle between predictably awful one-liners and shockingly decent gore gags. There isn’t much plot to fill its expansive 106min runtime. A demon possesses Dave Grohl while he’s pushing the band to record their 10th studio album on location at a haunted house, so he slaughters his seemingly infinite bandmates one by one in increasingly gruesome ways. There’s a lot of dead air to fill between those kills, which is mostly gobbled up by Gen-X Dad Humor about how Dude Stuff like backyard grilling rocks and new age Chick Stuff like meditation sucks. The band slacks, cusses, shrugs, and mugs away the runtime, coasting on assumptions that the audience finds them adorable. Thankfully, their banter is occasionally interrupted by some spectacularly gnarly gore: hammers to the skull, decapitations via gardening shears, bifurcations of the chainsaw, etc. There’s no real invention or momentum to the kills, which punctuate the band’s hangout slacker humor instead of overpowering it, but they’re at least grotesquely tactile in a way that feels true to the splastick & metalsploitation traditions of olde.
I’m sure that dedicated fans of the Foo Fighters as the last true Stadium Rock Gods (give or take the Red Hot Chili Peppers) would find a lot more to chew on here. If nothing else, the recent passing of the band’s second-in-command musician Taylor Hawkins adds an extra layer of morbidity to the premise, especially considering the tabloid rumors concerning his exhausted relationship with the workaholic Grohl (shown here literally working his bandmates to death). Coming to it as a horror fan, I can’t say there’s much to mine here beyond a few retro practical effects shots and an out-of-nowhere endorsement from genre legend John Carpenter. Still, I’m amused that it exists – at least in the abstract. It’s charming that the biggest Guitar Rock band in the world spent their cultural capital reviving a dead horror subgenre from the Satanic Panic era, especially considering how fiercely Evangelical our culture is becoming at large (again). If it were 20min shorter & 200% funnier it might’ve even been Good.