Review: There’s nothing funny or scary about the Dave Grohl horror-comedy ‘Studio 666’

A man standing while wearing headphones yells at another person.
Dave Grohl of Foo Fighters stars as himself in director BJ McDonnell’s “Studio 666.”
(Andrew Stuart / Open Road Films)

Horror is so hot now that 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 the goofy, gory horror-comedy “Studio 666.” .

The Foo Fighters have always been a band with personality. The videos for “Everlong” and “Learn to Fly” showcased the acting and comedy skills of frontman 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. Rock legend Grohl has legitimate star quality and is 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 do not necessarily translate into the acting chops needed to carry a feature film.

With a stronger screenplay and more dynamic filmmaking, the amateur acting wouldn’t be as painfully obvious. But the Foos are stuck with a crass, crude, dated and terribly unfunny script written by Jeff Buhler and Rebecca Hughes from a story by Grohl, and McDonnell’s filmmaking is rather inert. Neither funny nor scary, “Studio 666” is lacking in tension and suspense. Not even cameos from horror master John Carpenter or 2022’s newly minted Scream Queen Jenna Ortega (“Scream,” “X”) can offer true horror bona fides to this flick, and stand-up comic Whitney Cummings can’t make this thing funny.

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 for inspiration, stumbles upon a new riff after encountering the demon in the basement. Murder and mayhem ensue.

The whole thing feels as if 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 blood-thirstiest horror hounds will be able to slake their thirst for gore with this one.

Katie Walsh is a Tribune News Service film critic.

‘Studio 666’

Rating: R, for strong bloody violence and gore, pervasive language and sexual content

Running time: 1 hour, 46 minutes

Playing: In general release Feb. 25