According to Dave Grohl, this movie happened because whilst recording the Foo Fighter’s tenth album he had an idea to do a very cheap slasher video about the band and the studio, like a little youtube home movie, and then suddenly there were millions of dollars in production money and John Carpenter doing the soundtrack. I’ve got no way of knowing if it’s true or marketing hype, but I imagine that kind of thing happens a lot in his world and it probably explains why this film exists. It also explains why it can only exist because the Foo Fighters are in it, and why this ends up being “A Hard Days Night” done by Hooper and Craven.
The premise is the whole film in a nutshell: it’s simple, it’s inherently amusing, it trades in self-parody, and it’s an excuse for overly dramatic gore. A hype-stylized version of The Foo Fighters, played by The Foo Fighters, are having trouble writing their tenth album because Dave Grohl has run out of ideas. So, their management send them to a studio that we know was the site of some really horrible murders. Grohl experiences some spooky stuff, gets an idea of a song stuck in his head, and then goes kill-crazy on the band and anyone else within the firing line.
Whilst this is a deeply para-social experience, it’s clear that the band are very comfortable with themselves as they are more than happy to send up their rock-star world. Grohl gets the biggest drubbing, happy to come across as an idea-drained and overly controlling leader of the band, which befits his status and acting ability. The rest of the band gets their time on screen, and no one gives a bad performance, but the film knows who we are there to see. This is a great strength, and ensures that there are no shoehorned in weak moments that other band movies can suffer from.
It’s also got just enough self-awareness to not copy This Is Spinal Tap. I know that’s almost 40 years old, but it’s still over-shadows the rock band genre. The film is clearly very aware of it, but it takes notes from its approach to presenting rock-star jerkery rather than rips it off. It tries to do something a bit new with the concept, mostly around the age and situation of the band members but doesn’t act like it’s doing anything ground-breaking within that.
Similarly, when it comes to the horror elements it knows it’s fully aware of what it needs to accomplish and what tone to strike. It is, on a number of levels, breathtakingly horrific with its violence, because it knows that the only way to make these moments funny is to make them ridiculous whilst playing them straight. It wears its 18 rating with a juvenile pride that keeps it watchable, even if you might be gagging whilst laughing at some of the more profane indignities suffered. There are some moments that are pure supernatural thriller, giving a decent amount of jump scares, and enough conventions are followed to avoid it being a parody of horror-comedies, even if the self-awareness from the band’s involvement does get it awfully close to the smug-line on occasion.
It also manages to be just the right side of the line with its cameos. John Carpenter is there because he did the music and he’s cool as hell. Kerry King is there as a roadie, because it’s Kerry King and who’s going to tell him what to do? And Lionel Richie turns up and plays an absolute blinder, ensuring that after the film you’ll be reading press about the film to find out how on earth happened but during the film, you’ll be having a solid belly laugh. It doesn’t say “look how many friends we have””, instead it’s “we have some friends who are as cool as us and can add to the joke”, which is the better way to do it.
As a movie for Foo Fighter fans, it works perfectly. The band are obviously having fun, there is just enough insight into their world to feel part of the gang, and the self-deprecational humour element them feel relatable. The musical element is a curious one, as it’s really not what the Foo’s are known for playing. So, either you’ll be excited that it’s something new the actual band might bring into the real world or you’ll be satisfied that them going into the world of 45-minute stoner-metal jams is just a movie conceit. The rest of the soundtrack is just solid rock bangers, from a variety of sources, and if the soundtrack album doesn’t do nicely for itself I’ll be mildly surprised.
For horror movie fans, things are a little less amazing. It’s still a good film within the world of horror-comedy and has many moments of pure, brutal genius. However, it’s also a bit “by the numbers” and has a few weak moments in the final act. Nothing terminal, as this film absolutely gets the Treasure accolade, but it’s going to be remembered because of the cast. Had it focused on the horror and tried to do a more interesting job there, it would have lost a lot of the humour, so it’s a good thing that it played up to its strengths.
As I’m not a Foo Fighters fan, I can’t see myself watching it again. This is because I had such an incredibly good time with that one viewing, I wouldn’t want to see the many cracks that are almost certainly there. I was not expecting The Foo’s to go that “all in” with the premise, and the shock at that commitment just won’t be there a second or third time. I also don’t think I would be that interested if they made another because it could only be downhill from here.
This is an incredibly effective, and utterly ridiculous, bit of novelty nonsense. So, I can only encourage you to give it a watch, have a laugh, and not treat it as anything more serious than that. I’m fairly confident that the Foo Fighters haven’t, and that’s what made it work so well.