The Friday Afternoon Movie: Dark Star

Soon enough I will have made Coilhouse a repository for the Complete Works of John Carpenter. Certainly this was not the intention when I started the FAM, but it seems to have turned out that way. In this case, however, it is with great sadness that I post his cult favorite, Dark Star.

As Mer detailed below, Dan O’Bannon, one of the creative forces behind one of the greatest science fiction/horror movies in all of cinema, died yesterday. Alien is almost a mythical movie at this point, a landmark piece of film of which thousands of words have been written and which has been numerated on countless lists. It is, by dint of its prestige, almost completely absent from the internet, swept away by the watchful eye of Twentieth Century Fox.

What we are left with, then, is Dark Star and here I must make a confession: I hate this movie. Well, hate may be a strong word. I have seen this movie exactly once. It was rented, long ago in the days of my long forgotten youth, under the impression that, like the box proclaimed, it was a laugh out loud comedy, a rollicking good time. It was, in my memory, none of these things and by the time the credits rolled my parents, brother, and I felt that we had surely been tricked; the victims of a cruel bait-and-switch.

Watching it now I find myself appreciating it more for what it represents rather than what it is. Since that day so long ago my taste for irony and absurdist humor has matured, but even so I find few parts of Dark Star to be funny with the exception of O’Bannon’s rightfully lauded turn as Sgt. Pinback/Bill Froog. No, as a comedy it fails, at least for me. What it does do is foreshadow the arc of O’Bannon’s career and hint at just what he was capable of conjuring up from the depths of his brain. Dark Star is the seed from which Alien sprang and, regardless of whether you love it or hate it, for that reason alone it is priceless.

8 Responses to “The Friday Afternoon Movie: Dark Star”

  1. sonya Says:


    xo to coilhouse, you make my days!

  2. Mer Says:

    Hooray! You read my mind, dearie. For the love of O’Bannon (an Irish ballad title if ever I heard one) I was gonna email you begging you to make Dark Star the Friday Afternoon Movie. But then I thought… too much Carpenter? Hmm…

    But you and I both know. One can never have enough pre-90s Carpenter.

    And seriously, O’Bannon’s hilarious in this. Watching Sgt. Pinback, you recognize the amazing humor in stuff like Return of the Living Dead and Total Recall.

    Ugh. I’m so bummed he’s gone.

  3. malpertuis Says:

    I love you, Ross.

    Pinback’s journals are legendary. Thank you.

  4. Carrie Cleaver Says:

    This is fabulous. Just like the rest of your mag. Keep up the good stuff!

  5. Masha Says:

    But but…its so funny! Or at least I think so.
    Its funny because its depressingly familiar –
    That scene with the guy (forget his name) desperately stuck in the lift with the lift music tinkling on – and the tickling alien – and above all that cynical bomb –

  6. Ben Catmull Says:

    I love deadpan humor and I love this movie.

  7. Stelios Says:

    The only good thing about this film is the resulting 8-bit home computer game. I had it for my Amstrad CPC 464 and it was great. Ok, so maybe it was sort of ELITE-light but it was still entertaining. There are lots of emulators around, give it a try.

  8. Glenn Says:

    without Darkstar there would have been no Alien films; I recall an interview (my addled brain can’t remember who with) where they said that during the making of it they realised how hard is was to make a really scarey alien, and started wondering what would make a really nasty alien…. rest is history!