Dark Star, which began as John Carpenter's thesis film at USC, is widely considered one of the best arguments around for low-budget science fiction filmmaking - by the right people. Armed with an absurd sense of humor (or an hilarious sense of the absurd), a genuine fascination with invention, a slightly twisted but nevertheless evident emotional strain, and “a dizzying love of moviemaking” (Soho News), Carpenter takes on American culture as he takes off on his more comfortably financed predecessors. Most of the action takes place in the cramped and degenerating quarters of the scout ship Dark Star, where a crew of three men, virtually abandoned by mission control, have lived communally for 20 years (although they have aged only 3). Bored with each other and, though not unemployed, painfully unenthused about their mission (to seek and destroy “unstable” planets), the bearded cabinmates have retreated inward, each into his own world. When a malfunctioning thermonuclear bomb threatens to crash their pad, the suspense and humor mount side by side in a most ingenious manner to a bitter-sweet end.
Co-written and designed by Dan O'Bannon, who also stars, Dark Star has been praised to the skies for its startling and sophisticated special effects.