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The Ghost And The Darkness (1996)

DVD Cover (Paramount)
Genres / Traits:
Adventure, Adventure Drama, Costume Adventure, Jungle Film, Big Cats
Director:
Stephen Hopkins Stephen Hopkins
Starring:
Michael Douglas Michael Douglas
Val Kilmer Val Kilmer
Tom Wilkinson Tom Wilkinson
John Kani John Kani
Bernard Hill Bernard Hill

5.9 / 10 - Overall Rating

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Review by Chad
Added: April 07, 2007
Every once in a while, a movie comes along that is difficult to rate and review on this site for one reason or another. The Ghost and the Darkness is one such movie thanks to the fact that, while I can't really say anything bad about it, it simply didn't do anything for me. I suppose that I should have expected that; after all, it didn't sound like something I'd be too interested in, and to be honest, I only picked it up because it was sitting in the used bin for a whopping two dollars and I remembered someone suggesting it on this site.

Val Kilmer stars as Col. John Henry Patterson, a man who has been assigned the unenviable task of building a bridge in the small African village of Tsavo. A problem soon arises, however, as it becomes apparent to the men working on this bridge that there are a pair of lions nearby who actually seem to enjoy killing people; it's not just about eating them for food, these beasts seem to do it solely for the sport of killing. This brings in a world renowned hunter by the name of Charles Remington (Michael Douglas) who sets out to slay the lions, and that's the general gist of the entire film.

I'm not too sure what it was about The Ghost and the Darkness that didn't gel with me; after all, it's based on a true story and seemed to be pretty accurate in its depictions of what really happened save for a few minor details, the performances are solid all around, and the lion attacks looked quite good thanks to the film makers using real lions instead of animatronics or CGI. Perhaps my dislike for the film could simply rest on the fact that the story probably didn't deserve to have a movie made out of it. Now, don't get me wrong; the story is good, but there's simply not enough material here for a feature-length film in my humble opinion. Patterson shows up and starts the bridge-building process, the lions attack, Remington shows up, the two hunt the lions, end of movie. While it's a solid story and stuck to the facts, it simply didn't work when stretched out to ninety minutes of movie time.

Other than that, I can't say too many bad things about the film at hand. The direction is good, the acting is better, and there are a handful of great scenes involving the lions. The first scene in which we see the two lions together - when we realize that these animals are smarter than your average wildlife - was excellent, and I was also particularly fond of a couple of the chase scenes towards the end. The score and sound effects enhance the movie terrificly, but it all comes back to the plot: nothing can save a movie when the plot simply isn't working.

My advice? If the plot synopsis up above sounds like something that you'd be interested in watching, then you'll probably enjoy this a whole lot more than I did. Otherwise, you'll probably walk away as disappointed as I did. The film delivers what it promises, but I personally couldn't help but feel cheated at the end nonetheless. 5/10.
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Tristan #1: Tristan - added 04/08/2007, 01:44 PM
I watched this again for the first time in about 8 years, and it didn't do it for me like it used to. I think what you said about stretching it out over 90 minutes was right, it just doesn't work. 6/10
bluemeanie #2: bluemeanie - added 04/08/2007, 11:08 PM
Could have been so much more. I remember being so excited about this film when it first came out, based primarily on one of the most kick ass trailers I ever remember seeing. I remember finally getting to see it and being rather disappointed. It had some very cool elements and sequences, and I thought both Douglas and Kilmer turned in great performances, but I kept seeing so many things I could have done differently...and better. 5/10.
Edd #3: Edd - added 04/09/2007, 12:31 PM
Unexciting. The attack scenes were good, but still, lions aren't scary. The end. 1/10
bluemeanie #4: bluemeanie - added 04/09/2007, 01:43 PM
LOL...I guess lions aren't scary...until one's ripping out your throat.
Tristan #5: Tristan - added 04/09/2007, 03:28 PM
I don't think this movie was supposed to be scary. It was more of a threatening experience. It was essentially fluff centered around some nice gore scenes.
bluemeanie #6: bluemeanie - added 04/10/2007, 01:12 PM
Well, they built it up to be scary, from the trailer and the early buzz about the film. I remember being so excited about it and so ready to see a kick ass horror film about lions going apeshit on some bitches. Then -- nothing. These days, I can appreciate a story-driven horror film, but back then I wanted to see what the trailer had deceivingly promised. I would love to see this re-done by someone like Neil Marshall.
Tristan #7: Tristan - added 04/10/2007, 06:27 PM
When this came out, I was 9. I didn't know what trailer meant. Nor did I ever see ones for movies like this. I did a lot of Disney watching at 9.
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