HOME |  CULT MOVIES | COMPETITIONS | ADVERTISE |  CONTACT US |  ABOUT US
 
 
Newest Reviews
To the Stars
Lady Godiva Rides Again
Angelfish
Ben-Hur: A Tale of the Christ
Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood, A
This is a Hijack
Loved One, The
Jumanji: The Next Level
Krabi 2562
Call of the Wild, The
Diary of a Country Priest
Sea Fever
Throw Down
Grudge, The
Green Man, The
Specialists, The
Convoy
Romantic Comedy
Going Ape!
Rabid
Infinite Football
Little Women
Camino Skies
Ema
Another Shore
Cry Havoc
Legend of the Stardust Brothers, The
Mystery Team
Westward the Women
Demonwarp
Man Who Killed Don Quixote, The
Chloe
Jojo's Bizarre Adventure
Murder Inferno
Extraction
Overlanders, The
Can You Keep a Secret?
Women in Revolt
Astronaut
Peanut Butter Falcon, The
   
 
Newest Articles
The Golden Age of Colonic Irrigation: Monty Python Series 4 on Blu-ray
Lady of Pleasure: Lola Montes on Blu-ray
Take You to the Gay Bar: Funeral Parade of Roses on Blu-ray
Hit for Ms: Mark Cousins' Women Make Film on Blu-ray
Look Sinister: The 1000 Eyes of Dr. Mabuse on Blu-ray
Star Wars Triple Threat: The Tricky Third Prequel and Sequel
I Can See for Miles: The Man with the X-Ray Eyes on Blu-ray
Too Much Pressure: The Family Way on Blu-ray
The Alan Key: Alan Klein and What a Crazy World on Blu-ray
A Japanese Ghost Story: Kwaidan on Blu-ray
The Zu Gang: Zu Warriors from the Magic Mountain on Blu-ray
Reality TV: The Year of the Sex Olympics on DVD
The Young and the Damned: They Live By Night on Blu-ray
Mind How You Go: The Best of COI on Blu-ray
Der Kommissar's in Town: Babylon Berlin Series 3 on DVD
The End of Civilisation as We Know It: The 50th Anniversary
The Whalebone Box: The Andrew Kotting Interview
Being Human: The Elephant Man on 4K UHD Blu-ray
It's! Monty Python's Flying Circus Series 3 on Blu-ray
Put the Boot In: Villain on Blu-ray
The Children's Film Foundation Bumper Box Vol. 2: Vic Pratt Interview
All the Lonely People: Sunday Bloody Sunday on Blu-ray
Desperate Characters: Beat the Devil on Blu-ray
Chansons d'Amour: Alfie Darling on Blu-ray
Ozploitation Icon: Interview with Roger Ward
   
 
  Ghost and the Darkness, The Lion around
Year: 1996
Director: Stephen Hopkins
Stars: Michael Douglas, Val Kilmer, Tom Wilkinson, John Kani, Bernard Hill, Brian McCardie, Emily Mortimer, Om Puri, Henry Cele, Kurt Egelhof, Satchu Annamalai, Teddy Reddy, Raheem Khan
Genre: Horror, Historical, AdventureBuy from Amazon
Rating:  4 (from 2 votes)
Review: In 1898 British military engineer John Henry Patterson (Val Kilmer) is sent to Tsavo, Kenya on a mission to get a costly railroad project back on schedule. His innate decency and idealism soon win over the mixed group of native African and migrant Indian workers, but a terrifying obstacle arises in the form of two large man-eating lions. Their unusually bold and brutal attacks quickly decimate Patterson's crew leaving the survivors reluctant to stay in fear for their lives. When all efforts fail to halt these vicious predators, chief financier Sir Robert Beaumont (Tom Wilkinson) brings in famous big game hunter Charles Remington (Michael Douglas) though even he finds the lions a formidable foe.

Written by William Goldman, legendary scribe behind among others Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid (1969), All the President's Men (1977) and The Princess Bride] (1987), and based on a true story transcribed in a book by the real Lieutenant Colonel John Henry Patterson ("The Man-Eaters of Tsavo"), The Ghost and the Darkness was intended to be basically Jaws (1975) on land. With a dash of sweeping historical adventure a la Lawrence of Arabia (1962). Alas, what emerged was a mess even the film's director Stephen Hopkins (Predator 2 (1990), Blown Away (1994), Lost in Space (1998)) later admitted he found unwatchable. For his part Goldman chalked up the film's commercial failure to wildlife conservationism having so influenced popular opinion audiences no longer found lions scary. No matter how much gory havoc they wreaked on screen. However the film had other problems to contend with behind the scenes. Among these: bad weather, the crew beset by scorpions and other insects and a supposedly tense relationship between Hopkins and executive producer-star Michael Douglas. It is worth noting both Hopkins and Goldman praised the famously temperamental Val Kilmer for his enthusiasm and commitment to the project even though filming the similarly problem-plagued The Island of Doctor Moreau (1996) left him too exhausted to make sense of his character.

Goldman establishes an intriguing historical backdrop to his jungle shocker, drawing Patterson as a liberal idealist who perceives a nobility in his job (and the underlining concept of empire) building bridges that bring civilizations together. Early on the film contrasts him with not only caricatured imperialist Sir Robert Beaumont but cynical Dr. David Hawthorne (Bernard Hill) who shares none of Patterson's idealism. He sees the whole bridge-building project as about nothing more than ivory trade: white imperialist greed, pure and simple. Unfortunately both the ideological clash and hint of racial tension between white colonialists, Indian workers and native Africans take a back seat once the film shifts its focus onto the gory lion attacks. Despite striking photography by the great Vilmos Zsigmond, The Ghost and the Darkness strives for a combination of heroic grandeur, visceral terror and pulp poetry sadly beyond its grasp. The end result proves merely obtuse. Jumbled editing makes a mess of Goldman's ambitious script and smacks of post-production tampering.

By all accounts the chief culprit was Michael Douglas. He makes his belated albeit initially badass entrance at around the forty minute mark, but thereafter proves hard to take seriously. Goldman intended Remington, a wholly fictional character he concocted for the movie (in real life, Patterson faced the lions alone) to come across as enigmatic and ambiguous. A dissection of that macho archetype the Great White Hunter. However Douglas (who only decided at the last minute to play the role himself) re-cut the film in post-production, removing forty-five minutes of scenes that according to Goldman rendered Remington a "wimp and a loser." The depiction of the non-white characters in the finished film as screaming buffoons and lion bait is also deeply problematic with the lone exception of Samuel (John Kani) the token clich├ęd 'noble savage.' One imagines or at the very least would hope Goldman's original draft had more finesse. What remains, whether intentionally or not, seems to tacitly endorse imperialism as a unifying rather than dividing or exploitative force. Given Hopkins' schlock-horror staging of the lion attacks (including a tacky dream sequence that harks back to his Hollywood breakthrough with A Nightmare on Elm Street 5: The Dream Child (1989)) are as ham-fisted as his work in Predator 2, the film does not have much to fall back on. Much like the unfortunate railway workers its guts have been disemboweled. Yet strangely it seems to have endured among genre fans judging from several online polls listing it among the best animal-horror films out there. So maybe William Goldman was wrong about modern viewers no longer finding lions scary.

Reviewer: Andrew Pragasam

 

This review has been viewed 937 time(s).

As a member you could Rate this film

 
Review Comments (1)


Untitled 1

Login
  Username:
 
  Password:
 
   
 
Forgotten your details? Enter email address in Username box and click Reminder. Your details will be emailed to you.
   

Latest Poll
Which star is the best at shouting?
Arnold Schwarzenegger
Brian Blessed
Tiffany Haddish
Steve Carell
Olivia Colman
Captain Caveman
Sylvester Stallone
Gerard Butler
Samuel L. Jackson
Bipasha Basu
   
 
   

Recent Visitors
Graeme Clark
Enoch Sneed
  Hannah Prosser
Andrew Pragasam
Darren Jones
  Butch Elliot
  Rachel Franke
Paul Smith
   

 

Last Updated: