The Ghost and the Darkness (1996)

Ghost and the darkness

Genre: Drama, Thriller

Cast: Val Kilmer, Michael Douglas, Tom Wilkinson

Synopsis: Based on a true story, this film follows two men as they try to hunt down a couple of serial killer lions that are stalling the building of a railway in colonial Africa.

The Tsavo man-eaters were two lions that killed a number of construction workers on the Kenya-Uganda Railway in 1898. Some say that these two lions killed as many as 135 people. If there is one thing I love, it’s a man vs. nature motif so last week I decided to take the plunge and watch this throwback from the 90s. I had my doubts, mainly because the film stars Val Kilmer and I am still recuperating from his performance in The Island of Dr Moreau. Although there were enjoyable parts in this movie, I found it to be rather mediocre and forgettable. However, this movie taught me two things: 1) Africa is fucked up; and 2) colonialism was awful but kind of brilliant at the same time.

We all know that present-day Africa is no utopia. Many countries in Africa deal with war, poverty, and corruption on a daily basis. However, we sometimes forget that Africa is really the prequel to Australia…namely, it is a land of horror where every plant, animal, and mineral makes it its personal mission to kill you and everyone you love. I’m talking snakes, sharks, spiders, scorpions, hippos, crocodiles, and even sign-language-capable gorillas. Seriously, lions are fucking thugs! This movie provides a public service by reminding us that you have to have mental problems to want to go to the African continent.

Shakira AfricaOr a million dollar record deal! Waka Waka!

Now, for the point on colonialism. I fully accept that, after Piers Morgan, colonialism is the most evil thing to come out of the Britain. Claiming land willy-nilly and subjecting locals to back-breaking labour is never a good thing. However, colonialism was also responsible for a lot of good things, predominantly epic adventure stories. Without colonialism, we wouldn’t have legends like the Tsavo man-eaters. Hell, we wouldn’t even have Jumanji. I think people are naturally fascinated by stories with man versus beast narratives and The Ghost and the Darkness certainly has one of the more interesting ones because it’s grounded in reality. Also, there are some wonderful colonial quotes in this film such as: “We’re saving Africa from the Africans,” and “God invented liquor so the Irish couldn’t rule.” See, colonialism can’t be that bad if it gives us that many lols!

I’ll certainly admit, this film does have some brilliant man versus lion action. There’s even a scene where Emily Mortimer gets her face eaten by a lion. However, these are the only memorable parts of the film. There was a lot of talking in between these scenes and, to be honest, I can’t remember much of what was said. There are three possible reasons for that: 1) the film was dull; 2) I was so baked that I forgot that I understood English; and 3) I couldn’t decipher Val Kilmer’s accent. My brother tells me that accent was Irish. I thought it was Dutch or Belgian. I’m guessing that my amnesia was probably a mix of numbers two and three.

However, I do remember the last line of the film! That the lions are now stuffed and on display in the Field Museum in Chicago and that if you look them in the eye you will be terrified…

Lion…or not

High-lights:

  • Tense scenes with lions! It’s kind of like watching the raptor scene in Jurassic Park…but with lions.
  • Terrible but awesome jokes about the Irish.
  • The film won an Oscar for sound editing…so I guess it has that going for it.

Downers:

  • Jesus Christ Val Kilmer.
  • Completely forgettable.

Summary:

I kind of wish I had been more with it when I watched this film. I love films like The Ghost and the Darkness but for some reason I just could not connect with it. I don’t think it was a bad film by any means. As such, I think I’ll have to give it another go in the future. Maybe my opinion of it will change.

5/10

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2 Comments

Filed under Drama, Meh, Thriller

2 responses to “The Ghost and the Darkness (1996)

  1. Abbi

    You’ve never actually been to Africa, have you?

  2. Tom

    Yeah man, I remember this one. I remember it being absolutely forgettable. Lol.

    Sound review!

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