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The Ghost and the Darkness

MPAA Rating: R-Rating (MPAA) for some violence and gore involving animal attacks.

Reviewed by: Brad Kibler

Moviemaking Quality:

Primary Audience:
Action Horror
1 hr. 49 min.
Year of Release:
Copyright, Paramount Pictures click photos to ENLARGE Copyright, Paramount Pictures

Terror gripped both my wife and I as we watched this true-story thriller in the theater. If you fear felines (especially big ones) you better steer clear of this film.

Col. John Patterson (Val Kilmer) stars as an architect tasked to build a railroad bridge deep in the heart of Africa. His boss’s motive is a combination of nationalism, greed (the ivory trade), and “saving Africa from the Africans.” Not the noblest of reasons, but the Colonel views his particualr task to be bringing “two worlds together,” a nobler venture.

What Patterson finds is Tsavo: “A Place of Slaughter,” where two man-eating lions (“The Ghost” and “The Darkness”) begin to terrorize the workers. Eventually, the great hunter, Remington (Michael Douglas) comes in to try to help save the day, but has his hands full.

Many religious persuasions are portrayed, as Hindi, Muslim, and Animist workers compare their views in the context of the lions being “devils sent to stop the white man” or “spirits of dead medicine men,” etc. As far as Christianity is concerned, Col. Patterson considers it “a marvel” that the man of the cloth, Starling, “actually convinced natives to convert,” and considers himself “beyond conversion.” Christianity is inferred to be one of many acceptible views.

Keep younger kids away if you choose to rent this film. The sound effects won an Oscar, and for good reason, they are very graphic and sound authentic. The gore of lions mauling their victims is shown visually as well in rather graphic detail. One man is briefly shown who has had “his skin licked off so the lion could drink his blood.” Also visually unappealing is Remington being shown drinking cows blood as part of a Masai ritual. There are (at least) 9 instances of mediocre profane language. There are no sexually expicit themes, nor is there any nudity.

The movie is incredibly vivid, and is downright SCARY. A documentary film “The Man-Eaters of Tsavo” is also worth watching if you rent this film, as it clarifies historical details regarding this tale. As the trailer to the film said “Only the most unbelievable parts of the story are true.”

Viewer Comments
Positive—This film was a big suprise to me, not knowing what to expect as it is “R” rated. As my wife and I both watched it together, we were in agreement that it was an enjoyable movie, though certainly not for kids or the faint-of-heart. Yes, she hid her eyes in parts—a true proof that the suspense was, indeed, heart-stopping.
T.C., age 24
Comments from young people
Positive—I thought that this movie was very well made. The movie was rated (R) but it is rated this because of the violence in it there is very little cussing and NO ### which is very odd for a rated R movie. I think you should watch it if your above the age 15! You should not watch the movie if you are a person that does not like blood and violence.
Ben Immink, age 16
Positive—“The Ghost and the Darkness” was an exeptional movie from my point of view. For an R rated movie it was very clean. It had NO sex and very little profanity. It is rated R mainly for the blood and violence… This movie is exellent for people who love suspense. I don’t recomend this movie for young children…
Jon Erickson, high school age