The Ghost and the Darkness

Africa, 1896: Michael Douglas has a high old time playing Remington, the ex-Confederate soldier turned great, grizzled white hunter. Val Kilmer exudes quiet strength as Lt. Col. Patterson, the Irish engineer who hires Remington to kill two killer lions named the Ghost and the Darkness, who keep chowing down on the natives hired to build a railway bridge that would give Britain an edge in the ivory trade. It sounds like typical testosterone twaddle and just the raw meat for director Stephen Hopkins (Predator 2 and A Nightmare on Elm Street 5) to throw at audience gore hounds.

Surprise! The script by William Goldman (Misery) is based on fact, and when the movie sticks to fact (in an unprecedented bout of man-eating, the lions took just a few months to slaughter 130 bridge builders), the result is a hypnotic spectacle. The natives fear that the lions are unkillable demons. The hunters — Douglas and Kilmer spar splendidly in their roles — aim to prove them wrong.

Hopkins, unfortunately, won't leave well enough alone. Example: A lion attack on a mother and baby turns out to be a dream, the desperate act of a jacked-up director who doesn't trust the vivid truth that stares him right in the face.

From The Archives Issue 92: September 30, 1971
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