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"THE GHOST & THE DARKNESS"
(1996) (Val Kilmer, Michael Douglas) (R)

Alcohol/
Drugs
Blood/Gore Disrespectful/
Bad Attitude
Frightening/
Tense Scenes
Guns/
Weapons
Mild Heavy Mild Heavy Mild
Imitative
Behavior
Jump
Scenes
Music
(Scary/Tense)
Music
(Inappropriate)
Profanity
Mild Mild Moderate None Mild
Sex/
Nudity
Smoking Tense Family
Scenes
Topics To
Talk About
Violence
None None Minor Mild Heavy


QUICK TAKE:
Adventure: A bridge building engineer and a big game hunter try to put an end to a two lion killing spree in the late 1890's.
PLOT:
It's 1898 and the British are building a railroad across Africa to support their ivory trade. Colonel John Patterson (VAL KILMER) is assigned to build a bridge so that the railroad expansion can continue. Upon arriving there, Patterson finds a mix of Hindu and Muslim workers who have been assigned to build his bridge. Shortly thereafter, two lions, the "ghost" and the "darkness," appear and begin killing the workers. Patterson tries to hunt them down, but they prove elusive and the killings continue. The project manager then hires big game hunter Charles Remington (MICHAEL DOUGLAS) to put an end to the killings. Patterson and Remington find, however, that the lions are more cunning than expected, and have to go to extreme measures to try to stop them.
WILL KIDS WANT TO SEE IT?
Younger kids won't, but teens and/or those who are fans of Kilmer or Douglas just might.
WHY THE MPAA RATED IT: R
For some violence and gore involving animal attacks.
CAST AS ROLE MODELS:
  • VAL KILMER plays the dedicated bridge engineer who desperately tries to keep his workers' moral high while attempting to stop the lions. His main possibly bad trait is drinking of which he doesn't do a great deal.
  • MICHAEL DOUGLAS plays the conceited "great white hunter" who is completely certain he can kill the lions. He also has the drinking behavior as described above.
  • CAST, CREW, & TECHNICAL INFO

    HOW OTHERS RATED THIS MOVIE


    OUR TAKE: 3 out of 10
    Based on the true story of more than one hundred people who were killed by two lions in the late 1890's, this film is a rather poor concoction of uninspired storytelling, sloppy film making and an ending that's pulled right out of a cheapo horror movie. Kilmer and Douglas are wasted in their roles -- Douglas more so as he appears just to be a crazy, wild west version of his Gordon Gecko role from "Wall Street." The lion scenes are a mixed bag of real life footage and sloppily done special effects. To top it off, the lions themselves don't appear as real or as menacing as the ones in the recently released (and G rated) "The Leopard Son." Some viewers will be scared by the ending (where the two men don't know from where the lions may spring next), but most viewers will think that they've suddenly found themselves in a horror movie rip-off. (Watch either of the first two "Alien" movies for superbly shot "animal hunting people" scenes). We give this production just a 3 out of 10.
    OUR WORD TO PARENTS:
    The biggest issues of concern are the scenes where the lions are hunting and/or killing the workers. Some of the scenes are quite graphic with much predatory violence seen, and younger kids will probably be scared during them. Other than that, profanity is rather limited (worst: 1 "s" word) and there are a few occasional drinking scenes. As always, read through the scene listings before allowing your children to see this film.

    ALCOHOL OR DRUG USE
  • The camp doctor drinks from a flask.
  • Patterson, Remington and others drink some sort of liquor.
  • Remington drinks from a flask.
  • The men celebrate the killing of one of the lions by drinking champagne and each man has his own bottle.
  • BLOOD/ GORE
  • An early lion attack survivor has bloody scratches on his legs.
  • Vultures pick at the bloody remains of an attack victim.
  • A worker's hands are bloody after building a wall of thistles to keep the lions out.
  • After another lion attack, a lion is seen pulling bloody chunks of flesh from the body.
  • Later, after a lion jumps down onto Patterson and another worker, whose neck is shredded and very bloody.
  • A cow is stabbed and blood flows freely from the wound. Moments later, Remington drinks its blood from a cup while preparing for the big hunt with his tribal friends.
  • The two men want to bait the lions into the old hospital building, so they pour large amounts of blood onto the floors and walls of the building and then drop bloody animal parts all around the building.
  • Patterson and Remington follow the lion tracks to a cave where they find many human skeletons, obvious victims of the lion attacks.
  • The tall field grass is covered in blood after another attack.
  • DISRESPECTFUL/BAD ATTITUDE
  • The project manager isn't a nice fellow and tells Patterson, "Make a mistake and you'll hate me," and about the pending birth of Patterson's son, "I don't care about your upcoming litter."
  • It's mentioned that the Hindu and Muslim workers don't get along, but we don't see any major signs of that.
  • Patterson writes to his wife in a letter, "God invented liquor so that the Irish wouldn't rule the world."
  • A Hindu/Muslim worker responds (to Patterson claiming that he'll kill the lions and build the bridge), "Of course you will. You're white."
  • An African man with four wives says that he doesn't like any of them.
  • FRIGHTENING/TENSE SCENES
  • Many of the scenes listed under "Violence" may also be seen as frightening or tense.
  • After another lion attack, Patterson and a worker slowly walk through the village looking for the lion that could leap out at them at any moment. They spot the lion, but miss the one on the roof above them. It jumps down and momentarily attacks them, killing the worker.
  • Patterson encounters one of the lions in a thicket of woods and his gun won't fire. The lion starts to move closer and he just freezes. Remington races up and fires his gun that scares away the lion and saves Patterson's life.
  • The two men want to bait the lions into the old hospital building, so they pour large amounts of blood onto the floors and walls of the building and then drop bloody animal parts all around the building. The two then wait until dark when the lions finally arrive. The men get spooked when they can't figure out where the lions will attack from, but in fact, they never do.
  • Patterson and Remington follow the lion tracks to a cave where they find many human skeletons, obvious victims of the lion attacks. It's dark inside and the lions may be lurking around any corner, but never arrive.
  • Patterson sees his wife at the train station and as he tries to get to her, he sees one of the lions charging toward her. He tries to warn her, but it's too late and the lion attacks her and the new baby. And then Patterson wakes up from his nightmare.
  • GUNS/WEAPONS
  • Rifles/Pistols: Used often to shoot at or kill the lions.
  • Handgun: Used by Remington to stop a revolt from starting by holding it to the leader's head.
  • Spears: Carried by tribes people during the big hunt, but never actually used.
  • IMITATIVE BEHAVIOR
  • Phrases: "Bastards," "Shut up," and "Buffoon."
  • Patterson comments that hippos "fart through their mouths."
  • Patterson and a tribesman set fire to the grassy plain and soon the whole field is on fire. They do this to trap the lions in their area.
  • JUMP SCENES
  • An owl screeches and startles Patterson and a worker while they sit in a tree waiting for a lion to show up.
  • In the camp's old hospital, a bookcase suddenly falls to the floor nearly hitting Patterson.
  • Another owl surprises Patterson and he falls from his hunting perch.
  • MUSIC (SCARY/TENSE)
  • There is a moderate amount of suspenseful music that accompanies the suspenseful scenes.
  • MUSIC (INAPPROPRIATE)
  • None.
  • PROFANITY
  • 1 "s" word, 2 hells, 1 SOB, and 3 uses of "Oh my God," 2 uses of "Jesus," and 1 use each of "God damn," "For God's sake," "My God" and "Holy Christ" as exclamations.
  • SEX/NUDITY
  • None.
  • SMOKING
  • None.
  • TENSE FAMILY SCENES
  • Patterson watches in horror as a lion attacks and kills his wife and newborn son -- but it turns out to be a nightmare.
  • TOPICS TO TALK ABOUT
  • The degree to which this movie does or doesn't follow the truth (and a good reason to get kids to research what really happened)
  • An African man says that he has four wives (and doesn't like any of them).
  • A worker says that the devil has come to their camp and Remington says, "I'm the devil."
  • VIOLENCE
  • Patterson shoots and kills a lion early on in the story.
  • A worker is pulled from his tent at night and is dragged away along the ground until the lion stops and kills him.
  • A lion runs into the camp and attacks a worker. Later another lion jumps down onto Patterson and another worker who dies from his wounds.
  • There's another lion attack on the workers and more mass panic among them.
  • Three workers are used as bait in a lion capturing contraption that Patterson has built. They stand on one side of a fence waiting for the lion to trip the wire that closes the door behind it. It does and then comes after the men and repeatedly bangs against the fence. They shoot at the lion, but miss every time as the fence begins to come loose from the ceiling. One of the workers knocks over a lantern which ignites the straw and soon their side of the cage is on fire. The lion finally makes it through but then leaps out of the contraption.
  • Remington arrives and holds his pistol to the head of one of the workers who's trying to stir up a revolt against Patterson.
  • The lions attack the new hospital and kill everyone inside including the doctor.
  • Patterson is up on a platform from which he falls after being startled by an owl. One of the lions charges him and he shoots and wounds it. He and Remington then search for the creature that suddenly charges again and Remington shoots and kills it.
  • Though not seen, Remington is killed by the last lion.
  • There's the final encounter with the lion where it first comes after Patterson on the bridge and then chases him up a tree. He jumps to the ground to get a rifle and just manages to shoot the lion before it gets to him.



  • Reviewed October 7, 1996

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