All Things Kenyan

The Ghost and the Darkness

Film: The Ghost and the Darkness
Starring: Val Kilmer, Michael Douglas, Tom Wilkinson, John Kani, Bernard Hill, Brian McCardie, Emily Mortimer, Om Puri, Henry Cele
Director: Stephen Hopkins
Release Date: October 11, 1996
Rated: R
Runtime: 1 hr 50 mins

This movie is based on the book The Man-Eaters of Tsavo by Col. John Henry Patterson.  Col. Patterson’s job was to build a bridge over the Tsavo river.  Unfortunately for many of his workers, two lions decided to stop by for a few snacks.  Human snacks.  The lions began midnight raids on the camps and completely terrorized the workers hired to help build the bridge. These lions actually worked together – something that was unheard of.  Col. Patterson’s workers abandoned the area and left him to fend for himself.  A good portion of this movie is dedicated to Col. Patterson’s adventures in tracking down and killing the two lions.

What I Liked:
What I did like about the film was that it was almost completely true to the book.  The scene where Col. Patterson built a trap for the lions and the workers were on the other end still couldn’t shoot the lion that entered it?  That happened.  The part where they moved the hospital and soaked the original one with animal blood to attract the lions and the lions decided to go somewhere else for their snack that night?  That really happened too.

What I Didn’t Like:
Val Kilmer - The Ghost and the Darkness I found Mr. Kilmer to be too young to play the role of Patterson. I wasn’t convinced that he could be Col. Patterson.

Michael Douglas plays the role of Charles Remington.  The Remington character is a composite of several big game hunters.  This character did not exist in the book The Man-Eaters of Tsavo.  I found the Remington character to be an obnoxious know-it-all.  He gets eaten by one of the maneaters toward the end of the film.  I didn’t like him anyway.

There are several scenes with members of the Maasai tribe hunting down the lions with Patterson and Remington.  That did not happen in the book, but was interesting to see how the Maasai hunt lions.  Anyway, the Massai, along with Remington, started at one end of the bush trying to flush out the lions with Patterson at the other end ready to shoot. One of the lions did come out of the bush right in front of Patterson. Patterson tried to shoot, but his gun misfired.  In the movie, Kilmer was using a single barrel gun – in the book it was a double barrel gun.

The movie The Ghost and the Darkness and the book The Man-Eaters of Tsavo are available for purchase from

I rented this copy of The Ghost and the Darkness from my local movie rental store with my own funds.