10 Reasons Why The Ghost and The Darkness Is Jaws But With Lions

In October of 1996, director Stephen Hopkins’ (Predator 2, A Nightmare on Elm Street 5: The Dream Child, The Reaping) adventure horror film The Ghost and The Darkness hit theaters. Starring Val Kilmer, John Kani, Brian McCardie, and Michael Douglas, the movie is a fictionalized account of the man-eating lions in Tsavo that attacked a workers’ camp for nine months. While not a box office smash success, it did pull in $75 million worldwide and has maintained a devoted group of fans over the years.

I remember seeing the film multiple times when my family had it on VHS. For some reason, I thoroughly enjoyed the movie and kept revisiting it, enchanted by the gorgeous location; the intense, albeit short-lived gore; and the horror aspects that were littered throughout the film.

But one thing I couldn’t help but notice is that The Ghost and The Darkness bears striking similarities to Steven Spielberg’s 1975 shark classic Jaws. So I decided to write up 10 points where I thought to myself, “Huh…That’s right out of Jaws.” Check ’em out below, and share any others that I may have missed!

WARNING: THERE WILL BE SPOILERS DISCUSSED AHEAD. PROCEED WITH CAUTION.

1) Both films take place in picturesque but remote locations

Jaws takes place on Amity Island, a location that requires tourists to take a ferry to get there. Meanwhile, The Ghost and The Darkness takes place in Kenya in the late 19th century. It’s a several day journey for Lt. Colonel John Patterson to get to Tsavo, which is surrounded by miles upon miles of remote African wilderness.

2) There’s a dick of a person in charge

Jaws had Mayor Larry Vaughn, who was obsessed with the economy of Amity, even at the cost of the safety of tourists. In The Ghost and The Darkness, we were introduced to Sir Robert Beaumont, the primary financier of the railroad project that requires the bridge being built. He is a self-described “monster” and a real asshole to boot. He flat out doesn’t care about the lives of the workers or how Patterson deals with the lions, he just cares about money and how he’s going to get more of it.

3) Both films have a lot at stake

I’m not talking about the potential and actual lives lost during the course of their runtimes. Rather, if the shark isn’t killed in Jaws, Amity could lose millions from a lack of a tourist season, which could throw everything off in their community. While that may seem trite in comparison to peoples’ lives, it can have an enormous and far-reaching impact. In The Ghost and The Darkness, the British getting the railroad and bridge up and running will have a global trade impact. Failure to complete the project would shift the dynamics of the region and could change the course of history.

4) A creature is killed but it’s not the right one

Remember in Jaws when a shark is killed in the first 1/3rd of the movie but it’s not the right one? The exact same thing happens in The Ghost and The Darkness. The complacency of the locals after the initial kill makes the later deaths all the more impactful.

5) Speaking of the villains, they’re barely seen

Both films utilize the method of giving the villains as little screentime as possible. Only bits of Bruce the Shark were seen until the end of the film, much like how in The Ghost and The Darkness we often see tufts of hair moving through the fields but almost never get a good look at the full scope of the lions, at least until later on in the film.

6) The grizzled veteran must interrupt an extremely tense situation to set things straight

Quint had his moment during the press conference when he ran his fingernails down the chalkboard, quieting everyone and forcing them to listen to what he had to say. Incidentally, this was also his introduction. In The Ghost and The Darkness, we meet Michael Douglas’ character Charles Remington during a scene where Patterson is being shouted by a mob of angry workers who believe that he’s not doing enough to stop the lion threat. Much like in Jaws, Remington manages to hush the crowd and lay down enough information to relay that he is the one who can help remedy the situation.

7) Clever traps don’t actually work

Hooper had his shark cage, which obviously didn’t work and nearly got him killed. Patterson tried using a modified train car to trap one of the lions, which almost worked. Alas…

8) There’s a camaraderie scene between the three heroes

One of the greatest moments of Jaws is when Hooper, Brody, and Quint are in the saloon of Quint’s boat and are drinking, singing, and learning about each other. It’s an incredibly charming scene that offers so much about each character. The same kind of scene happens in The Ghost and The Darkness between Patterson, Remington, and Samuel. It’s a funny but also serious scene where we see friendships being built but awareness of the gravity of the situation they find themselves in.

9) The grizzled and experienced hunter is killed

Both Quint and Remington perish at the hands (teeth?) of their enemies. Quint is shown dying on screen while Remington gets the dishonor of an off-screen kill. Still, they’re the experienced ones, so when they die, we wonder how our remaining heroes can succeed?

10) To vanquish their foe, the hero must climb up only to come down

As Brody is atop the mast shooting at the air tank in Bruce’s mouth, Quint’s boat is sinking, lowering the mast slowly but surely into the water and putting Brody in the shark’s territory. In The Ghost and The Darkness, Patterson climbs a tree to try and avoid the second lion only for it to climb up after him. Patterson willingly jumps out of the tree to grab a shotgun so that he can shoot the lion in the face.

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Jonathan Barkan

Lifelong horror fan with a love of music on the side.

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