Based on the novel of the same name by Stephen King, Cujo was released for the big screen in 1983. Cujo became a success at the box office, eventually claiming the fourth most popular horror movie of the year. Directed by Lewis Teague, who would later go on to direct Cat’s Eye, a horror anthology written by Stephen King. While a great movie, Cujo the film’s ending differs from that of the novel. I had to double-check after re-watching the film, as I hadn’t read Cujo as an adult. It along with a number of other Stephen King novels were read to me as a child by my father. Forever rooting my love of both the author as well as the genre.
Ok, the set up is Vic Trenton (Daniel Hugh Kelly) learns that his wife Donna (Dee Wallace) has been having an affair with Steve Kemp (Christopher Stone). Vic leaves his wife and son Tad (Danny Pintauro) at home for a business trip. Having forgotten to bring their car to the mechanic Joe Chambers (Ed Lauter), Donna has to bring it. In the opening Cujo, the Chambers Saint Bernard was bit by a rabid bat and has slowly been deteriorating mentally, changing him from sweet and timid into a vicious man killer. Shortly after Joe’s wife and daughter leave town, Cujo kills him and his friend Gary Pervier (Mills Watson). When Donna arrives, she and Tad are quickly set upon by Cujo, but the pair remains safe inside the car. Donna tries to drive away, but as the alternator being broken, the car’s dead. Donna and Tad become trapped in the car as Cujo waits outside. Trapped in the car in the hot sun Donna and Tad become the victims of dehydration and heat stroke. Forcing Donna into an inescapable showdown is Cujo.
One of the best King adaptations, Cujo still holds up today. The story is very well told, and Cujo while being the story’s antagonist is very sympathetic. As we get to see Cujo’s decent play out over the first half of the film. So when Cujo finally goes crazy and rabid, it becomes all the more terrifying. It’s also a sad side note is that while a number of dogs played Cujo, the primary Saint Bernard used died of bloat during production.
Dee Wallace knocks it out of the park in her performance. She delivers one of the best performances in any King adaptation without a doubt. But as she often gets a lot of praise for this role, I want to single out another performance. Danny Pintauro does an amazing job, matching Wallace’s performances intensity.
Final thoughts, well there does seem to be a weird moral lesson about being a bad spouse. As the mechanic Joe is abusive and Donna, who cheats. Are the primary victims Cujo. Sure there’s Gary, but he’s shown to be the same kind of man as Joe, encouraging him to cheat and the police officer Cujo’s only innocent victim. While the spouses are out of town, safe. Anyway, Cujo is among my favorite adaptations ever gets a solid 9/10.