MOVIE REVIEWS

Cujo

6/10 R 01 hr 33 min

August 10, 1983

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Barmy Bernard.

Stephen King’s Cujo was brought to the screen and met with indifference back in 1983, yet it’s aged surprisingly well and comes out as one of the better “mad animal” movies that followed in the wake of Jaws.

A big cuddly St. Bernard dog is bitten on the nose by a bat, cops a serious bout of Hydrophobia and then terrorises anyone in its path. Which spells bad news for Donna Trenton (Dee Wallace) and her young son Tad (Danny Pintauro), who have the misfortune to be stuck in a battered old Pinto that has broken down in Cujo’s territory.

Lewis Teague directs with no little skill here, wringing out pot loads of tension and inserting genuine moments of terror as mother and son literally fight for their lives. There’s a school of thought that the film’s first half could have been trimmed, for this is the area that defines the Trenton’s as a family.

Donna has been having an affair and her husband Vic (Daniel Hugh-Kelly) has found out, so for forty minutes we are investing in family strife and foundation building of the key characters. This is judged perfectly, because once Cujo is unleashed on Donna and Tad, it throws up a number of emotional connections to not only the humans, but also the dog as well.

Wallace and Pintauro are excellent, providing the film with its beating heart as they prove to be a believable mother & son pairing. Teague meanwhile uses some invention with his camera work, though never to the detriment of claustrophobic terror. Elements of the source novel have been left out, while the ending – unfortunately in this viewer’s opinion – has been changed, but this is a tightly wound horror and it’s well due re-evaluation in this day and age of franchise sequels and remakes.

Could have done with more of those bats though, they are awesome! 7/10

This was solid and unexpectedly fulfilling--perhaps because I'm a cat enthusiast and am neutral towards dogs to begin with. My 13-year-old son and I enjoyed it very much. I haven't read the book yet, so it's unnecessary for enjoyment of the movie IMHO. Worth both a purchase and rewatching for genre aficionados.

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