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Cujo (1983)

DVD Cover (Lions Gate)
Director:
Lewis Teague Lewis Teague
Starring:
Dee Wallace Dee Wallace
Danny Pintauro Danny Pintauro
Daniel Hugh Kelly Daniel Hugh Kelly
Christopher Stone Christopher Stone
Ed Lauter Ed Lauter

6.3 / 10 - Overall Rating

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Genres / Traits: Horror, Natural Horror, Thriller, Canines
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Review by Chad
Added: June 21, 2007
Back in 1983, there were few authors more popular and more successful and more profitable than Stephen King. So said my fellow reviewer in his recent review of Christine, and folks, he wasn't kidding: King's novels were a virtual goldmine for Hollywood during the early eighties. People continue to adapt his work to this very day with varying results, but back then, it seemed like there was a new release every other week with the tagline reading "based on the novel by Stephen King." Cujo was one such release, having hit theaters just four months prior to the aforementioned Christine, and - save for a wretched ending that was radically different from the novel - it's one of the best adaptations of King's work to date.

The basic storyline for this offering is one that most of you probably already know, even if you haven't actually seen the film itself. We watch as the pet dog of a country family chases a rabbit into a hole, where he meets up with a bunch of bats that turn out to be rabid, passing the disease on to the dog in the process. Nobody realizes this until it's too late, and unfortunately for one yuppie family, too late turns out to be the day that they head out to this country home for some car repairs. Donna (Dee Wallace) and her son Tad (Danny Pintauro) wind up stuck inside their car outside the house with this huge dog dead set on killing them, and due to a broken alternator, they're forced to just sit there and wait it out. Trapped in the scorching heat with no water, it only becomes a matter of time before something has to give...

The first half of the film introduces us to the characters, showing us that the picture-perfect couple have a couple of problems of their own, while also showing the gradual deterioration of this dog's wellbeing. It's a run of the mill setup for a horror film, granted, but it's done surprisingly well in this one; the cast members play their parts exceptionally well and the script is as tight as can be, leading to the audience getting wrapped up in the movie even when the most exciting thing going on is Tad screaming about a monster in his closet.

After everything is setup and the audience has gotten attached to the characters, we come to the second half of the film: the part that people paid to see and most everyone remembers to this very day. Spending half of a film with only two people in one confined space is a risky decision for any film, as even if the cast members involved are damned good, there's simply not a whole lot of things that can be done with this arrangement without boring the audience to tears. Thankfully, this was not the case in Cujo; never once does the tension level drop, and watching this mother attempt to escape this car and fight off the beast just got better as the minutes ticked by.

One thing that particularly impressed me about the film was how well the editing was handled for the actual dog attacks. This dog manages to kill a handful of people throughout the film, virtually destroys the car that the main characters are confined to, and attacks them countless times - and never once does it seem fake. Yes, I realize that slick editing can work wonders for a film like this and I also realize what sort of things can be done with both animatronics and men in dog suits (no, seriously - they used that trick here), but it's handled marvelously and looks as authentic as can be in every last scene of the film. It amazes me that they could pull this off so flawlessly almost twenty-five years ago, yet we're still seeing "animal attacks" in films today that don't even come close to comparing.

A classic, no doubt about it. There's a reason that everyone knows the name "Cujo" and every dog owner has at least contemplated naming their own pet after this infamous mutt, and that's due to the simple fact that the film is a timeless horror classic. 9/10, and that one missed point was due to my disappointment with how the ending was changed.
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Tristan #1: Tristan - added 06/21/2007, 12:27 AM
Timeless horror classic? This movie was just terrible.
To sound like every elitist cunt alive, the book was so much better.
And the ending to the movie was just terrible. The son dying was what made the book standout and original.
Oops, spoilers.
Chad #2: Chad - added 06/21/2007, 12:38 AM
Save for the ending (which I bitched about in the review), it was pretty faithful to the book, and it was also handled very nicely. Alright, so you didn't see the guy jerking off onto the pillow, but the gist of the story was kept.
Tristan #3: Tristan - added 06/21/2007, 12:43 AM
Did they do the question mark mole thing in the movie?
I haven't seen it since I was like, 12.
Chad #4: Chad - added 06/21/2007, 12:57 AM
[after Donna breaks off their affair, Steve vindictively dashes off a note to Donna's husband]
Steve Kemp: What's the mole just above her pubic hair look like to you? To me it looks like a question mark.
Tristan #5: Tristan - added 06/21/2007, 01:20 AM
The guy who played Kemp was Dee Wallace's husband eh?
They were in the Howling together too.
Chad #6: Chad - added 06/21/2007, 01:29 AM
Let's not forget Lassie there.
Tristan #7: Tristan - added 06/21/2007, 01:38 AM
No silly, this is Cujo not Lassie.
HAHAHAHAHAHAHA
Get it!?!?!?
Chad #8: Chad - added 06/21/2007, 01:43 AM
I thought I'd avoid spelling out the joke. Good thing I have you around.
Tristan #9: Tristan - added 06/21/2007, 01:47 AM
You're being awful ornery lately.
grain of sand #10: grain of sand - added 06/22/2007, 04:25 PM
love this movie, so intense, shoulda kept the ending but I enjoyed both movie and film.
bluemeanie #11: bluemeanie - added 06/24/2007, 07:50 PM
Fantastic fucking movie. Another King-adapted masterpiece. One of the best claustrophobic horror films ever made, and scream queen Dee Wallace Stone is at the top of her game here. Wonderful. 9/10.
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