THE PLOT THUS FAR
This 1983 adaptation of the Stephen King horror novel is the anti-Beethoven, the story of a rabid St. Bernard that terrorizes a community, tears up a few folks, and goes after a woman and her son. Once the point has been made that big, lovable Cujo has been bitten by a rabid bat, there isn’t much more to say. The film is essentially a linear progression of doggy violence, though director Lewis Teague (The Jewel of the Nile)–building on King’s implication that we all know what it’s like to be afraid of a big, scary pooch–succeeds at making the fear almost primitive for an audience.
WHAT WE THOUGHT
Cujo is from the golden age of Stephen King adaptations where great directors were taking on the material. Genre regular Dee Wallace and child star Danny Pintauro (TV’s “Who’s The Boss”) are a mother and son trapped in a car for the last half of the movie movie while a rabid St, Bernard named Cujo stalks around the outside. This extended climax is what people remember from the film and the first 45 minutes of character development seems rather secondary other than to establish that there are marital problems with Stone and her husband and that Cujo’s owner is a hick with a dysfunctional family as well. There is not much to like in any of the characters which is too bad as I think it would have made the suspenseful final act of the film all the more intense. Instead, I found myself not really caring if Wallace and the boy escaped. In fact, at times I was hoping that she would stop his incessant screaming and crying by throwing him to the dog. As a result, the lack of action and relation to the characters renders the film as slightly inferior to other King adaptations such as Carrie and Christine.
Maybe I am being too harsh as I really like Lewis Teague as a director but I find that with movies like this, character is all-important. The dog was made out to be an innocent victim of a bat-bite and I found myself emphasizing way more with Cujo than the people around him. When Cujo attacks a few people as the rabies is setting in, they are people who have it coming, which does not result in making the dog to be the hound of hell it could have been. By the time he gets to Wallace and Pintauro, Cujo seems like an animal confused by how he is going mad rather than the malicious cold-blooded killer that the Blu-Ray cover suggests. The dog can’t help it so we don’t really have a reason to hate it. These things can happen to dogs in the country, just like it did to Old Yeller. By the end of the flick, we know what has to happen and we know how things are probably going to turn out but many viewers may find themselves unsure as to how they feel about what has ensued. Teague peppers the proceedings with a few well-placed jump scares and the make-up on the dog is excellent making him look more pathetic as he becomes more menacing. An interesting choice. This movie was strange to me because I found it quite scary when I was a kid but now that I am older and can see all the human interactions in the movie for what they are, I have a much different opinion.
The Blu-Ray comes with the same old commentary from director Lewis Teague. But, the “Dog Days” documentary seems like a new add-on for the film’s 25th anniversary. The DTS-HD master audio is amazing for a film that previously sounded like it was shot inside of a tin can. The transfer leaves a little to be desired, as a lot of digital noise can still be seen in dark interiors. Still, it’s a recommended buy to all horror fans.
RELEASE DATE: 11/24/09