Cujo (1983) Poster


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Realistic horror
Tikkin23 February 2006
I think of Cujo as "realistic horror" because it is something that could really happen. People really do get killed by rabid dogs...this film just exaggerates the truth a bit. I can't say I really enjoyed this film as it is not what I look for in horror films. It's a very good film - well acted, well directed, suspenseful and emotional, but it's not really "fun" to watch. It starts off with the dog getting infected, and from then on tension is built up slowly as you sense the dog is getting angrier and angrier. Eventually it snaps and starts killing people. The bulk of the film focuses on when Donna and her son are trapped in the broken down car because Cujo attacks whenever they try to leave. You can feel all the desperation, pain and isolation of Donna and her son as they lay trapped inside. It makes you think twice about dogs and certainly what you would do in such a situation. Would you run, attack the dog, or wait until help arrives?

This is not a fun, campy or cheesy horror film, so don't watch if you're a fan of cheese. It's for those who want to feel suspense, fear and pain.
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A film that tells you that your demons will come back to haunt you.
Dan Grant16 July 1999
We all know Cujo is a giant St. Bernard that has to kill because he is rabid. The film works as a horror film because of that concept, but this film and the story writer behind it believe that paybacks are a bitch. Retribution is always around the corner and when it is your time, you don't know if it is going to from a guy in a hockey mask, a massive great white shark,a 58 red and white Plymouth Fury, some idiot with long finger knives or a lovable Saint Bernard. Whatever it is though, sin always accounted for. Cujo subscribes to that theory.

Everyone that dies in this film, with the exception of maybe one, does so because they are not very likable people to begin with. They are all tainted and when Cujo gets a hold of them, we are almost glad that he wants their blood. But it is the climax of the film that is the most intriguing. Because here we have a woman who has gotten rid of her sin. But she now has to face the music not for what she is doing, but for what she has done. And if you read the book, you will see that it sticks to that theory and message much more than the film does. It is understood that Cujo has to have a happy Hollywood ending, and that is fine, but the book tells a much more clear yet paradoxically convoluted tale of a boy, his dog, and how sin is never really forgiven.

What is also great about Cujo is how it shows the dog coming unravelled. We see the transformation from lovable suck of a family dog, to vicious killing machine that has an insatiable need for blood. We see his nose get more wet, we see how certain noises bother him more and we see how much saliva this dog has stored up in his nasty mouth.

Cujo is a good movie. It is scary, especially the last half hour and it actually has a point. It also does a fairly good job of bringing King's vision to life. It is not easy to do that, after all King has a very vivid imagination. But Cujo comes close. Very close
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Doesn't do the novel justice...
hrf11919 July 2011
Warning: Spoilers
After reading King's fantastic novel "Cujo" - off which the movie is clearly based - I was beyond excited to watch the movie. I wondered excitedly how they would accurately depict the intricate and emotional lives of the 8 or so main characters. After watching the movie I can say with confidence that they failed to do the job.

First off - many of the characters that are quite prominent in the novel and add to the intensity and suspense are given nothing but slight cameos in the movie, or are not shown at all. The Camber family, composed of Joe, wife Charity, and son Brett, might collectively have 25 lines which is ridiculous. Roger Breakstone, Sheriff Bannerman, Gary Pervier, George Meara and Steve Kemp as characters with clear motives and reactions in the novel, are all about as deep as paper in the film. Aunt Evvie Chambers, Holly and her family, and a few other minor characters have been omitted from the film completely.

If this wasn't bad enough, the main story was altered drastically, and there was no falling action whatsoever!


Tad Trenton lives in the movie! This huge change in plot completely takes away from the tragedy that Stephen King so wonderfully wrote. Also, Cujo is shot in the end. This quick, seemingly painless death allows the film to end quickly but totally ruins it. In the novel, the long, painful, graphic death of Cujo is, in a sense, justice being served. In the film there is no such thing.

Ultimately, this film is weak, not scary, and does not stay true to the novel. I had to read the novel in broad daylight because of how frightening it was, I watched the movie alone, in the dark, at night. The film is the terrible, shameful younger brother - nay - cousin of the original novel.
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oOoBarracuda9 August 2016
I have a love-hate relationship with Stephen King adaptations. I love The Shining, Misery, and most of IT, but can't get behind The Shawshank Redemption or The Green Mile. I want to love the adaptations based on his books, but as masterful as the beginnings are, the endings mostly seem to fall flat; a phenomenon not unlike Stephen King's books. The 1983 film Cujo by Lewis Teague was no different than my viewings of other King adaptations, in the way that it starts off strong, then falls off in the middle and the end. Starring Dee Wallace and Danny Pintauro Cujo tells the story about a rabid dog who turns on those around him and brings evil to the small town he lives in.

In the sleepy town of Castle Rock, Maine, Donna Trenton (Dee Wallace) lives a modest unfulfilling life with her son, Tad Trenton (Danny Pintauro) and busy husband Vic Trenton (Daniel Hugh Kelly). Spending her days taking care of her son and dealing with her husband's absence Donna seems to feel as though her very existence has been hijacked by the other members of her family. Feeling as though she solely exists for others, Donna begins an affair with her husband's friend Steve Kemp (Christopher Stone). When Vic finds out about the affair, he abruptly leaves the house; busy dealing with a business emergency anyway, Donna is suddenly alone with her son. Because he had to hurry away to deal with the business emergency, Vic left his family's car needing repairs. On the way to have the repairs done, the car breaks down leaving Donna and her son Tad face to face with a rapid dog intent to kill.

I never know what to expect with Stephen King films. Some are great and some are terrible. Cujo is somewhere in the middle of this spectrum. There are some good things that happen in this film. The score is brilliant, and the dog is well-done for the screen. All the bad outweighs the few good things, however. Pacing is just horrible; I typically find great enjoyment out of a film that takes place in confinement, as this film does in the car. Cujo is not a film that works well in confinement. Bad child actors can ruin a good movie, and that is certainly the case with Cujo. The more horror movies I watch, the more disappointed I am. I love the genre, but it just seems that what passes as a horror movie is always disappointing. I won't quit the quest, but Cujo certainly did not satisfy my craving for horror movies.
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It might have you foaming at the mouth?
mylimbo14 March 2006
A St. Bernard dog is playfully chasing a rabbit, but when the dog decides to pop its head into a burrow it's bitten by a rabies-infected bat and slowly over time it becomes a maliciously uncontrolled mutt. Which, it turns on its owner and also terrorises that of a unfaithful women and her son that came to get their vehicle repaired, but only to be trapped in their broken down car with rabid dog outside trying to get to them.

Beethoven… yep, I just couldn't stop thinking of the lovable Beethoven when watching this flick. That was one of my childhood favourites, but I guess it isn't going to be quite the same when I come across it again. I won't look a Beethoven the same way again. Anyhow, this is one of the King's better-made adaptations. Although, it's a long way from brilliant, it delivers a stable amount of interest and tension to proceedings. This was my second viewing of it and it has hardly lost any of that full-blooded impact it generated, especially the heart racing standoff between the dog and the trapped victims. I wouldn't be surprise that you don't think your watching a horror film to begin with, as the opening basis centres around a family melodrama, raising martial issues and work commitments. It kind of comes across as cheesy in its supposed sentiment in those moments.

Then it kicks into gear with the slow beginning making way for a crackerjack final 40 minutes of simple confined tension built around isolation. It also doesn't hold back on the vicious dog attacks with ample ferocity and raw suspense being belted out. Watching people being mauled apart by this giant scuffed up dog wasn't that pleasant at all. The gore effects were more than adequate and it looked the part of a rabid dog perfectly. But you couldn't help but feel sorry for the dog, as it's more of a victim then the people who he's terrorising. Honestly I cared more for the misunderstood pooch than the initial victims. The characters weren't entirely likable, with the exception of one or two, but I didn't connect with them in this mess. The story is simple and plays it straight, but that doesn't mean it avoids the familiar clichés. Although, it doesn't entirely hurt the film, well it kind of enhances it actually. A surprising factor I found was that the film's camera-work was well choreographed with plenty of swirling shots and when it needed to up the ante it became rather erratic to fit in with the mood. Also add in some glorious slow-mo. The score on the other hand I thought was forcefully unbalanced and didn't fit into the mood at times. The performances are all sturdy and very hard to knock. Dee Wallace-Stone was at the top of her game as the wayward wife and Danny Pintauro as her worried son was equally so. Daniel Hugh Kelly gives a likable performance as the father and of course the endearing dog is worth a mention too. The strong performances make this traumatic experience even more believable.

A tautly constructed and work-man like film that won't push the boundaries, but its intensely petrifying in its simple origins.
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Hardcore horror.
gridoon10 December 2000
Hardcore horror fans won't be disappointed (although for a while they may think they will be) with this extremely bloody and gruesome shocker. The attack scenes are about as intense as possible - the director almost pushes them TOO far. But the first half of the movie is plodding, filled with unnecessary scenes, and the kid's constant whining (although justified) is sure to get on your nerves. (**1/2)
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A horror film that grabs and won't let go!
AngryChair26 July 2006
Stephen King-based thriller is a sweat-inducing shocker that ranks among the most intense King adaptations.

Woman and child are trapped inside their stalled car by a huge, rabid dog.

Cujo remains one of the more memorable Stephen King novels because it's a tale of such merciless suspense and in the hands of director Lewis Teague much of that same horror transcends well into this film. This film benefits greatly from a powerful story with some well fleshed-out characters, it's much more than just another 'animal attacks' movie. Teague's direction is also very tight and helps to build an unnerving tension through out this film. The atmosphere is very heated, the look of the movie very gritty, and the danger feels all the more real! The camera work is also excellent and makes this film feel truly claustrophobic! It builds to a finale that is heart-stopping. The music score is harrowing and the filming locations are good.

Cast-wise the film is quite strong too. The great Dee Wallace delivers an emotionally powerful performance as a mother desperate to protect her child and survive herself. Young Danny Pintauro is great as Wallace's horrified child. The supporting cast is good too, as are the numerous St. Bernard's that play our vicious title character.

Cujo is a top-notch suspense film that never loses its edge. A must-see, and not just for King fans.

**** out of ****
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When A Lovable Pet Becomes A Killer
virek2131 January 2017
The novels of Stephen King provided the basis for a number of horror films that ranged from rather good (FIRESTARTER; THE DEAD ZONE; CHRISTINE) to absolute masterworks (CARRIE; THE SHINING). One adaptation that flew under the radar screens of even the most devoted fans of the horror genre (as well as a few critics) was CUJO, based on King's 1981 novel of the same name, and released in the late summer of 1983. Part of it could be that the story itself was considered a bit thinner than what most were used to from King as a novelist. Nevertheless, in a decade that didn't see too many horror films become masterpieces (and this even applied to later King adaptations like PET SEMETARY and CHILDREN OF THE CORN), even slightly lower-caliber King from the 1980s like CUJO still outdoes even in the 21st century much of what is out there now.

Dee Wallace, who portrayed the emotionally distant mother in director Steven Spielberg's 1982 sci-fi masterpiece E.T.: THE EXTRA-TERRESTRIAL, plays more or less a similar role in CUJO, a frustrated suburban wife in a northern California town whose life has become a subject of turmoil; she has had an affair behind her husband (Daniel Hugh-Kelly) with another man (Christopher Stone); and her five year-old son (Danny Pintauro) is troubled by these issues which he is much too young to even begin to comprehend. Elsewhere in town, another young boy (Billy Jayne) has other issues coping with youth, and his only real "friend" in the world is his St. Bernard dog Cujo. Unfortunately, what nobody yet knows is that Cujo is the victim of a horrible encounter. In the film's opening, Cujo chases a rabbit into a hollowed-out, rotten log, only to get bitten on the nose by a bat infected with rabies. When Wallace and Pintauro stop off at the local garage where Cujo is kept, their car breaks down; and very soon, they are viciously attacked by the unfortunate St. Bernard. They are trapped in the broken-down car for much of the hot summer day, the target of Cujo's wrath.

Lewis Teague, who directed the 1979 Dillinger-inspired THE LADY IN RED, and the 1980 cult horror film ALLIGATOR, does an effective job of conveying small-town life in this, the first of King's adaptations to be set in his fictional community of Castle Rock. The major issue that he faces in directing this film is how he depicts Cujo's attacks, which in the novel were not surprisingly quite a bit more explicit, and how sympathetic one can be towards a St. Bernard who slowly but surely evolves into a vicious killer with teeth. This becomes a prime focus when it is perfectly obvious how well Wallace and Pintauro connect as mother and young son. A basic clue can be gleaned from the fact that Cujo's horrifying transformation from loving St. Bernard to irrational mauler isn't fast or easy. Another issue, though more minor, is how Teague can keep up the suspense once Wallace and Pintauro find themselves trapped in their car at the hands of Cujo. Since the attacks can't be depicted with such relentlessness, but must be spaced at intervals, as was the case in Alfred Hitchcock's 1963 horror classic THE BIRDS, the film inevitably slows down at times; and horror film fans impatient for the blood and gore to start pouring are likely to find all of this boring. But astute fans of the genre know that it's far better to do it this way.

While King is often known for situations involving horror of some kind, primarily supernatural (though not really here), he also has a firm eye for characterizations; and Teague and screenwriters Dunaway and Currier take their cue from that aspect of King, while not leaving out the horror (though the attacks themselves, while plenty horrifying, aren't revoltingly graphic). The film's on-location settings in areas around Petaluma and Santa Rosa gives the Castle Rock an idyllic but also sometimes claustrophobic feel, which is enhanced and intensified once Cujo becomes a killer.

In the end, CUJO, while not quite a masterpiece on the level of either CARRIE or THE SHINING, must still be counted as one of the better horror films, thanks to the emphasis on characterization and suspense, and not just on blood and gore, while providing plenty of scares. Not many horror films in the 1980s did that, and even fewer would do so in the decades to come, and on into the 21st century.
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Kirpianuscus8 August 2016
a good adaptation. a classic horror. a not comfortable hypotheses. short, a decent film. because it is more profound and superficial than you expect. superficial because the past of Cujo before the evil is only a sketch. sure, the fight for survive of woman and her son is important but it represents only the top of the iceberg. profound because the lead theme is not exactly a rabid Saint Bernard but family crisis. this is the axis and the attack of dog - only the element who gives clear perception about it. not the scenes of attacks are powerful but the idea itself of a giant animal, peaceful, lovely, nice, the perfect buddy for children, defined by the image of the funny Beethoven for many members of new generation and a cruel monster covered by blood . so, a decent film.
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