Cujo - 25th Anniversary Edition : Release Year - 1983

Overall Rating : 7/10

Directed By : Lewis Teague

Dee Wallace-Stone (Halloween (2007) )
Danny Pintauro (Who's The Boss? (TV) )
Daniel Hugh-Kelly (The Good Son)
Christopher Stone (The Howling)

Supplied By : Lionsgate Films

Film Reviewed By : Rick L. Blalock

Date Reviewed : September. 19, 2007


In rural Maine, Vic and Donna Trenton struggle to repair their crumbling marriage, while their young son Tad befriends a hulking, lovable, 200-pound St. Bernard named Cujo. With Vic away on business, Donna and Tad take their decrepit car to be fixed at the remote farm of their mechanic. As their aging Pinto sputters to a stop and dies, Cujo appears. However, the once docile dog has contracted rabies, and has transformed into a hideous, slavering, demonic killer possessed by almost supernatural strength...and unholy cunning.
In CUJO, we are introduced to the Trenton family; Donna, Vic and their six year old son Tad. Frustrated with her quiet town life, Donna has tried to find happiness with another man, a friend of the family's named Steve, and has been cheating on Vic behind his back. When Vic finds out, as you would guess, he is none too Happy about it and is stressful. Adding to the said stress is trouble at work, his latest ad campaign failed when the project was recalled, which forces him to attend a meeting out of town - it would also give Donna and he some time apart. While Vic is gone, Donna and young Tad drive up to a local mechanic's farmhouse to have their old Pinto repaired, but when they get their they receive a dangerous surprise. What they don't know is, that the lovable family pet of the Camber family they had met on a visit prior, a Saint Bernard named Cujo has been bitten by a rabid bat, and has contracted rabies. The massive dog has grown a viciousness and has acquired tremendous strength and has already been on a ravenous killing spree, and now Donna and Tad are in it's sight.

Truth be told, CUJO was released in 1983, and was actually the first Horror film, that after I saw it, I really got into it. As a little kid, I watched this Stephen King adaptation over and over again, and I remember that it just scared the hell out of me - seeing a dog with blood shot eyes foaming at the mouth with teeth drawn is a scary thing for a kid to see. Sure as a kid, you aren't going to very well care out the plot, which is really about a woman being unfaithful, only to go through an horrific accident, making her realize just how important her family is - you just want to see the "scary stuff". But now, as an adult, I can really appreciate this film's almost solid story, which as great character development and realism. The film is actually part drama for the first half, and the last? Well it's a Horror show, so grisly and polar opposite than the first, that you're just not to sure that this story will have much of a happy's a fine mixture of happiness and dread, told much like a dark fairy tale - after all, King does begin the book with "Once upon a time....".

To adapt it from the book, the filmmakers actually had to shorten a long drown out script penned by King, so some minor things were changed to make the film flow better, well they had to still keep the plot tight. One thing that didn't translate too well probably because of these changes was the idea of the affair. Donna has been sleeping around with a friend named Steve, who has been labeled the town "stud". It just seems like the affair idea was rushed into the script, it has an impact on the portrayal on the Trenton family on screen, but it isn't really too solid or believable. The Steve character exits the film after ransacking the Trenton home, leaving a big mess without no further development, I don't know I just feel the character of Steve, portrayed by Christopher Stone(whom was Dee Wallace's real husband at the time), was kind of cut short. As for the rest of the plot, it actually comes together nicely, to create something, as I said, that was greatly realistic, tapping into the on-looking audience's real fears as these two innocent people fight for their lives.

In CUJO both the Directing and cinematography work hand and hand, creating many shots that are vividly creative. When CUJO attacks in the film there are brilliant angles in which it makes the audience feel as if they are the vicious blood-thirsty Saint Bernard. You actually get to look through the dog's eyes and stare down a frightful victim - I really this approach. But what was even more so impressive is the execution of the dog himself. To do the more difficult shots, they actually crafted a dog suit for someone to wear, as well as a mechanical dog head that worked much like a hand puppet would. Other than that, the great performance of some really talented dogs were used for the exterior shots. I have also always been impressed with the make up effects used on these dogs, because as you should know, a dog isn't always the most cooperative. Somehow the got the makeup to work out, and it's great, as they show it in different stages, as if Cujo is decaying, if you will, more and more, with each stage nastier than the last one.

Although I do like the story, it would not have been the same with out the terrific acting. Sure both Dee Wallace-Stone and Daniel Hugh Kelly work well together as an on-screen couple as we watch their dwindling marriage crumble - but perhaps the one relationship that really connects with the audience the most is the relationship of Mother and Son(Donna and Tad). Dee Wallace-Stone and Danny Pintauro, created a very realistic bond, that ultimately had you sitting on the edge of your seat, just hoping that they would survive. The strongest overall performance was given by Wallace-Stone, at the beginning she was a really regretful and shy, timid woman, but by the film's end it's a complete turn-around as she becomes this very, sort of heroic person. The performance was just fantastic, and shows just how talented Dee Wallace-Stone is, why her career has had such a longevity, and why she is still being featured in popular films, such as Rob Zombie's HALLOWEEN even today.

For this newly repackaged DVD(even with new menus and all), the 25th Anniversary Edition comes sporting a very informative 42 minute documentary, which is in 4 parts. The documentary goes on to chronicle the story and how it came about, the film's production, what changes were made to the story for the adaptation, casting, and just about everything else you would need to know about CUJO - it's worth the price alone, and the cover art, as you can see, is much better than the old one.
3/10 There are a few bloody dog bites and bloody corpses it's not that gory, but more suggestive....the suspense is high enough though, to not have to rely heavily on gore.
5/10 The score is a mixture on synthesizer and orchestrated sounding tunes, which happens to be really effective at times.
CUJO is a film that starts off slowly, and ends with a suspenseful bang. Although it was slow for the first half, I have never been bothered by that as it lets us really get to know the characters and by the time we reach the ever-so suspenseful terrorizing scenes in which Donna and Tad are trapped in their car praying for the best, as the vicious dog desperately tries to get in, we already feel for these characters and want them to survive. Many recent films like PREY, in which lions terrorize a family, have tried to duplicate CUJO'S effectiveness when it comes to the "trapped in car" scenario, but just can't do it. Somehow, CUJO was able to make this type of situation scary, and after all these years it is still as effective as when it was shot, and is a very intense moment, still recalled by many Horror fan. This is a great film, and this anniversary edition is definitive to anyone who grew up watching it, and some who didn't - I highly recommend!

This DVD will be released on September 25, 2007

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