Cujo Blu-ray Review: A Straightforward Thriller with Modest Chills

When you talk about the greatest Stephen King adaptations, your mind usually drifts to Carrie (1976), Salem’s Lot (1979), The Shining (1980, although King hated it), and The Mist (2007) among others. However, 1983’s Cujo (directed by the Brooklyn-born Lewis Teague) is not completely one of them, despite some genuine suspense and a solid performance from great genre queen Dee Wallace.

Based on King’s 1981 novel, the film stars Wallace as Donna Trenton, an ordinary housewife to ad executive Vic (Daniel Hugh Kelly) and loving mother to Tad (Danny Pintauro, who would go on to play Jonathan in the Who’s the Boss? TV series). The marriage between her and Vic has hit a dire strain, due mostly to her affair with local woodworker/tennis stud Kemp (the late Christopher Stone, Wallace’s real-life husband). When Vic discovers the affair, he leaves to go on a business trip, in his red convertible, leaving Donna with the clunky Pinto in the driveway (sort of a f**ck you to her in a way). So, she and Tad go to get it fixed by a backwoods mechanic (Ed Lauter), who has disappeared. Making matters worse, the Pinto stutters and dies, which strands them both. To top it off, Cujo, the mechanic’s dog, a once lovable St. Bernard, is now a rabid and bloodthirsty beast after being bitten on the snout by a bat, and it traps them in the middle of the summer heat.

As iconic and integrated as it is in pop culture, it is an imperfect film. The first 40 minutes or so is a middling domestic drama, with a mundane subplot with Kemp (who trashes the Trenton’s home after Donna ends the affair) and unnecessary exposition with the mechanic’s wife and son (who are just there to symbolize the fact that there is no one there to save Donna and Tad when shit goes down). There are also moments of sheer stupidity, such as when a cop arrives at the mechanic’s place to investigate and gets attacked by Cujo. Donna could have easily taken Tad and hopped into his car and driven off to get help. And since Cujo is now a dog with rabies, Donna could have just killed him with any type of blunt object. But I guess there wouldn’t have been a movie if that was the case. Never mind.

Cujo is a straightforward thriller with modest chills. It’s nowhere near the best of King’s adaptations, but it is definitely not the worst, due to competent performances, especially Wallace, a great score by Charles Bernstein, and some good canine carnage.

Special features include 2007 & 2013 commentaries by Teague; a ,commentary by Lee Gambin, author of Nope, Nothing Wrong Here: The Making of CUJO; CUJO Revisited: a roundtable with Wallace, Pintauro, Kelly, and Teague; Dog Days: The Making of CUJO; interviews with Wallace, Bernstein, stuntman Gary Morgan, stuntwoman Jean Coulter, casting director Marcia Ross, visual effects artist Kathie Lawrence, special effects designer Robert Clark, and dog trainer Teresa Miller. There are also radio/TV spots, and trailers of the film itself, Misery, and Needful Things.

Posted in , ,


Leave a Comment

You must be logged in to post a comment.

Search & Filter