Before I dive into this film I should probably mention that I have not read Stephen King’s novel Cujo. *Insert audience booing.* I have heard many mixed reviews and decided to write that one off as an ‘avoid’. Apparently he was highly medicated during that time of his life and a lot of the book is “a confused stream-of-consciousness trip” as fellow The Game of Nerds writer Jordan “Mr. Universe” Rolufs puts it, and to me that doesn’t sound extremely appealing. The concept, on the other hand, is what is interesting to me: a dog terrorizes a mother and son as they are trapped in a car with no plausible way of escaping, while water and food supplies run low.
This movie was highly recommended to me by Jay of the Dead, the host of Horror Movie Podcast, which is why I finally took the plunge and decided to see what the hype is all about. To my relief, it lived up to the hype! It was very well-written (to no one’s surprise) but it was also extremely suspenseful and very well-executed. The alternative story lines of this film are what makes it so fantastic! Soon after pressing ‘play’ on this movie you find out that the husband of one of our main characters is cheating on his wife (AND VICE VERSA OOOOH UNEXPECTED) and it really builds up the tension because not only does the terror happen to innocent people, it happens to a group of people who are already going through a different types of tragic experiences. It makes the film go from a scary killer dog motif to something completely unexpected!
I have seen photos around the internet of the dog who played Cujo for years and I always thought it would be hard to see the dog as a monster mostly due to the fact that I grew up on the children’s movie Beethoven, who’s main character, if you didn’t already know, is a St. Bernard. At first, it was really hard to see the dog as this terrifying monster that people have built it up to be, but in the end the dog was rather unsettling. Part of me still wonders if this is the same dog from Beethoven. I could probably Google it and find out but I like a good mystery. SpoOoOoky. (Just kidding, of course I did my research. They used five different St. Bernards, but to my surprise, they also used one Rottweiler for the scenes where you couldn’t see the dog all that well.) I should also mention that during the majority of the film Cujo is covered in blood, pus and drool in which they used egg whites and red-coloured syrup on the dogs, which caused several issues because the dogs would constantly lick it off and get so excited for their ‘treats’ that their tails would start wagging, which created the need to tape their tails to their legs so Cujo wouldn’t seem like a happy, friendly dog. See? Even spooky dogs are cute dogs in the end.
Doggo isn’t our only lead actor in this film, we also have the ever-amazing Dee Wallace! It’s always a pleasure to see anything she stars in, and she holds up true to her reputation in this film as well! She portrays very realistic emotions and really draws the viewer in. You feel what she feels almost from the beginning of the film, so when things start to get truly unsettling you are drawn right in. It doesn’t matter how realistically frightening the dog is, you are afraid because she is afraid. The other need to mention actor in this film is our child actor Danny Pintauro. Quite often in most horror films the child actors are the downfall; they are usually unsure of what they are doing, and it makes their characters unbelievable and almost always pulls me right out of the film. Again, this is not the case for Cujo; this kid steals the show. You can literally see the fear in his eyes during all of the most tense moments of the film. He screams, he cries, he even has several seizures and it is actually believable and terrifying on its own! During one of the seizures the dog is literally at the window, trying to get them and it was one of the most tense scenes, even though it wasn’t an extremely long one.
This is a bit off-topic, but not entirely. I was discussing with a group of fellow nerds as to whether or not Cujo was just a rabid dog or something more. We came to the conclusion that yes, Cujo is a rabid dog with a hint of supernatural aspects. That’s not where this conversation ended though, this got me thinking – can other animals contract rabies? Like, for instance, hippopotamuses. Of course I immediately turned to the internet and asked whether or not they can. The first image to appear in my search engine was of a naked man being chased by a hippopotamus. Enjoy that.
Anyway, you all came here to hear my thoughts of Cujo, not see images to sear your brain (you’re welcome,by the way). Overall, I found this movie to be sheer brilliance. It was tense, shocking, devastating and at times utterly disturbing. I was on the edge of my seat during the film’s entirety and it concluded in a well thought-out manner. It is certainly no slow burn, and, to be honest, it was a film well before its time. I rate this film a 10/10 and highly recommend it to any horror fan who has yet to watch this classic!