Movie Review- Cujo

Hi Folks,

 

 

Okay so we are majorly, majorly behind and I know it, but unfortunately real life happens…even to me. So it’s Saturday but it’s Monday and there’s not a damn thing I can do about it so just shut up and read the review.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Cujo

 

 

Fast Facts

 

Made in 1983, directed by Lewis Teague and based off yet another novel by Stephen King (Stevie really ought to be splitting some of those royalty checks with me at this point) Cujo is one of those not classic classics, rarely talked about but widely watched.

 

It centers around a young family living in Nebraska….no I’m shitting you it’s totally Maine.

 

Jesus Christ people why the hell don't you move?!

So anyway, the Trenton’s live in Maine and Donna, Vic and Tad are doing just fine thank you. (sort of…actually not at all) Then Donna fucks a man that looks like the early 80’s vomited him from it’s own gullet

And it did

so Stephen King punishes her by trapping her in a car with her three year old son while a rabid 200 pound St. Bernard tries to make friends. Cujo already has nicknames picked out for them:

 

From Left: Kibbles and her son Bits

 

 

Cast

 

This is totally karma for you telling the kid he couldn't have a dog...

Dee Wallace-Plays Donna Trenton, our besieged adulteress. While I have to say that to be honest, I’m still not sure I can say that I like Donna; Ms. Wallace is amazing. The truly impressive thing about this movie in terms of acting is that the second half relies on two actors in a small space to carry the show and one of them was about five at the time; so Ms. Wallace pretty much put this thing on her back and ran with it.

 

I can already tell you're gonna get on my nerves

Danny Pintauro-Plays Tad Trenton, the kid. Now while I don’t want to take anything away from Mr. Pintauro who is widely praised by the other actors in this film, and does do a good job including a pretty decent sequence where he’s having a seizure; if you put me in a car, and had a St. Bernard in rabies makeup so much as look at me…I’d scream pretty damn convincingly too.

 

He just found out his wife is fucking around and he's the lucky one

Daniel Hugh-Kelly- Plays Vic Trenton, and does a really nice job of being the only member of the Trenton family that I really like. Now even though he’s given a sympathetic character, there is a very believable warmth to his scenes with Tad that make this character much more than just the one member of the family that doesn’t get attacked by a rabid dog.

 

 

Observations

 

 

Ok so first off let me say that Cujo is kind of a tough one for me. Not because it isn’t well done, or isn’t scary. It’s pretty much because of this:

 

 

LOOK AT THAT FACE

 

Even in rabies makeup I find it very difficult to want Cujo the St. Bernard dead. When you compound that with the fact that while Donna and Tad are clearly our protagonists; I can not stand that kid, it’s kind of hard to root against the dog.

 

Seriously it's still kind of hard not to think he's cute isn't it?

In an unusual twist for a King tale; there is no supernatural element to Cujo (that isn’t entirely fair, there was one in the book) which makes it kind of difficult to get over the fact that the villain is just a sick, formerly very sweet large dog who chased the wrong rabbit down the wrong hole. If you’re a sentimental sap like me, the dog’s story arc is borderline tragic and my sympathy gets focused in the wrong direction because of it.

 

Plus he doesn't eat the kid that owns him...because he hasn't gone completely batshit yet

Now I would like to make one thing clear; Tad is utterly believable and very well acted. I just hate screaming children. Especially little blonde moppet children and I think I agree with Cujo that I would really like him to shut the fuck up.

 

Above: the perfect tool for time outs

One really interesting thing about this film is that the director, Lewis Teague accounts for this in the way the movie is shot. We never actually see violence being done to Cujo, Teague always cuts away before impact. The entire fight sequence between Donna and the dog at the end of the movie is bloodless, she’s hitting him in the head with a baseball bat, stabbing him with the shards of said bat and then shooting him in the face and we see the consequences of this; which in this instance is a very, very good idea. Because even horror fans; people like me who have spent years watching adult humans get dismembered for our amusement; still don’t really ever, even in a fictional setting want to see harm done to children or animals.

 

 

There are exceptions to this but we'll get to that later

 

The Trenton’s have been having some family troubles lately, Donna has been having an affair, Tad their four year old son has been seeing monsters in his closet and Vic…honestly I have never seen a more normal King character than Vic Trenton. He’s a good husband, a good father, and when he finds out his wife is fucking the douchebag tennis pro, he gets angry. But either way the Trenton’s are both something that is a sublime rarity in the Kingverse; good parents.

 

Even if they kind of suck at the spouse thing

Which is why, in the end Cujo is in fact the villain and we do in fact want Donna and the little moppet to make it out alive despite ourselves.

 

Ok one more shot of the cute version

This one’s kind of odd because there aren’t any standout scares so much, it’s the situation that scares you much more so than anything in particular that’s going on. There are some neat little jumps during the siege of the car; Cujo jumping at the windshield, Cujo jumping at the window, Cujo jumping at Dee Wallace and so on and so forth.

 

And the one point in the film where he is in fact legit freaky looking

But this one is much more about the situation that Donna Trenton is in. She’s trapped in a small space, with her young child, with a bonafide monster keeping them there and time is a factor here. Throw in summer heat and lack of foresight to bring three days worth of food with them to the mechanic’s and we’ve got a real problem here.

 

Yeah that would be a problem

Now this isn’t to say that Cujo is less than effective in his terrorization of the people in the car. Particularly in the one instance where he manages to actually get into the car, he’s terrifying; a dirty, bloody, slobbering beast that is totally and absolutely going to eat the fuck out of Donna while her son watches.

 

There are two kills in Cujo that are pretty damn satisfying as a matter of fact; though it further compounds the ‘good dog’ issue we’ve been having in that they’re both terrible people and absolutely deserve to have their throats ripped out by massive rabid dogs. Both Gary, the Camber’s next door neighbor and Joe Camber himself get viciously mauled by Cujo within about ten minutes of each other and that’s about all the gore you’re going to get in this one so you better enjoy it while it lasts.

 

Yeah...this is IT

There are two particularly neat little camera tricks in this movie, the first is an upside down, slow motion shot of Tad leaping into bed at the beginning of the film and the second is a 360 degree spin in the car following one of the last attacks Cujo makes on the car. Nothing to that really I just thought they were neat bits of cinematography; they amp the surreal factor to this story and were clever choices by Lewis Teague.

 

One final note; the ending of the movie differs from that of the book on one, I would say pretty crucial point. Tad dies in the book; he isn’t eaten he dies of dehydration and complications thereof. Stephen King himself said he thought that ending was too dark but I have to say I kind of like it better; all joking about how irritating Tad is aside. I know it sounds awful but I think the danger and severity of the situation they’ve just been through is more effectively communicated that way and while I certainly understand why they changed it, I’m not sure I agree that they should have. Choosing not to show the dog getting the shit kicked out of it is a cinematic, a visual choice, it isn’t saying that it didn’t happen and I think that it’s kind of silly to think that your audience can’t handle a dark ending to what has been to this point a pretty damn dark film.

 

Final Thoughts

 

I think the bottom line on Cujo is that it’s very tense and the story is very affecting but not always I think, in the way the director intended. There is a disproportionate amount of my affections going towards the antagonist of the film. This is one of the few examples I can think of where I believe a screenwriter should have left some of Stephen King’s original choices intact. I think the film would have been better for it. That being said, it is still definitely worth a watch; if nothing else for the two or three times Cujo actually hurts someone.

 

 

Wall Cat would like to take a moment of your time to point out that cats don't have to be rabid to totally fuck up your shit and that you should go feed one for your own safety

 

 

All in all a 7 out of 10

 

 

Your conflicted Screamstress,

 

 

 

 

~ Fright Dyke

 

 

 

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