A lovable St. Bernard contracts rabies and terrorizes a
mother and her son, trapping them in a broken-down car.
Directed by Lewis Teague
Written by Don Carlos Dunaway and Lauren Currier
Starring Dee Wallace, Danny Pintauro, Daniel Hugh Kelly, Christopher Stone, Ed Lauter, Jerry Hardin, Mills Watson
Based on the novel by Stephen King
I recently finished reading the novel Cujo, which prompted me to give the movie a watch, as is my typical Stephen King ritual. Considering how dark and dreary the novel's ending was, I knew the movie would never go there. Lo and behold, I was right. While the film adaptation of Cujo is a decent one, the ending is far too fairy tale. The pain and fear of this story is such because of how real and possible it is. People die because that's life. The movie ending undermines the rest of the story by giving us a typical Hollywood finale. Apart from that, it wasn't bad.
Cujo is a friendly St. Bernard who is tragically bitten by a rabid bat. The lovable dog turns into a ferocious beast with murder on its mind, and it turns its sights on poor Donna and Tad Trenton, who end up trapped in their broken-down pinto. What should be enough story for a short film is stretched into a feature length nightmare as we watch Donna (Dee Wallace) do everything she can to save her little boy from the monstrous Cujo. This was the portion of the movie that was not only perfectly adapted, but absolutely terrifying as well. It had me yelling at the screen and fighting off goosebumps, a rare feat for a horror movie. However, the rest of the film suffers a pacing problem and a lack of character development. It's the same issue I noticed with other King movies like Pet Sematary, Children of the Corn, and Apt Pupil.
Cujo adapts the parts of the book that producers thought would put butts in seats. Namely, the dog. Everything else, like Donna and Kemp's affair, Vic's ad campaign, and Tad's closet monster, are all glossed over as unimportant when in fact they are crucial to the development of the characters we grow to care about when the going gets tough. Seeing as we are in the midst of a King renaissance with great films and TV shows like It, Gerald's Game, Mr. Mercedes, and Castle Rock showing how adaptations can be done right, a more focused Cujo remake is not an impossibility right now.