A Review of Cujo
There are few people in the world who can write a scary story quite like Stephen King. A few days ago I caught a Halloween movie marathon on AMC and I was able to re-watch one of my favorite story’s he has written and has been made into a movie, Cujo.
I have always liked this movie for its simplicity. A lot of horror movies and stories require a big set up or tons of backstory for one to understand what’s going on and why. Many of Kings other works also do this, most with some kind of supernatural psychological freakiness. Cujo on the other hand is simple and terrifying. It is very much set in normal reality. The vast majority of the book and movie center on a woman and her son being stuck in their car by a crazed rabid dog. That’s it. It doesn’t seem that scary. Anyone could get stuck in their car and plenty of people have seen or heard of a dog getting rabies. But that is what makes this story scary. It is such a normalized situation that anyone could end up in that horror fest of a story, including you and me.
Now one does have to remember how things were back in the early 1980’s. There were no cell phones, there weren’t even cordless phones. GPS was not available and because of all this people weren’t as connected as they are now. It wasn’t unheard of to not hear from someone for a day or two at a time and not think anything of it.
The story starts and revolves around two families-the Trenton’s and the Camber’s. The Trenton’s include husband Vic, wife Donna and four year old Tad. They have just moved to town. They are pretty well to do and you also find out that Vic and Donna’s marriage is on the rocks because of an affair she had been having with a man named Steve. There more added stress because Vic’s advertising company isn’t doing very well and he has to leave on a business trip. Pretty normal family drama overall. The Camber’s include husband Joe, wife Charity and son Brett. Joe is not a nice man and abuses his family while running a mechanics business at home. Charity and Brett leave to visit a relative whereas Joe stays at home with their family dog, a friendly, large St. Bernard named Cujo.
Now we already saw at the first of the movie Cujo chasing a rabbit and being bitten on the nose by a bat. Everyone sees the bite, but no one seems much concerned with it. This was a mistake. We watch as rabies flood through Cujos system and turn him mad. He goes to the next door neighbor’s house where he mauls the man to death. Joe not realizing anything has happened calls on his neighbor for a drink and seeing what Cujo has done tries to fight him off. It doesn’t work and Cujo kills Joe too.
Unbeknownst to anyone else in town, everyone goes on about their business. Vic leaves on his business trip, Donna has an argument with Steve over the phone and her Ford Pinto is acting up again. She decides to take it to Joe again as he had fixed her car last time. She packs up her son Tad and goes over. Nothing looks amiss but her car breaks down in the front yard.
Donna and Tad see a bloodied Cujo and run back to their car. Cujo then goes about terrorizing them. He slams bodily into the vehicle, gnaws off the handles, climbs on top of the car and jumps up on the windows snarling and growling at them. Tad screams for his mother to get them out of there, but the car is broken down and refuses to start. Anytime Donna tries to leave her car, Cujo is there-ready to attack.
No one knows where Donna is and to make matters worse, the summer sun starts to heat up their car. Tad quickly becomes dehydrated. The only relief they have is when it’s night time. Soon though the sun rises and Cujo is still there waiting.
Donna hears a phone ring from inside and wants desperately to get to it, but Cujo, not liking the shrill rings mauls the phone. Tad is doing much worse and Donna knows she has to do something or Tad could die. She again tries to leave the car and this time Cujo gets ahold of her. He bites her leg and is almost in the car with them, but Donna is able to shove him out and get the door closed. She tells Tad to not leave the car and passes out, leaving him alone and crying.
At this point Vic is worried over his family. He has called repeated times and no one has answered. He worries that Donna has left to be with Steve, but fear nags him and he ends up leaving his business trip to check on them. He isn’t the only one wondering where Donna is either. Steve also shows up at her house, but seeing she’s not there he trashes the place instead. By the time Vic arrives, the cops are there and investigating what has been going on. They think Steve might have kidnapped Donna and Tad, but this is soon disproven. Vic tries to think of anywhere else Donna may be and remembers her car needed worked on still. They send an officer out to check Joe’s house while Vic waits anxiously. He finally can’t stand it and leaves to go check Joe’s out himself.
Donna has regained consciousness, but Tad is doing much worse. He won’t wake up. Donna is frantic and then she sees the police car. It’s already parked and as she looks around she realizes the officer and Cujo are fighting. She watches in horror as once again Cujo is able to get the upper hand and kills him. This time though, Donna knows she doesn’t have much time due to Tad’s worsening condition. She gets out of the car and is able to grab a baseball bat. She fights Cujo and even though she hits him several times with it, so much that the wooden bat breaks off he is still up, the madness still driving him. Cujo leaps at her but Donna holds up the broken bat and Cujo is impaled on it.
Donna runs to grab Tad and carry him into the house, but finds she can’t. Cujo has damaged the doors so much that they won’t open. Tad is trapped inside and Donna outside. She finally uses the butt of the gun the officer had dropped to smash the back windshield. She carries Tad into the house and there she pours water into his mouth, but he is unresponsive. She gives him a sort of mouth to mouth, trying to get him to breathe. It isn’t working. When she loses hope Tad suddenly starts coughing and Donna weeps in relief. That’s when Cujo jumps through a window at them. Donna, having had enough of this, picks up the gun and shoots him. That’s when Vic rolls up and the family is reunited.
The movie ending is more clichéd then I like, but considering the book ending of the story I see why they went with it. You know how in most stories the kid and dog always make it? Well in this book neither does.
The story itself as stated before is simple and realistic. There is no need for evil cars, ESP or a haunted hotel. Sometimes the most mundane things can transform into deadly situations and that, I think, is terrifying.
Did you like the movie or book? Tell me your thoughts below or on twitter @thenerdygirlexp or on my personal account @quietlikeastorm. I love hearing from people, especially about movies and shows.
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