Friday, 2 August 2013

Horror Review: Cujo (1983)

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A friendly St. Bernard named "Cujo" contracts rabies and conducts a reign of terror on a small American town.

There are some names in our genre that are instantly recognisable, even by those who aren't fans. Stephen King is one of them.


There are a hell of a-lot of 'when animals attack' movies out there, there not exactly hard to find. But "Cujo" is so much more than that, the film is full of depth and great story telling but what else do you expect from King?

The films stars Horror favourite Dee Wallace and she doesn't disappoint, putting in a performance so good that it's still talked about all these years later. Her character is one you really feel for, her fear and isolation are truly felt.


There are a few differences between the film and the book and I wont ruin it for anyone who hasn't read it, but I do suggest you do give it a read. Both film and book are fantastic, the book is just a little more intensifying.

There has been a rumour going around for a while now of a remake of this film and I really hope it doesn't happen, I just don't see how you can match this let alone better it. When you watch the film these days you get a sense of 'this story could never happen these days' and a modernised version just wouldn't work. 


"Cujo" makes for very suspenseful and terrifying viewing, it's a film I highly recommend you watch if you already haven't.

If you want to see the "Cujo" trailer then just click on the video below:


Miscellaneous facts about the film:

To make the St. Bernards attack the car, animal trainers put the dog's favourite toys inside the car so the dogs would try to get them.

Five St. Bernards were used, one mechanical head, and a guy in a dog costume.

A rumour has circulated that "Cujo" is an ancient Indian word meaning "unstoppable force." In reality, Stephen King made it up himself when writing the novel.

Stephen King contributed substantially to the script but eventually declined Writer's Guild credit

Stunt double Jean Coulter was in the car and had the one of the toys used by the dogs' trainers as a "lure". The window was partially down, the dog jumped up and put his paws on the window, forcing it down and he reached in for his toy. Jeannie's reaction was to lower the toy and the dog bit her nose. She was treated at the hospital and released. There was also the rumour at the time that she was bitten by a rabid dog which was entirely incorrect.

The foam around Cujo's mouth was made of a concoction of egg whites and sugar. The dogs caused problems on the set by constantly licking the tasty stuff off.

Lewis Teague took over from Peter Medak.

A rottweiller was used for some of the scenes because they couldn't get the St. Bernard to look mean enough.

The dogs featured in the film would often have their tails tied down to their legs because the dogs would be enjoying themselves so much that they would wag their tails during filming.

The film debut for Danny Pintauro.

Star Dee Wallace said she has often been praised by parents for the scene where a hysterical Donna screams at Tad in a moment of frustrated terror. She said its a scene only a parent could identify with.

The story was inspired to Stephen King when he met his mechanic's intimidating dog while having his motorcycle repaired one day.

Director Lewis Teague was recommended by Stephen King himself after seeing Teague's previous film Alligator.

Ranked #58 on Bravo's 100 Scariest Movies countdown.

Stars Dee Wallace and Christopher Stone were married at the time of the film.

The feature film debut for star Daniel Hugh Kelly.

Young star Danny Pintauro was only six years old at the time of the movie and had not learned how to read yet. He would often have to memorize his lines from the script with the help of his mother who was always close by on location.

Shot in the same Mendocino, California community as the film Dead & Buried. In fact in one shot the Pinto can be seen driving past the same church, with the 'reaper' shaped steeple, that's featured in Dead & Buried.

The exterior of the Trenton house was a facade.

The scenes where Donna and Tad are trapped by Cujo are suppose to be sweltering hot and appear that way on film. Yet the conditions were actually very cold during filming. At one point it got so cold inside the car that heaters were placed inside to keep the actors warm, but they would have to be turned off for shooting to prevent their sound from interfering.

Karo syrup dyed red was used for fake blood.

The fog in the scene where Brett encounters a sick Cujo was created by a naval fog machine. The smoke brought out the local fire department who feared the woods were burning.

Stephen King cites this film as having the most effective scare of any of the movies based on his works, referring to the jolting scare where Cujo first leaps at the passenger window of the car.

A number of cars were used for the filming, each was disassembled for specific camera shots.

Danny Pintauro actually bit Dee Wallace's fingers during his seizure scenes. Dee's reactions in the scene were quite real.

After the film Dee Wallace went on record saying she hoped she'd never see another Pinto in her life.

The original novel was a sequel of sorts following The Dead Zone. Since killer Frank Dodd was killed he became a kind of bogeyman in Castle Rock and supposedly haunted Tad. It is hinted that Dodd possessed Cujo. Sheriff George Bannerman, played by Sandy Ward here, makes specific references to Dead Zone hero Johnny Smith. Both this movie and The Dead Zone were developed at the same time, with this film released two months before, by different studios so the references were removed.

The character Sherrif Bannerman also appears in The Dead Zone, played by Tom Skerritt. The original novel functions as an indirect sequel, as the serial killer Frank Dodd is mentioned several times, and may have possessed Cujo.

Stephen King has admitted several times that he was so into his alcohol addiction at the time that he does not remember writing the book.

Stephen King has stated that he feels Dee Wallace gives the best performance in this film of any film or TV adaptation of his books, including Kathy Bates's Oscar-winning turn in Misery.

The St. Bernard that was featured the most in the film died of bloat during production.

Tad has a stuffed St. Bernard in his room, seen clearly in his first bedroom scene.

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