Cujo, a horror adaption based on the book by Stephen King, is a story about what happens when man’s best friend gets rabies. Note: it’s not pretty. The film focuses on the family of the Trenton’s, who have been recently rocked by the husband’s discovery of his wife’s extramarital affair. The inciting incident for that story line occurs when Victor Trenton sees his wife and the “other man” arguing in the street, while the inciting incident for poor Cujo comes as soon as he contracts rabies.
This isn’t your typical family film. Cujo spends a considerable amount of screen time covered in blood and foaming at the mouth. Donna and her son Tad become trapped and terrorized by the St. Bernard, with little hope for escape. It’s not a typical horror movie either. The antagonist is a dog, so if you want to instill a fear in your children of house pets, then this is the movie for that.
Friendly St. Bernard? Think again.
The film focuses a lot on the family’s dynamic, and ultimately asks “what will you do, how will you react, when your family is threatened?” Victor deals with this on occasions – not only does he have to confront the reality that his wife has cheated on him, but he discovers them at the site of their attack from Cujo.
Unfortunately, to a modern audience, Cujo may come off as pretty dated. From the cars that the Trenton’s drive (they are held hostage by the dog in a Pinto, for crying out loud) to the clothing they wear, everything has a look reminiscent of the mainstream 80’s. There is little neon and shoulder pads, but you can tell it’s from a different era. Not only that, but the pacing of the movie itself makes it dated. It’s slower, with a majority of focus not on Cujo attacking the different characters, but on Victor and Donna’s troubled marriage and the effect that’s having on the family.
Tender moment at the beginning of the film.
Cujo is an atypical horror movie because it uses REAL things, like affairs and rabid dogs, to scare an audience rather than the make-believe. That is a definite strength of the film, and something that older viewers may appreciate more. However, if you’re looking for a “scary” film for your 13-year-old boy to watch, this may do the trick. If I had to give it a grade, I’d give it a B-.
Tweet: Small family battles big dog that bites hard, foams at mouth, while father grapples with what to do when his family is threatened.