Lewis Teague was actually given the stamp of approval by Stephen King to direct Cujo. But for some odd reason or another the studio that had the film at the time just decided to go with someone else. But in a weird twist of fate the project was dropped and then Teague was brought on by the new studio to direct the film. The recommendation came from Stephen King after he saw what Teague had done on Alligator. It was probably so great for King because of just the absolute cheese and the little political undertones in the film. This time around the undertones were all about our own personal fears and while this may not be noticeable by just a random viewer if you look closer it is rather evident.
In this Teague animal attacks vehicle Cujo is a nice friendly St. Bernard who is out chasing a little rabbit around a field. Soon the rabbit dives into a whole and Cujo digs his head right down inside to try and catch it. As they say curiosity killed the cat and he is bit by a rabies infested bat. Enter the Trenton family who are suffering from all kinds of inner turmoil. The adults marriage is on the rocks, the father's ad campaign has caused a mass frenzy and the young boy is dealing with the fear of monsters in his closet.
As any family does, there car is in need of a repair and the only decent place around is at a farm about 6 miles away. The farm just so happens to be the home to Cujo as well. As papa heads out of town to cool down after he has heard his wife is having an affair with a friend of his, the mother has to take the Pinto in for some work. As soon as she arrives she realizes something is terribly wrong and Cujo is in full rage mode. This is where the story begins to get good and when their previous worries really become just a drop in the pond when Cujo bears his blood drenched teeth.
Now I wouldn't consider this movie a classic but it is definitely a film that has stood the test of time and definitely deserves this new 25th Anniversary DVD from Lionsgate. Really the performances from actors Dee Wallace and Danny Pintauro are the showcase of this film. I would also be amiss if I didn't mention that fantastic work that Jan De Bont did with the camera. The shots they were able to obtain for this film are very nice and pleasing to the eye.
One scene that I really have to mention in this review is of course one that takes place in the car. The camera focuses on Dee Wallace who is near exhaustion and then swivels around to catch a horrified look on young Pintauro's face. The camera then continues to spin and spin giving you that same dizzying sensation that they must feel. It also adds to the claustrophobic atmosphere that they are stuck in the car with no help in sight. That is just one among many great scenes that take place on the farm between Cujo and the Trentons.
At this point in Teagues career he had pretty much reached his peak and it shows in this film. He managed to show that fear of things that have not happened yet are something that you should never have. But a fear of something eminent such as a rabid dog really put things in perspective. In the case of Cujo the family has plenty of these fears. Losing his account at the PR firm, the wife's fear that she will go nowhere in the town she is living and the young boys fear of the monster in the closet. When they are finally confronted by Cujo it all comes into perspective what is really important in life.
Now onto the good stuff which is the blood and death scenes. Now Cujo looks very menacing in most of his scenes and is one hell of a big dog. As the film progresses and the body count rises he begins to get more and more bloody and dirty. He also gets plenty of drool and other odd body fluids all over himself. It all makes for one crazy ass dog. Of course their is no really gory death scenes but the maulings look pretty convincing.
Ahhh the sweet sound of a beautiful score put together by Charles Bernstein. You have probably heard his work on A Nightmare On Elm Street. Another great score that will always be very memorable. But the score in this particular film is fantastic especially with the theme given to Cujo being the low horns. Not many people appreciate a good score like I do but if you are like me and believe it makes all the difference your ears will have a nice trip during this film.
Anyone who is a fan of Stephen King will absolutely love this movie. It really does the book justice. Now I can't really suggest this film to gorehounds because there isn't a lot of that. But everyone else will get a great kick out of this one.
(NOTE: Possibly one of the greatest "isolation" movies)