Cujo (Lewis Teague, 1983, USA)

While it seemed that for many years Cujo was viewed as "the beginning of the end" of the golden era of Stephen King adaptations, the film has in recent years seen renewed interest and reappraisal. Based on one of King's bleakest novels, about a mother and son terrorized by a rabid St. Bernard, Cujo was directed by Lewis Teague. Teague also directed the King anthology film Cat's EyeCujo is Stephen King at his most Spielbergian (the dog here serving as a metaphor for a disintegrating marital relationship), and it is perhaps no coincidence that Dee Wallace, the mother in Spielberg's E.T., plays the leading role here.

The film had a notoriously troubled production, and there were many St. Bernards used for Cujo. In some cases, other breeds of dogs were used, as well as a man in a dog suit. The result works well, although it is still challenging to make a friendly dog threatening. More effective is the sense of doom and isolation of Donna Trenton and her son Tad being stuck in the hot car without escape. The film is enhanced by an evocative and moody score from the great Charles Bernstein (A Nightmare on Elm Street). But the real unsung hero of Cujo is Dutch cinematographer Jan de Bont, most known at the time for his collaborations with Paul Verhoeven. He went on to become a commercially successful director in his own right with films like Speed, and his talent shines through here. 

While Cujo is not the best Stephen King adaptation, it is certainly very faithful to the novel (aside from the film's ending). It is the kind of film that isn't made anymore - a 90-minute bruising horror film. These are the kind of films that dominated the home video rental market in the 1980s and 1990s. 



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