Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Movie Review: "Cujo" (1983)

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Director: Lewis Teague
Year: 1983
Rating: R
Running Time: 1 hour, 33 minutes

A mother and son must fight for their lives when they get trapped in their broken down pinto by a rabid Saint Bernard.

"Cujo" is directed by Lewis Teague and is based on the novel by prolific horror writer Stephen King. It stars Dee Wallace as Donna Trenton, who is just an average housewife. She is married to Vic, played by Daniel Hugh Kelley, who works in marketing. They have a son named Tad, played by Danny Pintauro, who has been having a phobia of the dark and monsters lately, though his parents assure him monsters aren't real. Donna has been having an affair with a family friend named Steve Kemp, played by Christopher Stone. This subplot doesn't play a huge factor in the film other than a bit of character building and to add conflict between Dana and Vic. This gives Vic a reason to leave on his business trip angry and explains why he forgot to take the family's trusty Pinto vehicle into the shop. Now, Donna is forced to do it herself and takes Tad along for a ride. Upon arriving at the mechanic's home, they are greeted by the now-deceased mechanic's rabid Saint Bernard, Cujo. The makeup department does an amazing job making this once sweet looking fluffy, giant Saint Bernard look absolutely horrific as we see his fur covered in blood and dirt with a bit of a snotty looking secretion oozing from his eyes. Cujo traps Donna and Tad inside their broken down car, turning their simple errand into a fight for their lives and a battle of wills between Donna and this raging 200+ pound dog.

There is a lot of tension derived from the woman-versus-dog plot in this simple yet effective horror story. It has many moments of simultaneous excitement and horror as Cujo stands guard, waiting to attack the second Donna sets foot outside the car. With the sun blazing down on them from above and no water trapped inside what is essentially a sweat box, Cujo is not the only danger as dehydration and heat exhaustion become an ever-growing threat. Any time she thinks she has an opening, Donna goes for it, but is usually met by the gnashing teeth of this now vicious killing machine. They have no way to call for help (1980's and no cell phones for the win) and are left to wait it out in hopes someone will arrive to save them. This is why BigJ and I own a mini schnauzer because if our dog ever went crazy and turned on us, our odds of survival are much better against a 25 lb. mini schnauzer than they would be against a 200 lb. Saint Bernard. The fairly realistic scenario of man vs. beast makes "Cujo" extremely compelling. The closer a horror film can get to a plausible situation, the more frightening it can become, and it doesn't get much more realistic than a dog going crazy and trying to attack humans. The only real drawback of this movie is it does take a while to get going as it builds characters early on. Some may find the basic family drama tiresome and want to get on with the rabid Cujo trying to kill humans, but the entire thing is short enough that it isn't really a huge deal to us. More importantly, if you want a more realistic type of tense horror thriller, "Cujo" is a safe bet.

My Rating: 7/10
BigJ's Rating: 7.5/10
IMDB's Rating: 6.0/10
Rotten Tomatoes Rating: 60%
Do we recommend this movie: Sure, why not?
One year ago, we were being scared by: "Aliens"

Two years ago, we were being scared by: "Frailty"

Three years ago, we were being scared by: "Return of the Living Dead"

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