Sunday, October 19, 2014

October Horror Movie Challenge: Cujo (1983)

Based on the Stephen King novel of the same name, Cujo is a horror movie directed by Lewis Teague. Cujo is a happy St. Bernard until he is bitten on the hose by a rabid bat and slowly begins to manifesting the symptoms of his fatal illness. As his condition deteriorates, Cujo begins to attack those who cross his path. This culminates with Cujo trapping a woman named Donna Trenton and her 5 year old son Tad in her Ford Pinto, trying his hardest to get inside to kill them both.

Although Stephen King's literary work tends to be highly acclaimed, the film adaptations of his stories tend to be a bit more...varied in the quality department. Some, like Misery or The Shawshank Redemption are fantastic films and considered classics. Others, like Sleepwalkers or The Mangler, are less fantastic. Cujo seems to fall somewhere in the middle of those extremes.

Cujo has a lot of good qualities. Both Dee Wallace and Daniel Hugh Kelly give great performances. Wallace plays a character struggling to find what she truly wants from her life who is suddenly thrust into a situation she's not prepared to handle very well and Kelly does a good job playing the loving father trying to figure out how he's going to handle a complicated situation.

The film's third act is pretty tense as well. Two characters are locked inside a small car with a vicious animal lurking outside, waiting to strike when the time is right. Each time he tries to get into the car, and almost succeeds, you get tense and hope Donna will be able to stop him. You also know she'll have to leave the car eventually, but you don't know when and the tension just builds and builds.

Unfortunately, Cujo shoots itself in the foot with its slow pacing. While the first half does a good job making the people and the town of Castle Rock feel real, I would be lying if I said it wasn't a little boring and you just want to fast forward to the third act.

If you can overlook its slow pacing, Cujo has some solid performances and a pretty good third act and climax. Its not bad, but there are much better King adaptations to watch.