Cujo (film)

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Theatrical release poster
Directed by Lewis Teague
Produced by Robert Singer
Daniel H. Blatt[1]
Screenplay by Don Carlos Dunaway
Lauren Currier
Based on Cujo by
Stephen King
Music by Charles Bernstein
Cinematography Jan de Bont
Edited by Neil Travis
Taft Entertainment
Sunn Classic Pictures
Distributed by Warner Bros.
(United States and Canada)
PSO International
(Icon Productions)
Release dates
August 12, 1983
Running time
91 minutes
Country United States
Language English
Budget $8 million
Box office $21,156,152 (USA)

Cujo is a 1983 American psychological horror/thriller film based on Stephen King's novel of the same name. It was directed by Lewis Teague, and written by Don Carlos Dunaway and Lauren Currier.[2]


The film begins with a rabbit hopping out of its hole, when a St. Bernard playfully chases it, until it stops and curiously sticks its nose in a bat cave, and a rabid bat bites its nose.

The Trentons – Vic, Donna and their son Tad – are an upper-middle-class suburban family. Vic works in advertising, Donna is a housewife and Tad is a sensitive little boy who has a fear of monsters in his closet. One day, the Trenton family takes their car to the rural home of abusive mechanic Joe Camber for some repairs, where they meet Cujo (the dog in the beginning) – the Camber family's easy-going St. Bernard who still has the bite on his nose received from the bat while chasing the rabbit in the cave. Donna notices the bite but thinks little of it. Vic and Donna's marriage on the rocks is tested when Vic learns that Donna is having an affair with her ex-boyfriend from high school, Steve Kemp, while Vic's advertising for a cereal commercial is failing and he tries to save his marriage with Donna.

After Joe's wife, Charity, and her son, Brett, leave for a week to visit her sister, Holly, Cujo's bite from the rabid bat drives him mad, and he kills the Camber's alcoholic neighbor, Gary Pervier, and the abusive Joe in the garage, who attempts to call the authorities for help and fails to defend himself from his now rabid dog. Meanwhile, Vic goes out of town on a business trip as Donna and Tad return to the Cambers' house for more car repairs where Cujo attacks them. Donna and Tad take shelter in their Ford Pinto as Tad tries to convince Donna to drive home, but the alternator dies and the two are trapped. Therefore, they are forced to stay inside their car while Cujo attacks repeatedly. The hot sun makes conditions nearly unbearable and Donna knows that she must do something, before they both die from heatstroke or dehydration. Attempts at escape, however, are foiled by the mad Cujo's repeated attacks. Vic returns home to rekindle his marriage, only to find Donna and Tad missing. He suspects the possessive Steve Kemp of kidnapping, but then realizes his wife and son might be at the Camber's residence. The local Sheriff comes to the house for a brief standoff, before Cujo brutally kills him.

Meanwhile, Donna takes advantage of a momentary distraction and hits Cujo with a baseball bat until it breaks off, leaving only a jagged handle. Cujo jumps at her and is impaled in the stomach by the broken bat. Donna then breaks the back window of the Pinto with the sheriff's revolver and retrieves Tad, as Cujo broke all of the door handles. As Donna revives the dehydrated and over-heated Tad in the house, a recovered Cujo breaks through the kitchen window and tries one final attempt to kill them, but Donna fatally shoots him just as Vic arrives and is reunited with Donna and Tad.



The original director was Peter Medak, who left the project two days into filming, along with his DOP Tony Richardson. They were replaced by Lewis Teague and Jan de Bont respectively.[3]


Reviews of the film were mixed, and a more recent collation of reviews on Rotten Tomatoes has earned Cujo a "rotten" rating of 59% based on 29 reviews. Eleanor Mannikka of the New York Times wrote that:

"Cujo is not as menacing or frightening as other film adaptations of King's popular stories and especially can not compare to the 1976 Carrie...His condition deteriorates as he attacks people again and again, until finally, mom Donna Trenton and her son Tad are trapped inside the family car with Cujo lurking nearby, set to kill them any way he can. A showdown is inevitable but is just as predictable as the rest of the film."

Cujo was a modest box office success for Warner Brothers. The film was released August 12, 1983 in the United States, opening in second place that weekend.[4] It grossed a total of $21,156,152 domestically,[5] making it the fourth highest grossing horror film of 1983.


In 2015, Sunn Classic Pictures announced they would develop a remake titled C.U.J.O., which stands for “Canine Unit Joint Operations”.[6]


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