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 plot revolves around a rabid St. Bernard dog trapping a mother and her child inside their vehicle and trying to attack them from the outside, and stars Dee Wallace, Daniel Hugh-Kelly, Danny Pintauro.

Despite the film receiving mixed reviews and being a modest success during its theatrical release, the film has gathered a major cult following in the years since its release.[3] A remake has been announced in 2015 and is currently in production.


Cujo, an easygoing St. Bernard, playfully chases a rabbit until he accidentally gets his head in a bat cave, where a rabid bat bites his nose. Meanwhile, the Trenton family – advertiser Vic, housewife Donna, and their sensitive young son Tad – take their car to the rural home of abusive mechanic Joe Camber for some repairs, where they meet Cujo (the dog from the prologue), who is the Camber family's pet. Donna notices Cujo's bite but thinks little of it. Later, Vic and Donna's marriage is tested when Vic learns that his wife is having an affair with her ex-boyfriend from high school, Steve Kemp, while Vic's advertising for a cereal commercial is failing. After Charity and Brett, Joe's wife and son leave the house for a week to visit Charity's sister Holly, Cujo's bite drives him mad, and he kills their alcoholic neighbor, Gary Pervier and then Joe (who failed attempting to call the authorities).

Vic goes out of town on a business trip as Donna and Tad return to the Cambers' house for more car repairs. Cujo attacks them, and they take shelter in their Ford Pinto. Donna tries to drive home, but the car's alternator dies and the two are trapped inside. The hot sun makes conditions nearly unbearable and Donna realizes that she must do something before they both die from heatstroke or dehydration. Attempts at escape, however, are foiled by Cujo's repeated attacks. Vic returns home to rekindle his marriage, only to find Donna and Tad missing and his house vandalized by Kemp. He suspects the possessive Kemp of kidnapping, but then realizes his wife and son might be at the Camber's residence.

The local Sheriff, George Bannerman, arrives at the house and has a brief standoff, before Cujo kills him, knocking him off the catwalk in the barn and biting him. Meanwhile, Donna takes advantage of a momentary distraction and hits Cujo with a baseball bat until it breaks, leaving only a jagged handle. Cujo jumps at her and is impaled in the stomach by the broken bat. Donna then retrieves a dehydrated and overheated Tad, along with the sheriff's revolver. As Donna revives Tad in the house, a recovered Cujo breaks through the kitchen window and tries to kill them. However, Donna fatally shoots him just as Vic arrives, and is reunited with his family.



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.[4]

Release and Reception[edit]

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.[5] It grossed a total of $21,156,152 domestically,[6] making it the fourth highest grossing horror film of 1983. Reviews of the film were mixed, and a more recent collation of reviews on Rotten Tomatoes has earned Cujo a "fresh" rating of 60% based on 30 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."


In 2015, Sunn Classic Pictures announced they would develop a remake titled C.U.J.O., which stands for “Canine Unit Joint Operations”.[7]


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