Cujo (film)

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Theatrical release poster
Directed byLewis Teague
Produced byRobert Singer
Daniel H. Blatt[1]
Screenplay byDon Carlos Dunaway
Lauren Currier
Based onCujo
by Stephen King
Music byCharles Bernstein
CinematographyJan de Bont
Edited byNeil Travis
Distributed byWarner Bros. Pictures
(North America)
PSO International
Release date
August 12, 1983
Running time
93 minutes
CountryUnited States
Budget$8 million
Box office$21.2 million

Cujo is a 1983 American horror film directed by Lewis Teague based on Stephen King's 1981 novel of the same name. It was written by Don Carlos Dunaway and Barbara Turner (using the pen name Lauren Currier),[2][3] and starring Dee Wallace, Daniel Hugh Kelly and Danny Pintauro.

The film revolves around a rabid St. Bernard who traps a mother and her child inside their car without food or water during a heat wave, and their attempts to survive.

Despite receiving mixed reviews and being a modest success during its theatrical release, the film has gathered cult following in the years since its release.[4] Another film adaptation was announced in 2015 and is currently in production.


Cujo, a friendly and easygoing St. Bernard, chases a wild rabbit and inserts his head into a cave, where a rabid bat bites his nose. Meanwhile, the Trenton family — advertising executive Vic (Daniel Hugh-Kelly), housewife Donna (Dee Wallace) and their sensitive young son Tad (Danny Pintauro) — take their car to the rural home of abusive mechanic Joe Camber (Ed Lauter) for some repairs, where they meet Cujo, who is the Camber family's pet.

Donna notices Cujo's bitten nose but thinks little of it. Later, Vic and Donna's marriage is tested when Vic learns that Donna is having an affair with her ex-boyfriend from high school, Steve Kemp (Christopher Stone), while Vic's advertising for a cereal commercial is failing. Charity (Kaiulani Lee) and Brett (Billy Jacoby), Joe's wife and son leave the house for a week to visit Charity's sister Holly. When the bite infection drives Cujo mad, he kills their alcoholic neighbor, Gary Pervier (Mills Watson), and its owner Joe (who is attacked before he can call authorities).

Vic goes out of town on a business trip, as Donna and Tad return to the Camber's 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. However, attempts at escape 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 the police realize his wife and son might be at the Cambers' house.

The local sheriff, George Bannerman (Sandy Ward), arrives at the house and has a brief standoff; before he can draw his gun, Cujo kills him, knocking him off the catwalk in the barn and mauling him to death. 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 takes the sheriff's revolver and retrieves Tad, who is dehydrated and overheated. As Donna revives Tad in the house, Cujo, now recovered, breaks through the kitchen window and tries to kill them. However, Donna shoots Cujo dead, before Vic arrives and reunites with his family.



The original director was Peter Medak, who left the project two days into filming, along with DOP Tony Richardson. They were replaced by Lewis Teague and Jan de Bont respectively.[5] Cujo was played by four St. Bernards, several mechanical dogs, and a black Labrador-Great Dane mix in a St. Bernard costume.[6] In some shots, stuntman Gary Morgan played Cujo whilst wearing a large dog costume. [7]


Box office[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.[8] It grossed a total of $21,156,152 domestically,[9] making it the fourth-highest-grossing horror film of 1983 behind Jaws 3-D, Psycho II, and Twilight Zone: The Movie.[10]

Critical response[edit]

Reviews from critics were mixed. Janet Maslin of The New York Times wrote the film was "by no means a horror classic, but it's suspenseful and scary."[11] Variety panned it as "a dull, uneventful entry in the horror genre, a film virtually devoid of surprises or any original suspense."[12] Gene Siskel of The Chicago Tribune gave the film one star out of four, calling it "one of the dumbest, flimsiest excuses for a movie I have ever seen."[13] Roger Ebert called it "dreadful,"[14] and Linda Gross of the Los Angeles Times wrote that "no theater is air conditioned enough to justify watching this scary, gory and beastly movie."[15]

Steve Jenkins of The Monthly Film Bulletin wrote that "for the most part Cujo works very effectively as a near reductio ad absurdum of the woman-in-peril-mode," but disliked that the film changed the ending from the book, thinking it made "absolutely no sense in terms of the film's logic."[16] Author and film critic Leonard Maltin gave the film three out of a possible four stars, calling it "genuinely frightening" also writing, "Builds slowly but surely to [its] terrifying (but not gory) climax."[17] Despite the mixed reception, Stephen King called the film "terrific" and named it one of his favorite adaptations.[18]

On review aggregation website Rotten Tomatoes, it holds a 62% approval rating based on 37 reviews, with the website's consensus stating: "Cujo is artless work punctuated with moments of high canine gore and one wild Dee Wallace performance."[19] On Metacritic, the film holds a 58/100 based on reviews from 8 critics, indicating “mixed or average reviews”.[20]

Additional adaptation[edit]

In 2015, Sunn Classic Pictures announced that it would develop another adaptation titled C.U.J.O., which stands for “Canine Unit Joint Operations”.[21]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Blu-Ray Art and Details: Near Dark, Cujo, and Frailty".
  2. ^ Gingold, Michael (April 6, 2016). "RIP "Cujo" scripter Barbara Turner". Fangoria. Retrieved April 28, 2016.
  3. ^ "Cujo - Cast & Crew". AllRovi. Archived from the original on 2013-01-16. Retrieved 2012-03-06.
  4. ^ "'Cujo' Remake Goes Into Production This Year". Best Horror Retrieved 2016-06-06.[permanent dead link]
  5. ^ Mick Garris on Cujo at Trailers from Hell
  6. ^ London, Michael (August 19, 1983). "A Pack Of Bogus Bernards Helps Give 'Cujo' Its Bite". Los Angeles Times. Part VI, p. 1.
  7. ^
  8. ^ "Weekend Box Office August 12-14, 1983". Box Office Mojo. Retrieved 2011-11-07.
  9. ^ "Cujo (1983)". Box Office Mojo. Retrieved 2011-11-07.
  10. ^ "1983 Yearly Box Office Results - Box Office Mojo".
  11. ^ Maslin, Janet (August 13, 1983). "Film: 'Cujo,' Good Dog Gone Wrong". The New York Times: 13.
  12. ^ "Cujo". Variety: 23. August 17, 1983.
  13. ^ Siskel, Gene (August 12, 1983). "Trashy 'Cujo' shouldn't happen to a dog"". Chicago Tribune. section 3, p. 1
  14. ^ Ebert, Roger (October 26, 1983). "The Dead Zone". Retrieved October 13, 2018.
  15. ^ Gross, Linda (August 15, 1983). "Rabid Dog On The Rampage In 'Cujo'". Los Angeles Times. Part VI, p. 4.
  16. ^ "Cujo". The Monthly Film Bulletin. 60 (598): 302. November 1983.
  17. ^ Maltin, Leonard; Sader, Luke; Clark, Mike; Edelman, Rob. Leonard Maltin's 2014 Movie Guide. Penguin Press. p. 308. ISBN 978-0-451-41810-4.
  18. ^ Greene, Andy. "Stephen King: The Rolling Stone Interview, Rolling Stone Issue 1221, November 6, 2014". Retrieved October 31, 2014.
  19. ^ "Cujo (1983)". Rotten Tomatoes. Fandango Media. Retrieved 10 December 2018.
  20. ^
  21. ^ "Stephen King's 'Cujo' Remake Title Sounds Diseased: 'C.U.J.O.'". Bloody Disgusting. Retrieved 2015-07-07.

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