Cujo (film)

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Theatrical release poster
Directed byLewis Teague
Screenplay byDon Carlos Dunaway
Barbara Turner (as Lauren Currier)
Based onCujo
by Stephen King
Produced byRobert Singer
Daniel H. Blatt[1]
CinematographyJan de Bont
Edited byNeil Travis
Music byCharles Bernstein
Distributed byWarner Bros.
(North America)
PSO International
Release date
August 12, 1983
Running time
93 minutes
CountryUnited States
Budget$6 million[2]
Box office$21.2 million[3]

Cujo is a 1983 American horror film based on Stephen King's 1981 novel of the same name and directed by Lewis Teague. It was written by Don Carlos Dunaway and Barbara Turner (using the pen name Lauren Currier),[4][5] and starring Dee Wallace, Daniel Hugh Kelly and Danny Pintauro.

The film follows a mother and her son who are trapped inside their car, while protecting themselves from a rabid St. Bernard.

Despite mixed reviews and modest box office receipts during its theatrical release, the film has gathered a cult following in the years since its release. It was released four months before Christine, another Stephen King story released theatrically the same year.[6]


Cujo, a friendly and easygoing St. Bernard, chases a wild rabbit and inserts his head into a cave, where a rabid bat bites him on the nose. Meanwhile, the Trenton family — advertising executive 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 Camber family's pet, and get along well with him.

Donna notices Cujo's bitten nose but thinks little of it. Later, Vic and Donna's marriage is tested when Vic learns that Donna had been having an affair with her ex-boyfriend from high school, Steve Kemp, while Vic's advertising for a cereal commercial is failing. The early signs of Cujo's infection start to appear, including sensitivity to loud noises, and irritability, though no one notices these changes in his behavior. Charity and Brett, Joe's wife and son, leave the house for a week to visit Charity's sister Holly. On the morning of their departure, the furious stage of the infection begins to set in; though Cujo refrains from attacking Brett, he soon goes completely mad and kills the Cambers' alcoholic neighbor Gary Pervier. Shortly afterwards, Joe goes to Gary's house and finds him dead, then tries to call the authorities just before Cujo appears and attacks him.

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 are forced to 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 repeatedly attacking the car, breaking a window in the process, and even biting Donna. 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, arrives at the mechanic's 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. Later, Donna attempts to get to the house to bring a dehydrated and overheated Tad water but is stopped by Cujo; she fights him off 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 gun and contemplates shooting him, but decides saving Tad is more important. After Donna revives Tad inside the kitchen, Cujo, still alive, breaks through the kitchen window and tries to attack Donna. 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 Anthony B. Richmond. They were replaced by Lewis Teague and Jan de Bont respectively.[7] Cujo was played by four St. Bernards, several mechanical dogs, and a black Labrador-Great Dane mix in a St. Bernard costume.[8] In some shots, stuntman Gary Morgan played Cujo while wearing a large dog costume.[9] Karl Miller was the trainer for the dogs in Cujo.[10]


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.[11] It grossed a total of $21,156,152 domestically,[3] making it the fourth-highest-grossing horror film of 1983 behind Jaws 3-D, Psycho II, and Twilight Zone: The Movie.[12]

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".[13] Variety panned it as "a dull, uneventful entry in the horror genre, a film virtually devoid of surprises or any original suspense".[14] 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".[15] Roger Ebert called it "dreadful",[16] 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".[17]

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".[18] 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".[19] Despite the mixed reception, Stephen King called the film "terrific" and named it one of his favorite adaptations.[20]

On review aggregation website Rotten Tomatoes, it holds a 60% approval rating based on 43 reviews, with the website's consensus stating: "Cujo is artless work punctuated with moments of high canine gore and one wild Dee Wallace performance".[21] On Metacritic, the film holds a 57/100 based on reviews from 8 critics, indicating "mixed or average reviews".[22]

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".[23] Nothing came of it after its announcement.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Blu-Ray Art and Details: Near Dark, Cujo, and Frailty". May 22, 2012.
  2. ^ "Cujo (1983)". AFI.
  3. ^ a b "Cujo (1983)". Box Office Mojo. IMDb. Retrieved November 7, 2011.
  4. ^ Gingold, Michael (April 6, 2016). "RIP "Cujo" scripter Barbara Turner". Fangoria. Archived from the original on April 16, 2016. Retrieved April 28, 2016.
  5. ^ "Cujo - Cast & Crew". AllRovi. Archived from the original on January 16, 2013. Retrieved March 6, 2012.
  6. ^ "Cujo - reviewing the cult classic through modern eyes, 35 years on".
  7. ^ Garris, Mick. Mick Garris on Cujo. Trailers from Hell
  8. ^ London, Michael (August 19, 1983). "A Pack Of Bogus Bernards Helps Give 'Cujo' Its Bite". Los Angeles Times. Part VI, p. 1.
  9. ^ Miska, Brad (March 14, 2017). "Stephen King's 'Cujo': Never-before-seen Photos From the Set! (Exclusive)". Bloody Disgusting. Retrieved October 24, 2019.
  10. ^ "Roll over, Beethoven, for the Real 'Saints' : Dogs: Owners and trainers say the film canine gave their pets an unruly reputation. But, they admit, they are more popular then ever". Los Angeles Times. May 14, 1992.
  11. ^ "Weekend Box Office August 12-14, 1983". Box Office Mojo. IMDb. Retrieved November 7, 2011.
  12. ^ "Domestic Box Office For 1983". Box Office Mojo. IMDb. Retrieved October 24, 2019.
  13. ^ Maslin, Janet (August 13, 1983). "Film: 'Cujo,' Good Dog Gone Wrong". The New York Times: 13.
  14. ^ "Cujo". Variety: 23. August 17, 1983.
  15. ^ Siskel, Gene (August 12, 1983). "Trashy 'Cujo' shouldn't happen to a dog". Chicago Tribune. section 3, p. 1
  16. ^ Ebert, Roger (October 26, 1983). "The Dead Zone". Retrieved October 13, 2018.
  17. ^ Gross, Linda (August 15, 1983). "Rabid Dog On The Rampage In 'Cujo'". Los Angeles Times. Part VI, p. 4.
  18. ^ "Cujo". The Monthly Film Bulletin. 60 (598): 302. November 1983.
  19. ^ Maltin, Leonard; Sader, Luke; Clark, Mike; Edelman, Rob (2013). Leonard Maltin's 2014 Movie Guide. Penguin Press. p. 308. ISBN 978-0-451-41810-4.
  20. ^ Greene, Andy (October 31, 2014). "Stephen King: The Rolling Stone Interview, Rolling Stone Issue 1221, November 6, 2014". Rolling Stone. Retrieved October 31, 2014.
  21. ^ "Cujo (1983)". Rotten Tomatoes. Fandango. Retrieved August 2, 2022.
  22. ^ "Cujo", Metacritic, CBS Interactive, retrieved October 24, 2019
  23. ^ Miska, Brad (July 6, 2015). "Stephen King's 'Cujo' Remake Title Gets Rabies: 'C.U.J.O.'". Bloody Disgusting. Retrieved July 7, 2015.

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