Monday, October 24, 2011

"Cujo" 1983


This movie has made me uneasy around really big dogs. Not freaked out standing on a chair like if I saw a rodent scared, but nervous. I love dogs. Since getting married we’ve had two dogs, both of the medium variety. I am not a fan of the really little dogs either. I like a dog I could pick up if I had to, but not one I could carry in my purse. So medium dogs are for me. I had a border collie for thirteen years and a corgi for the last six. Both sweet dogs were always up to date on their rabies shots.
That is another thing this movie helped with.

It is also an extremely good adaptation. It follows the book until the end, which veers in a completely different direction.

Part of the book’s story is told from Cujo’s point of view. He is a good dog who loves his boy and has a healthy respect for the man of the house. He loves to chase rabbits. One day while chasing he happens upon a hole that houses some rabid bats and then the bad things start happening.

Donna Trenton played by Dee Wallace, is having a rough time. It isn’t really explained in the movie. In the book it tells of her desperation. She hates living in the town with nothing to do. Her son Tad has started preschool and she is having a hard time filling the hours. An itinerant carpenter/writer gives her something to do.
Her husband Vic is having a hard time as well. His advertising firm is in charge of a campaign for a cereal company. When the cereal has a frightening but harmless side effect he has to leap into damage control to save the company. His distractions keep him from fixing his wife’s car.

Joe Camber has a farm and an auto repair business out of his farm. His wife and son leave to visit relatives and Joe is ready to enjoy a little alone time. But when he goes to a buddy’s house he discovers that his sweet dog has a problem.

[Joe Camber has encountered Cujo in the garage. Cujo glares at him menacingly & growls]
Joe Camber: Cujo?
[the dog snarls again, and approaches him menacingly]
Joe Camber: Oh my God... you're rabid!
[Cujo barks savagely and charges at Joe. He puts his arms up to defend himself as Cujo attacks]
Joe Camber: [yelling] NO! NO! CUJO!
[the dog jumps on him & knocks him down]

It doesn’t end well.

So, Vic finds out about the affair Donna is having. He leaves on his business trip and decides not to call her.

Tad is a typical little kid. He just knows there is a boogeyman in his closet. An upset mom and absent dad don’t reassure him or give him any sense of stability. So when Mom needs to get the car fixed, he goes along.

Then really bad stuff starts to happen.
Donna drives her Pinto out to the Camber farm. It stalls in the driveway and won’t start again. Soon Cujo makes a frightening appearance and Donna and Tad are trapped.

As a mother, being trapped in a car with a pre-schooler who wants his dad is a nightmare enough. When my son was four I took him to the mall for a movie. After the movie we were going to go to McDonalds for lunch. As we were walking to the car, my son spotted a Dairy Queen. He decided that he wanted ice cream. I explained that we were going to McDonalds. This wasn’t cutting it. He was probably a little tired after a delayed nap. My husband was out of town and I just wanted to keep him entertained. I stood my ground and told him no.
This wasn’t what he wanted to hear. Soon he was crying. I grabbed his hand and started to half pull, half drag him through the mall. I don’t know why I parked on the opposite side of the mall from the theaters. Soon he started screaming.


No amount of cajoling or threatening was working. He did the boneless drop to the floor. My little protester staging his personal sit-in for ice cream. But I didn’t want to give in. So I kept walking. I was about fifteen feet in front of him when he started following me. He was still screaming at the top of his lungs about his plight. I remember all the eyes on me as I made my way to the door. Then I grabbed him up and carried him to the car.
I got to the car and resisted the urge to throw him in. He was still sobbing about his extreme hunger. I was sobbing from pure frustration and feeling like the worst mother in the world.

We didn’t go to McDonalds.
That ten minutes in my life encapsulates what Donna and Tad go through. I love the Donna gets frustrated and swings from wanting to protect Tad one minute and wants to shake him the next.

In the end, Donna reaches the house and saves her son. This is different from the book. In the book Vic comes in just as Donna is finally defeating Cujo. When he checks Tad he discovers that the little boy has died. Stephen King reportedly regrets killing Tad in the book.

In the movie we see Vic and Donna work together to revive their son. He starts breathing and then it goes to an odd freeze frame.

This is a very realistic horror movie. It is frightening because it could happen. If they remade the movie they would have to get rid of Donna’s cell phone. Heck, they might have to get rid of Tad’s cell phone.
I am always amused by the trend of people buying dogs that are in movies. I doubt this movie sold any St. Bernards.

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