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</script></div>{/googleAds}Stephen King has been synonymous with horror for as long as this reviewer has been able to speak. His influence in all manner of entertainment is undeniable, none the least in the world of film. There is hardly a word the man has put down that hasn't been snapped up and adapted for the silver screen or TV. With so many of his novels now considered horror classics, it often boggles the mind that so many of their cinematic namesakes don't capture the same recognition, ending up pale imitations trying - but failing - to invoke the man's imagination. But every so often whoever is adapting gets it, and delivers a worthy counterpart to the book it's honouring. De Palma's Carrie; Reiner's Misery; Darabont twice with Shawshank Redemption and Green Mile... but there is one often surprisingly unsung adaptation amongst the pack that rarely gets a mention: Lewis Teague's Cujo.

This relatively faithful adaptation tells the story of Donna Trenton; (Dee Wallace) a suburban wife and mother having problems with her seemingly idealic life. Those problems soon pale in comparison when Donna and her son, Tad, (Danny Pintauro) find themselves stranded in a broken down car, at the farmhouse of a (dead) backyard mechanic, at the mercy of a rabid St. Bernard.

The film sticks remarkably close to the source material, with the exception being the ending, which King himself endorsed and recommended be changed, due to the downbeat, somewhat harrowing ending to the book. Anything else that is jettison is something that wouldn't translate well to the screen. What is captured from the novel is the complexity of the character's relationships; the suburban nightmare of a marriage falling apart and the fears it imposes on all three members of the family. The juxtaposition of the these fears against the terror of Donna and Tad trapped by Cujo, and her husband Vic (Daniel Hugh-Kelly) not knowing what has become of them, makes every moment a solid, compelling example of how such elements can combine to create tension..

Dee Wallace-Stone delivers one of the most natural, human performances of a mother in trouble (emotionally and literally) to date. While many remember her fine turn in E.T, it is Cujo that affords her the entire spectrum of human emotion, and she runs through every one of them flawlessly. Danny Pintauro 6 at the time also delivers a naturalistic performance, seemingly undoable by an actor so young. It's a great shame he was not given the same sort of critical recognition Haley Joel Osment received many years later... because he deserved it. The supporting cast, including Hugh-Kelly, the late Christopher Stone, and Ed Lauter are no less spectacular in creating this complicated web of situations that lead to the real terror...

And speaking of, the real star of the picture is the dog (or dogs, as it were) Cujo. The filmmakers have mentioned there being great concern over the St. Bernard's ability to be trained to do such complex stunts and acting. But the usually cuddly albeit massive creatures took it in their stride, and more than once throughout insight enough instinctual fear to make the hardest man leap from his seat. In fact, had audiences of the day put a piece of coal between their butt cheeks, at the end there would have been diamonds aplenty.

Teague, more renowned for cheesy horror like Alligator poured his love and respect into this picture, and it shows. With no-less-than Jan DeBont before he'd Die Hard or find Speed visually capturing every tense moment, this picture is an inventive class act all the way. The nightmarish, foggy ‘will-he-won't-he' attack scene has yet to be matched.

The final pat on the back must go to Charles Bernstein, whose score is as evocative and complex as the film itself.

For those who have not seen Cujo yet, maybe fearing it's another cheap and nasty version of King's work, you are envied and encouraged to give it a shot. Turn down the lights, turn up the sound, get a piece of coal, put it between your butt cheeks, and make yourself a diamond... horror and riches await.


DVD Details:

Pretty good three-part documentary with many of the participants that goes through the making of the film. An anecdote-filled commentary by Teague.

Screen Formats: Enhanced Wide Screen Letterbox for 16x9

Subtitles: English; Spanish: Closed Captioned

Language and Sound: English: DD1 (Dolby Digital Mono); DD2 (Dolby Digital Stereo)

Other Features: Color; interactive menus; scene access; documentary.

* Commentary - With director Lewis Teague
* Featurettes
o Dog Days: The Making of Cujo - three part documentary with all new interviews featuring cast and filmmakers

Number of Discs: 1 with Keepcase Packaging