Review Date: October 19, 2007
Released by: Lionsgate
Release date: 09/18/2007
Region 1, NTSC
Widescreen 1.85:1 | 16x9: Yes
The animal attack film has been one of the longest and most consistent sub-genres of horror. Over the decades itís brought us such hits as The Birds
, Food of the Gods
and Deep Blue Sea
. As such a consistent staple for scares, itís therefore no surprise that even horrorís most successful author would explore the tepid relationship between man and animal. Stephen Kingís Cujo
came out in his early eighties heyday, and despite good press and big box office when it came out, itís name has largely been sullied as of late by poor, bargain bin DVD releases. Lionsgate is finally making a go to bring Cujo
back to the top of the animal attack food chain with this new, anamorphic 25th anniversary edition. Is the disc worth it, and more importantly, is Stephen Kingís take on the vicious animal genre a worthy one?
is an aged and friendly St. Bernard. He spends his days chasing rabbits on the farm, until one furry little creature leads him astray. Cujo
finally traps a little bunny in a small little burrow, but can only fit his head inside to see him. He barks to try to startle the bunny into his mouth, but instead wakes a few sleeping bats above him. The barks aggravate the bats and one of them swoops down and take a chomp out of the canineís nose. The bat had rabies, and soon enough Cujo
will be nice no longer.
Meanwhile, little Tad Trenton (Whoís the Boss
í Danny Pintauro
) is having trouble sleeping in his upper-middleclass home. He thinks thereís a monster in his closet, to which his father replies ďmonsters only exist in storiesĒ. There may not be a monster in the closet, but behind closed doors his parentsí marriage is slowly coming apart. Although happy on the outside, Donna Trenton (Dee Wallace
), is dealing with an infidelity with ďlocal studĒ Steve Kemp (Wallaceís real-life husband, the Howler himself, Christopher Stone
) that she canít really explain. Dannyís dad, Vic (Daniel Hugh-Kelly
), meanwhile, is facing a major hurdle at his ad agency, when his most known commercial is forced to be reinvented after a health scandal. Both love each other and especially their son, yet they find external factors tearing them apart. Their relationship will take a true test though, when Donna and Tad head over to Cujo
ís been deteriorating since the bite, starting to froth at the mouth and puss from the eyes. Heís more irritable to sounds too, and eventually snaps when his owners go on an impromptu vacation and their neighbour makes too much racket dumping bottles. Cujo
attacks, his rabid condition now reaching the furious stage. Donna and Tad go to repair her car, and not only do they not know their mechanic is out of town, but also that a snarling beast is waiting to ravage. Their car breaks down and Cujo
starts to wreak havoc upon the two. They canít leave the car, they canít call for help, all they can do is wait. Water is running scarce though, and with Vic gone on business, their only option is to confront the rabid beast.
is an excellent story, one that is far les exploitative than the title and concept make it out to be. Although everyone remembers it for the dogs attack on Dee and Danny, that whole scenario doesnít even begin until past the half-way mark. Instead, King and director Lewis Teague (who tackled the animal attack film first with Alligator
), take great lengths at building up the characters, their relationships and their fears. This results in a film so much more than just man versus dog or good versus evil, since like the poster suggests, the film is filled with shades of grey.
Appearances are always more complex than they first seem, and while the Trenton family seems solid on the outside, the further Kingís story probes, the more complex becomes. Thereís no explanation why Donna cheats on her husband, indeed she doesnít even seem to know why. Itís refreshing to see domestic problems that cannot simply be summed up in soliloquy. The guy she is cheating with isnít even bad either, a far cry from the usual caricature adulterers are usually portrayed as. Everyone seems like good people, and Cujo
even a good dog, yet somehow in the rot of domestic complacency, there is an evil.
Throughout the film, itís clear that King is out to demythologize the monster, first by making the beast an immediately sympathetic character. Heís not some inexplicable cold-blooded killer like the gulls in The Birds
or the shark in Jaws
. He was your average house pet who became a victim. Even when heís bit, King and Teague take the time to show his deterioration, making him more than just your usual villainous figurehead. You develop a sort of compassion for him. The shades of grey kick in when you start to wonder why you are rooting for an adulteress over a helpless animal. Itís here that King makes us question our idea of the soulless monster, and this whole conception is reinforced by Tadís continual questioning of the monster in his closet. The real monster is humanity, prone to cheating or jealousy. Monsters are just our way of projecting our problems onto an easy target.
Although the dog in the film is largely humanized, there is still a slight sense that heís the domestic dispute made manifest. His first signs of change from friendly house pet to vengeful beast are triggered by raised voices at his masterís table. The husband and wife get in an argument, and Cujo
ís agitation is much similar to the audienceís or their childrenís. Domestic disputes are a terrible thing, and whether Cujo
ís setting his sights on his own family or the sinful Donna, thereís a slight sense heís lashing out against the decay of the American family. Since the eighties were the height of the divorce, Cujo
couldnít be more topical, and it couldnít be more against what casual horror fans would expect. Even twenty-five years later, this holds up as one of the most effective and important horror films of Kingís oeuvre.
Imagine that a few months ago everyone was reporting that this was to be yet another ratty full frame transfer. How wrong they were! Cujo
looks great here, cleaned and groomed for his 25th anniversary. Jan de Bontís visuals are masterful as it is, and the removing of dust and debris and the correcting of colors really adds even more bite to this beautiful beast. Thereís hardly a single spec to be found, and the colors effectively convey the parched summer color palette that de Bont strove for. Thereís still a little grain to be found, but itís not as distracting as itís been in most of the vintage horror releases this year. Throw away those old discs, this upgrade is manís best friend.
Remember back when every film would get the Dolby Digital 5.1 restoration? Now it seems the opposite, but as long as the mono track is included (and it is), then all is well. The track here sounds clean and without fault, with the dialogue audible and the effects and music never too domineering.
had some nice extras, and this one has even more. Lewis Teague is back for a commentary, but this time heís solo. Yet even on his own he proves a delight to listen to, recalling tons of anecdotes about the making of the film, the audienceís reception, his doubts and his approach. He comes across as a professional and considerate man, and his researched observations on the genre and on conveying emotions are definitely something any prospective directors would want to hear. He even talks a bit about Catís Eye
, in a funny comparison between the difference of working with dogs and cats.
Just as notable is the 45-minute ďDog Days: The Making of Cujo
Ē featurette. Lionsgate went all out with this, bringing in the principal actors, the director, producer, cinematographer, composer and a few others to really give a broad perspective on all facets of the film. The actors talk about what it was like working with the dogs and how brutal it was sitting in a freezing car all day in the middle of fall. Jan de Bont, on the other hand, talks about how he made us believe it was actually summer, in addition to all the other visual innovations he brought to the film. Teague ties it all together, but manages to avoid repeating most of his stuff covered in the commentary. Thereís also, of course, plenty of discussion about the dogs themselves, and the techniques that were done to make them look putrid and to make them act so violently. While there may be no other extras, not even a commentary, this featurette truly is all encompassing.
is a great film. Itís got it all, with sincere performances, stylish camerawork, mindful direction and a story that perceptively questions who the real villains are in modern society. Itís a fun creature feature on one hand, and a discerning drama on the other. Lionsgate has given the film its due treatment, with a beautifully restored transfer and some truly top notch extras. When this was released in 1983, its association with King and his previous masterpiece movies like The Shining
, The Dead Zone
sort of dwarfed the dogís cinematic worth. Now though, on itís own, it certainly stands in the upper echelon of Kingís work and even horror in general. Take this stray in, it deserves the love.
Movie - A
Image Quality - A-
Sound - B-
Supplements - A-
- Running time - 1 hour 35 minutes
- Rated R
- 1 Disc
- Chapter Stops
- English mono
- English subtitles
- Spanish subtitles
- English closed captions
- Audio commentary with Lewis Teague
- "Dog Days: The Making of Cujo" documentary