Cujo is a BADDOG!


In no particular order, Rant! articulates and analyses cinema’s most horrific creatures – from all genres of film.

The perversion of the innocent is one of horror’s most successful gimmicks, and is a modus operandi at which author Stephen King is appreciably familiar and beautifully proficient. One of the best ways to terrify an audience is to take what people love and turn it into a monstrous beast. Remember Cujo? – The lovely St. Berndard that was scratched on the nose by a bat and infected with rabies. Well, Cujo didn’t turn out to be so lovely. In fact, the demon dog from Castle Rock, Maine, turned out to be one of film’s most horrific creatures. In his novel, Cujo, Stephen King – to the horror of all animal lovers – turns every man’s pet into a blood thirsty fiend. The writer transcribes from thoughts to words the horrific evolution of mild mannered dog to murderous horror creature.

King’s Cujo was released in 1981 and was rendered into cinematic being by director Lewis Teague in 1983. The film recalls a three day struggle between Mom Donna and son Tad (who are trapped in their broken down Jag), and a rabid Cujo. The siege of the stalled car so happens to occur in Castle Rock’s hottest summer, and hunger, thirst, and fantastically unrealistic escape improbabilities conspire to unhinge Donna’s sanity. The psychological tension elicited by claustrophobic entrapment, ensuing panic and an agonizingly intense battle of wills between maniacal dog and protective mother, is convincingly visualised in Teague’s film interpretation.

For the character of Cujo the film used five St. Bernards, a Rottweiller, one mechanical head, and a man in a dog costume. Cujo hovers on and around Donna and Tad’s car prison with intent to kill; with blood drenched jowls and a psychotic look in his eye, the dog is certainly one badass BAD dog!

It was possible that one of them might call him BADDOG. And at this particular moment he certainly considered himself to be a BADDOG. – Stephen King, Cujo

Teague was commended for following the book’s plot line so closely but the director deviated on one of the novel’s most crucial events. In King’s story, Donna finally decides to get out of the car and attack Cujo with a baseball bat in an attempt to save herself and her son. She manages to kill the dog but Tad dies while she is beating Cujo to death. In the film version Tad survives, apparently because the producers though the death of a child would be too traumatic for audiences. Um… isn’t that what Horror is all about? Trauma inducing terror?

Tad’s death is essential to Cujo because it accentuates the unnatural horror that forms the premise of King’s tale. The child’s death is a sadistic anti-climax. Donna massacres Cujo, a once cuddly carefree animal, for nothing… her son dies in spite of her efforts, which, again, is a perversion of the natural order of things; dog turns into psycho killer and child dies – life is not supposed to work that way. But remember; in the world of horror, life works in any badass way the creative mind pleases.

Horror gives imagination the license to act out its most warped hallucinations… and don’t pretend you don’t like it.