review for Cujo on AllMovie

Cujo (1983)
by Robert Firsching review

This widely reviled adaptation of Stephen King's best-selling novel about a viciously rabid dog actually looks better with age. True, story lines move in and out of the first half of the film, inconsistencies abound, and the viewer may be just about to give up hope when Donna (Dee Wallace) and her young son, Tad (Danny Pintauro), pull into a junkyard in a broken-down car. From that point on, the film becomes a sort of landlocked Jaws, as mother and son are trapped in the stalled machine by the bloody, slobbering hellhound waiting just outside. The final 40 minutes are surprisingly scary, as director Lewis Teague builds the tension to a fever-pitch with a combination of stunning attack sequences and effective hysterical-mother moments inside the car. Wallace is outstanding in one of her better performances, but cinematographer Jan De Bont (who later directed The Haunting and Twister) is the real star of the show and rarely falters. Neil Travis' editing deserves special praise for enhancing the horror of the dog attacks, but the music (by Charles Bernstein) is awful. Still, if one can patiently withstand the dumb first half, there are plenty of thrills, chills, and a great jump-scene later in the film.