(director:  Lewis Teague; screenwriters: from a Stephen King story/Don Carlos Dunaway, Lauren Currier; cinematographer: Jan De Bont; editor: Neil Travis; music: Charles Bernstein; cast: Dee Wallace (Donna), Danny Pintauro (Tad),  Daniel Hugh-Kelly (Vic Trenton), Christopher Stone (Steve Kemp) Ed Lauter (Joe Camber), Kaiulani Lee (Charity Camber); Runtime: 91; MPAA Rating: R; producers; Daniel H. Blatt, Robert Singer: TAFT Entertainment; 1983)

“Not much of a horror or a dog story.

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

A horror story based on a Stephen King novel turns out to be not much of a horror or a dog story. Director Lewis Teague (“Wedlock”/”Navy Seals”) tries hard but never gets things to seem plausible despite the film being well-made. It’s not helped by the half-baked predictable script by Don Carlos Dunaway and Lauren Currier.

An estranged couple, the housewife Donna and the advertising executive Vic Trenton (Dee Wallace and Daniel Hugh-Kelly) and their 6-year-old son Tad (Danny Pintauro), live in the country in Maine. Hubby goes one day on a business trip to NYC, leaving his wife alone to get the Ford Pinto fixed.

Meanwhile the lovable St. Bernard called Cujo, owned by the car mechanic Joe Cambers (Ed Lauter) and his wife Charity (Kaiulani Leeafter), is bitten by a rabid bat. Afterwards Cujo becomes very aggressive and willing to attack anyone, including killing his owners.

When Donna and Tad drive to the mechanic’s repair shop at his isolated farmhouse, the wild dog traps Donna and Tad in their broken down Ford Pinto for two days. There’s lots of screams and scares the dog will break into the car and kill them.

It’s scary but the simple story never emerges as anything more than that, and its adultery subplot between the housewife and her hunky boyfriend (Christopher Stone) has no bite.

But the vicious dog caught on with the public as far as name recognition, and whenever they’re reaching to name a bad dog in the movies the first name they usually think of is Cujo.

REVIEWED ON 7/23/2021  GRADE: C+