Welcome back to our 31 days of horror countdown, fiends! Yesterday we recoiled at the grotesque majesty of The Exorcist – truly the supreme ruler of cinematic exorcisms. Today we’ll cleanse our palettes with the savage simplicity of Cujo, Stephen King’s gut-wrenching tale of mother and son pitted against a rabid St. Bernard.
At first glance, Cujo breaks from King’s common supernatural trappings. No ancient alien evil or psychokinetic teens here – merely a huge dog contracted with rabies who proceeds to terrorize a small town. But therein lies its elegant horror – by stripping the story down to its desperate core, we appreciate the primal fear of helplessness.
Indeed, Cujo’s genius lies in its claustrophobic intimacy – vulnerable housewife Donna Trenton and her young son trapped in a broken-down Pinto, unable to escape the crazed carnivore Cujo, massive jaws snapping at the cracked windows. Their makeshift prison becomes unbearably stifling under the baking sun, Donna’s efforts to save them growing ever more frantic.
In Cujo, the cosmic horror lurks in the randomness of fate – one rabid bat bite transforms the lovable family dog into a biological time bomb. Like Norman Bates, nature turns aggressor against man for motives we cannot comprehend. Perhaps therein we glimpse the true evil that men do – forgetting our fragile dominion over nature.
Of course Dee Wallace delivers knockout work as Donna, pivoting between protective defiance and complete collapse under sustained stress. We feel every exhausted failure as each potential rescue slips away while Cujo waits, motivated only by madness. The most frightening villains have no agenda at all.
For his simple, brooding potency, Cujo deserves more reverence among King’s esteemed film canon. It distills his gift for relatable characters and raw suspense down to their primal essence. So as October rolls onward, appreciate this gem’s stripped-down meditation on protean nature’s capacity for horror, and the savagery waiting to be unleashed in the mundane.
Cujo lacks flashy effects, but touches our shared vulnerability. Its ticking Pinto torture chamber awaits us all.