CUJO does a few things extremely well, ranking it near the top when it comes to quality King adaptations that have been cranked out over the years. His novels aren't the easiest to bring to life, and somehow director Lewis Teague managed to do so here, creating characters that seem real, that we begin to care for, and then they're thrown into this horrible situation ... one that could actually happen. So how'd it accomplish all that? Simple: time to develop the characters, and time to build up the tension until it becomes so thick you could cut it with a knife.
The build up of the rabies taking over the once lovable St. Bernard doesn't happen instantaneously with the beginning of the movie either. It slowly grows until half way through when the rabies and the madness reaches the boiling point, turning Cujo from a friendly giant into a juggernaut of relentless terror. From the growls to the foamy, blood drenched fur covering his face, and the sweat, dirt and gunk that's soaked in his fur, just looking looking at what Cujo becomes is scary enough. If you saw him in real life, you'd probably pee yourself. He's one scary mutt.
The build up also works with the semi-dysfunctional family, as the wife is cheating on her 'perfect' husband with the local carpenter, and the little boy is afraid of the monsters in his closet. We spend half the movie just getting to know these folks before anything horrible happens to them, and you know what... it worked! I actually cared for the mom and her son's well being, I felt their fear and I feared for them, right up until the end. Without the extended build up, I doubt the absolute terror that is felt onscreen would have any effect on it's audience.
Everyone involved in CUJO obviously contributed to the overall experience, from the great performances by Dee Wallace and newcomer Danny Pintauro, to the awesome and unrelentless musical score by Charles Bernstein, to the masterful cinematography by Jan de Bont, and of course, Cujo himself (played by 5-10 different dogs, one puppet and one dude in a dog suit). There is truth in advertising, as CUJO really is the new name in terror.
Audio: 2.0 Stereo and Mono. I didn't think this would bother me much, but the score, the boo scares, and Cujo's scary dog noises really needed the full sound of 5.1.
Dog Days: The Making of Cujo: An in-depth and interesting making of featurette split into three parts, of which you can watch individually or all three together. Overall, it was probably one of the better featurette's of this nature that I've seen in awhile, and a great edition for anyone who's a fan of the movie. One thing to note is a lot of what's said here is actually a repeat from Teague's commentary. Not word for word, but the overall history and process.
Part One: From the creation of Stephen King's novel to finding a director and casting the film, this part explored the beginning of production and featured interviews with cast and crew. I was intrigued and it sucked me in, as it was presented more as a story of the film's creation, not just as a generic 'making of' piece. (15:40)
Part Two: Explored the challenges of making the St. Bernard scary (the f/x, the training, etc...), as well as aspects of the cinematography (Jan de Bont!) that brought the terror of the movie to life. It also touches on praising Dee Wallace for her performance, and gave insight into where King was coming from with his novel, and how he wanted it changed for the movie. (16:55)
Part Three: The final section discussed the film's musical score, the process of editing it all together, and everyone involved gave their impression of the final product. It's been 25 years, so it's nothing but fond memories. (9:50)
Trailers: BUG, THE CONDEMNED, THE DEAD ZONE SEASON 5, and Red Bad Trailers for STEPHEN KING'S DESPERATION and ROTTWEILER.