CBR #156 – The Dog of the Marriage

Cujo by Stephen King

My mother hates horror films, and she said she’s only ever watched one: The Omen.  And said she’d never watch another one after that.  Amazed, I asked why.  She said, because the stuff that happens in The Omen is all plausible.  People could do that.  Jump off buildings.  Get struck by lightning and gate posts from storm winds.

Well, thank Christ my mother never read Cujo.

Recently watching Jurassic World with some family members, I laughed as they were squirming from the action sequences.  And I reminded them, Jaws and Jurassic Park are both horror films.  Sure they’re adventure action, but essentially a giant stalker chases after innocents and brutally murders them.  It’s Jason with scales and fins.

But as with all great horror films, there’s so much more than just senseless slaughter.  Jaws is about tourism and commercialism.  How the townsfolk will do anything to avoid losing their bottom line and trade.  Same with Jurassic Park along with the message about scientists playing God.  And Cujo is about dissolving marriages.

Yeah, like me, most folks just remember the tale of a St. Bernard going rabid and killing small town folks.  But holy God, it’s so much, much more than that.  We watch two very different Mainer marriages quickly falling apart or slowly falling apart, and then trying to come back together for good or for ill.  There are two young boys, one much younger, who are coping with their families and their love for their fathers.  There’s the housewife who has an affair, and the housewife dealing with an abusive spouse.  He never actually strikes her during the novel, and that’s somehow so much worse.

Cujo is way more fucked up than a killer car.  Because a dog could go rabid.  And King puts us in the mind of his maniac dog.  As it slowly loses its friendliness and its mind and begins blaming everyone for the spreading sickness and for making it feel like a BADDOG.  It’s heartbreaking.  And gut wrenching.  Because while there is a huge motif that the psychotic killer from The Dead Zone may be haunting young Tad Trenton, and possibly possessing Cujo, at heart, it’s really about a dog with rabies on a rampage at the worst of all possible times.  It’s about more than just the dog too, and that’s the best part of Stephen King.  So when people shy away from him because they don’t like horror, I chide them for what they are missing.  A lovable St. Bernard slowly descending into Jack Torrance madness is way fucking scarier than a killer car or clown.  Believe you me.

And so marks my triple cannonball.  Hoorah!


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