Novels · Reviews · The Stephen King Project

The Stephen King Project: Cujo

Hello friends, and happy Friday! I hope you’re all keeping well. Today I’m back with another King novel in my Stephen King Project – Cujo. This is my 7th novel in this project.

Read more: The Stephen King Project: Cujo

I read this from May 29, 2022 – September 11, 2022 (3 months)

The Book (1981)

  • First off, the reader is excited to be back in Castle Rock and seeing the connections to the Dead Zone. Second, this has started off well the suspense and intrigue is already building 25 pages in. The reader is curious how certain things tie together and can’t wait to read more.
  • So far, the Cujo parts of the story are the best, the storytelling is good and the reader has already made up some theories as to what will happen. Then there are these long passages of talk of an ad agency and a brand called Sharp where things went wrong and the reader has NO idea how it’s connected to Cujo’s story. The reader found it tedious to read, like exposition overload and that it had no meaning.
  • The reader can see the threads of how everyone is connected but the weird sexual details that King feels the need to add don’t feel necessary. We get a lot of who these people are as he builds them up, with excruciating detail; but he also makes his male characters trash to women and his female characters extremely helpless which isn’t anything new, but super frustrating to read about. Hoping for more Cujo scenes.
  • We’ve gotten more connecting pieces but nothing has been quite strung together just yet. We saw more from the cereal/ad company and more from Joe’s wife and of course we got little bits in Cujo’s point of view which was good. We also got our first glimpse at Cujo from an outsiders perspective as to how mean he looks; the first looks of horror.
  • This has been really slow paced; we get a lot of background on little pieces of the puzzle, but at the same time the reader doesn’t quite get why we need all this preamble. Is it really going to benefit the story? King adds all these details that honestly could be summed up simply in a few pages. Someone does finally notice that Cujo has rabies… but they’re not going to do anything… yet (or ever?), poor Cujo.
  • More slow paced writing as most of the characters are going in their separate directions, the set up for what’s to come, possibly? Cujo makes his first attack so the reader is very curious what’s going to happen next. The back and forth point of view was effective; it’s really intriguing to be inside Cujo’s head.
  • Interesting plot progression. So we have Charity and Brett moving away from rabid Cujo and Donna and Tad moving closer to him but in slow, slow ways. The reader is curious how, or if it all comes together and how the other subplots will really work their way into the story. The set up has been lagging a bit but feels like it’s working up to something now.
  • The pace is starting to pick up and we’ve got some good story playing out. Cujo is more feral than ever and the slow deliberation of Donna trying to save herself and Tad has been gripping. The descriptions are really grotesque and used in a way that evokes the creepiness of the situation.
  • We’re getting more build up towards how creepy Cujo is becoming; although the reader is kinda confused why Donna and Tad don’t sneak out of the car and run for help instead of waiting for the mailman… interested to see how that all plays out though. The other side characters are interesting but not sure how some of them really fit into the overall plot.
  • Donna is still stuck in the car with Tad and the mailman isn’t coming, bring on the terror factor. The little side stories do add a bit more to the overall plot, like with George the mailman where it’s shown not told explicitly he’s not coming, but others like with Steve, the reader has yet to figure out what his endgame is and the purpose for his strange sidebars.
  • Donna is going to leave the car!! The plot has definitely slowed down to bring up the fear factor. Everything is dragging, leaving the reader in heightened suspense as to what the heck is going to happen. We got more glimpses from other perspectives that are little build ups on what’s to come. What will Cujo do next?
  • Again with all the little details that feel like they’re going nowhere. I get King wants to round out his story but sometimes there is just too much. Donna does try to leave the car(!) but Cujo comes along and attacks her, welp. We were hoping for a better outcome and maybe more of a chase. Now the question is, is Donna going to die… or Cujo? Maybe both?
  • So things are starting to form. Donna’s husband, Vic is worried that she hasn’t called and they’ve discovered the house trashed, but still no sign of Donna and Tad. The reader is curious if they will ever find the two of them. The tension is definitely building… but the question remains, will they make it? Or will Cujo take them out?
  • As all the pieces are starting to fall into place, the tension is slowly easing because it’s becoming clear that Donna and Tad will be found… but alive is still the question. They are grasping at life and the reader is interested to see how this will play out in the end. The end is almost near and hopefully it won’t be a disappointment.
  • Did we just get some foreshadowing that Donna is going to die?! Her husband, Vic is starting to put pieces together and he’s on route to find her but will he be too late? Again, the pacing was good but it got bogged down by these long paragraphs of character’s inner monologues. We did get some gruesome scenes with Cujo for terror effect. Curious how this will all play out.

Final Thoughts: Overall, this book was good in a creepy, slow burn kinda way. The pacing was slow, but it worked for the build up because the main characters were trapped in a car for 3 days, it’s meant to feel drawn out and long, which King did well. Turning something as mundane as a dog getting rabbis into a horror novel left for a good premise and it worked really well; especially when the dog was given a point of view. The only thing the reader truly didn’t understand was the addition of Vic’s cereal company work… it never really played into the overall arc of the story, it felt like it was added to give the story depth, but it really just felt like extra words. King touched on it again in the end to say monsters are formed in all kinds of different ways… but it doesn’t answer the question as to why so much time was spent on it. The way this ended slightly surprised the reader in a way that wasn’t terrible or completely predictable. The reader could pick up that Cujo was probably going to die so that wasn’t a shock, but the way he went was surprising. There were some gruesome writing near the end, but the way King kept using the term “gore” to describe things was overused and could have been painted better. In the end, this novel took its time to create a narrative that built tension to creep the reader out.

The Movie (1983)

Cujo (1983) - IMDb
Cujo (1983)
  • The set up has been done really well as they’ve taken the most important parts of the book to give the viewer context.
  • The whole Sharp cereal plot was handled a lot better in the movie than the book. Instead of long, almost meaningless scenes we’re given scenes that are incorporated and don’t feel dragged out and useless. We’re in, we’re out and it makes sense to the overall plot.
  • The kid who is playing Tad acts his heart out. 
  • They really make Cujo look disgusting and something to fear. Although, it does look like it has condiments coming out of his mouth and eyes.
  • For the most part the pacing is good for an hour and a half movie that is supposed to slowly build up. The scenes in the car felt long and drawn out, just like the book. The scene where Vic suspects something is wrong and Steve trashes their house felt too quick with not enough to go on to put everything together.
  • What. Was that ending?! It was following the book… until it wasn’t. In the end it seemed like they wanted a happy ending and so they chose for Donna to realize that Tad was dying and try to save him because that’s more dramatic. He comes back to life just in time for Cujo to make one last hurrah appearance for that final shot, literally.
  • And then it ends on a freeze frame of all ways to end it. 
  • The ending didn’t feel like it did the book justice. For once, King ended his book decently and the movie decided to make it happier, with the big swelling score to really drive home the happy ending after all this torment. 
  • It was a good adaption until the end.

I also filmed my thoughts on the book and movie if you’re curious to check that out:

Up Next: Danse Macabre

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