Literature / Cujo

http://static.tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pub/images/cujo.jpg
Kids, this ain't Beethoven.

Joe Camber's dog, Cujo, is infected with rabies from a bat bite.

Cujo is a huge St. Bernard.

Yeah, bad stuff very quickly starts to happen.

Written in 1981 by Stephen King, and adapted into a film starring Dee Wallace in 1983.

This book/film contains examples of:

  • Ax-Crazy: Cujo after being infected with rabies. Seeing a Big, Friendly Dog slowly go mad and turn murderous under its influence just makes it stand out even more.
  • Adult Fear: Being trapped along with your sick child as a rabid dog waits for you just outside.
  • The Alcoholic: Gary Pervier. He became a morphine addict after his war injury, and when he couldn't get it anymore, he turned to booze.
  • The Alleged Car: Donna's Ford Pinto. In fact, the whole reason why Donna and Tad are trapped is because they took it to Joe's to get the broken alternator fixed. By the time Cujo dies, it's in even worse shape.
  • Angry Guard Dog: Subverted with Cujo: he attacks people because of rabies, not because he was bred that way.
  • Asshole Victim: Joe.
  • Beware of Vicious Dog: Although, to be fair, nobody knew he'd become vicious.
  • Big, Friendly Dog: Cujo was one, before he got rabies. The Nightmare Fuel comes from how quickly a Big, Friendly Dog is turned into a killing machine by the virus. There's a reason why most places require all registered dogs to get the rabies vaccine.
    • This extended to Real Life: a genuine problem in the making of the film because they simply could not get the St. Bernard playing him to act aggressively. They had to replace him with a cunningly disguised Rottweiler for several crucial scenes, and tape his tail to his leg so he didn't wag it constantly. Awww.
  • Bittersweet Ending: Tad dies, but Vic and Donna reconcile, and by the end, things are getting a little bit better for them. Charity and Brett meanwhile ultimately live better due to Joe's death.
  • Catapult Nightmare: In the movie, after Donna gets bitten by Cujo after attempting to go into the house to get help, Vic springs awake, yelling, "No!"
  • Catch Phrase: An in-story example. Vic Trenton, who works in advertising, along with his partner, Roger, creates a character called "The Sharp Cereal Professor", who becomes hugely popular. His catchphrase is "Nope, nothing wrong here".
  • Cuckold: Vic Trenton. His wife has an affair with Steve Kemp, and after she breaks it off, Kemp sends a crude message to Vic in revenge about how he enjoyed "fucking the shit out of her". He also mentions the mole Donna has on an intimate place, so Vic knows that the message is true. It causes him horrible emotional pain.
  • Chocolate-Frosted Sugar Bombs: Red Razberry Zingers, a product of the Sharp cereal company Vic works for. It's "halfway between candy and cereal" and leaves behind a red-stained toilet bowl, which makes it look like someone is undergoing internal bleeding. Though it's completely harmless, many horrified parents take their kids to the emergency room, creating a public relations disaster for Sharp.
  • Dog Stereotype: Cujo starts out fitting the Saint Bernard stereotype—he's a Big, Friendly Dog who loves children. Then he gets rabies, and all bets are off.
  • Domestic Abuser: Joe Camber. To the point (in the book) that during sex, his wife is afraid of crying out, because she's not sure he knows about female orgasms and it might upset him.
  • Eye Scream: Donna kills Cujo by thrusting the broken handle of a baseball bat through his eye socket.
  • The Film of the Book
  • Groin Attack: Gary Pervier lost a testicle in World War II. Cujo bites Joe Camber in the groin, but mercifully, this is not detailed.
  • Heat Wave: The story takes place during one, which leads to Tad's death.
  • Hope Spot: As the sun comes up on the second day of their "captivity," Donna realizes that she and Tad just have to hold out until the mail carrier comes to the Cambers' and then they'll be okay. While the reader might wonder how the mailman might fare against Cujo, it's a moot point; Camber cancelled his mail delivery since he and Gary were planning to take off for a few days.
  • Intimate Marks: Donna has a mole just above her pubic hair that looks like a question mark. Steve Kemp mentions it in his letter to Vic (see Cuckold).
  • Infant Immortality: Averted in the book. Played straight in the movie.
  • Jerk with a Heart of Gold: Gary Pervier, in the book at least, has a touch of this. Despite being a full-blown grouch, to put it mildly, he's friends with Joe Camber, and doesn't mind Camber's son, either, but he has a genuine soft spot for Cujo (pre-rabies, of course) and even keeps some dog biscuits on hand for when the dog comes by.
  • Laser-Guided Karma: Steve Kemp, who is responsible for nobody knowing where Tad and Donna are, is arrested for kidnapping them, which of course he didn't do. Unfortunately for him there's also drugs in his car.
  • Mama Bear: Donna's primal rage at the end is partly due to Cujo threatening her son, and partly due to early symptoms of rabies.
    • Artistic License Biology: Rabies has an incubation period of one to three months before symptoms start to appear. While there have been records of incubation periods lasting only four days, she didn't even spend THAT long trapped.
  • Midlife Crisis Car: Steve Kemp refers to this phenomenon as "sports car menopause".
  • Mundanger: Unlike most of King's works, there is no supernatural threat in this book. Just a huge, rabid dog.
  • My Car Hates Me: Donna and Tad are trapped on the Cambers' farm, because her car (a Ford Pinto) wouldn't start (she actually went there to get it fixed).
  • Offscreen Moment of Awesome: Joe's death is only implied. As the most unlikeable character in the film, his death would have made for more satisfying viewing than the innocents Cujo savages.
  • Police Are Useless: Sheriff Bannerman lasts about 30 seconds with Cujo, and he is by far the most effective cop in the book.
  • Real Award, Fictional Character: Gary Pervier received the Distinguished Service Cross (the second highest military award in the US army) for his heroism in World War II. He eventually had it turned into an ashtray.
  • Shell-Shocked Veteran: Gary Pervier. He served in World War II, where he had single-handedly taken a German pillbox, and was hit by six bullets. After that, he became an alcoholic and developed a nihilistic outlook on life (as he puts it, he doesn't give a shit about anything).
  • Spared by the Adaptation: Tad, in the movie.
  • Stopped Caring: Gary Pervier after the war. He lives on his disability pension, lets his house decay and his main goal is to kill himself "as slowly and as pleasantly as he could" (mainly by drinking).
  • Things That Go "Bump" in the Night: The monster in Tad's closet.
  • Tragic Villain: Cujo. He's shown to suffer terribly from rabies, and he attacks people because he believes that they are responsible for his pain. At the end of the book, it's written: "It would perhaps not be amiss to point out that he had always tried to be a good dog. [...] He had never wanted to kill anybody. He had been struck by something, possibly destiny, or fate, or only a degenerative nerve disease called rabies. Free will was not a factor."
  • Truth in Television: Eating too much food with red dye does produce what looks remarkably like bloody stool.
  • Unwitting Instigator of Doom: That helpful mailman who points Vic Trenton in the direction of Joe Camber? If he had just minded his own business, Donna and her son wouldn't have had to experience the nightmare they went through.
  • The Virus: Rabies. The effect of rabies was so prominent on Cujo to a point where the main character repeatedly said how Cujo had always been a good dog but it was only the virus that made Cujo lose his mind and become murderously violent.
  • What Did I Do Last Night?: According to King's auto-biography, this entire book. There are worse things to do on a bender...
  • Xenofiction: Parts of the book are told from the perspective of Cujo. They show him to be a Tragic Villain.
  • Your Cheating Heart: Donna has had an affair with Steve Kemp and broke it off. This comes back to haunt her when a rejected Kemp vandalizes the house and wipes off a very important message on the blackboard that delayed her and Tad being found — contributing to Tad's death in the book.

http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Literature/Cujo