[“U Make Me Feel” by MK2 plays] [James:] Welcome to The Kill Count, where we tally up the victims in all our favorite horror movies. I’m James A. Janisse, and today, August 26th, is apparently National Dog Day in the U.S., so fuck it, let’s look at Cujo, the most famous killer dog of all, and the 1983 movie based on the Stephen King novel. Cujo is a real simple, real Stephen King story. Half of the movie is about a marriage falling apart, the other half has perennial 80’s mom Dee Wallace, and her crying kid, stuck in a car with a rabid dog outside. That’s really all there is to it. But that’s not to say it’s a bad movie. Sure, if you’re only into hardcore horror the melodramatic first act may bore you, but director Lewis Teague and D.P. Jan de Bont shot it real well, and build up a nice emotional connection to these characters, even with Donna Trenton’s infidelity. Plus, there’s a memorable score by composer Charles Bernstein, who did the music for Nightmare on Elm Street, and you get to watch a bunch of solid dog acting! Animal trainer Karl Miller worked with a Saint Bernard named Moe, and between 4 and 9 other pooches to get the shots they needed, along with an occasional puppet and a dude dressed in a dog suit. All of this comes together in an adaptation that Stephen King himself is a big fan of. And for our purposes, it’s got a few kills in it to count. Let’s find out how many and get to them. [“Slow Shock” by Silent Partner plays] The movie begins with a little bunny foo foo hopping through the forest, getting chased by Cujo, who wants to make him dead. At this point, Cujo is still just a regular ol’ playful Saint Bernard, with nothing wrong about him, besides the lack of a barrel full of brandy around his neck. That all changes after the rabbit he’s chasing escapes into a burrow, and Cujo pops his head in, thinking there’s an open house going on. Instead he finds a bunch of Zubats! Zubats everywhere! Who swarm him when he barks, with one of them biting him on the nose. And that, my friends, is Cujo the killer dog’s origin story. Time to meet the Stephen King kid character of this movie, little Tad Trenton. He’s so afraid of monsters in his closet that he can’t even manage the old turn-off-the-light-and-run technique, so he has his parents, Donna and Vic, come in to help comfort him to bed. They do so, and share one of those Stephen King colloquialisms that he just loves to give his characters. [Donna:] Over, done with, gone, right?
[Tad:] Over, done with, gone. [James:] The next morning, over a bowl of sugar and a non-killer dog on the TV, the Trenton family gets a visit from local beard-grower Steve Kemp, who I guess is fixing up their table and uh, wooden horses for them? Tad gets excited about a cereal commercial, because apparently his dad, Vic, came up with the ad campaign, this Bill Nye-looking professor who says the product is healthy for you. [Professor:] Nope, nothing wrong here! [James:] It’s apparently a successful campaign, but I think a stuffy, old professor would make the worst spokesman for a kid’s cereal. I’ll tell you someone else who isn’t impressed by that cereal’s Ivy League-egghead endorsement: Donna, since it turns out she’s cheating on Vic with Steve Kemp. Sorry, Vic, but maybe you wouldn’t be getting cucked if you had come up with something better. Like the Cookie Crisp dog! Co-o-o-o-o-kie Crisp! Fun fact though, Steve was played by Dee Wallace’s husband at the time, Christopher Stone. So in reality, this is a married couple. Sadly, Stone died in 1995 of a heart attack. Rest in peace. Vic’s having issues with his car, so he tries to take it in to the local Castle Rock mechanic. When that guy’s too busy for him, Vic has to drive all the way out to another mechanic, Joe Camber, who lives a few miles out of town. He takes the whole family with him, and after he introduces himself to Joe, title-dog Cujo rolls all up into the scene, just jowlin’ his way towards the Trentons and Joe’s son, Brett, who assures them that Cujo’s a nice, friendly dog who wouldn’t hurt a fly. Yeah, I mean, even if is true though, maybe don’t stick your face in that dog’s face, kid. Especially ’cause his nose has got a nasty herpes-looking sore where that bat bit him. Ewwwww. That night, good dad Vic goes around Tad’s room and expels all the monsters, from inside the closet and under the bed. Sorry, Howie Mandel. Even Donna can see that Vic is Dad of the Year material, but unfortunately, he’s about to run into some problems at work. [Professor:] Nope, nothing wrong here. [Newscaster:] Well, that’s not entirely true. [James:] [laughs] I love that news broadcast cut. Turns out the dye in that cereal was making people poop red, and thousands went to the hospital, thinking they were bleeding out their butts. Now there’s a recall going on, which is almost as bad for Vic’s look as that square-end tie he’s wearing. While Vic is putting out fires at work, Donna heads over to the saddest bachelor pad in Castle Rock and wakes up Steve, so she can tell him that the affair is over. [Donna:] Jesus, I don’t know, I got this terrific husband and this terrific kid, and here I am screwing around with the local stud. [James:] When she leaves his house, he chases after her, and that’s when Vic happens to be driving by, so he sees them having an argument in the street by her car. Confusing thing to see on the side of the road, but when he doubles back to get a better look, the incriminating situation has dissipated. Don’t worry now, Vic, you ain’t crazy, except a crazy good dad. Keep that shit up, dawg! After Donna picks up Tadley from kindergarten, they experience some issues with her Ford Pinto, that her son just treats like a fun carnival ride. Hey Donna, could be worse, just be grateful that thing’s not on fire, right? They get home, and Vic tries to casually ask her what she was up to that day, but she avoids telling the truth and making any eye contact with him. Suspicious… Later on, Vic tries to fix the Pinto himself, but he doesn’t have any luck with it. Sounds like another job for Joe Camber! Speaking of which, back at his farm, the mechanic comes home to find a fancy new piece of equipment that he knows his family can’t afford. Over dinner and a beer, his wife Charity breaks the good news to him. [Charity:] I won the lottery. [James:] Yup, the Camber family is five grand richer. I mean, probably more like three five after taxes, but that’s still enough money to take Cujo to the groomer, so, like, please do that Camber family? Your dog is looking nasty! Charity wants to use the money to visit her sister out-of-state, which Joe is just fine with. He’s got his own lottery plans, that he makes with his next-door neighbor, Gary. [Joe:] Broads, booze, baseball. I don’t wanna do it alone, it’s no fun. Come on! [James:] They plan their boy’s night out with Cujo in the room, who’s showing an increased sensitivity to noise, but neither of the dudes seem to notice. They still think he’s the same old friendly dog he’s always been. [Gary:] You couldn’t sic that dog on me if I was coming at you with a straight razor in each hand! [James:] The next day, Steve Kemp visits the Trenton family home to ostensibly drop off more furniture. But in reality, he’s there to sexually harass Donna, and force himself on her in the kitchen. When she fights back against his advances, they end up spilling milk all over the floor, which normally wouldn’t be anything to cry over, but it happens to be right when Vic gets home. After Steve leaves, Vic gets confirmation from Donna about his suspicions. [Vic:] Yes or no?
[Donna:] Yes. [James:] This is either a great or an awful time for Vic to have to leave town for ten days. He’s gotta go to some business meeting about the blood poop cereal incident. Before he leaves, both he and Donna express uncertainty about how to move forward after her affair. [Donna:] I can’t make that it never happened. [Vic:] I can’t make like it never happened either, Donna.
[Donna:] I know, I know, Vic. [James:] With things still unresolved, he leaves town. Also leaving town is Charity and Brett Camber, off to visit Charity’s sister in Connecticut, and leave Joe to have some Hangover-esque shenanigans with Gary. After they leave, Cujo marches from the horizon towards the home of litterbug Gary, who’s got his own personal trash dump out back behind his house. Even Gary can see that Cujo ain’t looking right, so he tries to run away from the dog, only to get attacked on his back porch. He’s able to throw the dog off of him and get back inside his house, locking the door behind him and grabbing a gun off the wall of his extraordinarily messy home. But a screen door ain’t gonna keep a rabid Saint Bernard out, so Cujo busts through and attacks Gary again, doing a little dance with him before he gets him on the ground with his throat in his mouth. The dog gets vicious with the nasty trash man, and eventually kills him on his dirty, dirty floor. We get a better view of the body later, after Joe pays Gary a visit, and finds him lying on the floor, covered in blood. Nice. Joe is scared shitless at the sight of his dead best friend, and tries to call someone for help, but Cujo shows up, all like: “I wouldn’t do that if I were you…” and Joe finally realizes that he’s rabid. Just in time for the giant dog to attack him, and charge him in a first-canine POV shot then kill him offscreen. Wait to eat the hand that feeds, Cuj’ Donna takes the Tadster with her, as she heads to Joe Camber’s place to get the Pinto fixed. And on the way, the car starts to exhibit even more mechanical issues! Hope y’all ready for like, forty minutes of dog barking, ’cause after they park at the Camber place and Donna tries to help Tad unbuckle his seatbelt, they’re attacked through the window by a real nasty, slobbering Cujo. Donna manages to roll up the window on Cujo and get his big ol’ dog head out of the car, and close her driver’s side door just in time to stop him from getting inside. But now these two are trapped in their car with Tad crying up a goddamn storm, and that’s where we’ll be for the next, uh, forever, since that piece-of-shit Pinto refuses to start up. Honestly, it wouldn’t be *that* bad of a situation, but this fucking kid won’t stop wailing! Listen Donna, you gotta show that kid who’s the boss. Although, to be fair to all his tears, Cujo has quickly become the straight nastiest dog I’ve ever seen in my life. He is no longer a good boy. Cujo watches them all through dusk and into the night, when Tad has to pee out the car door. Careful, kid, you don’t wanna lose anything there. Luckily, a phone starts ringing inside the house, and that gets Cujo real distracted and riled up ’cause he can’t stand the noise. He breaks open the window to get to it, but it stops ringing right before he can answer it. Man, don’t you hate when that happens? Cujo does, look at that angry fucker. Morning comes, and Cujo is still standing guard outside Donna’s Pinto. As dawn gives way to day, the inside of the car heats up, and Donna realizes that they’re down to the last bit of water they have on hand. She also notices a baseball bat on the ground nearby, that could prove useful when it comes to killer dogs. Later, another phone call sends Cujo into a frothy rage, during which he smashes his head against the car, and breaks off the inside door handle. That is one strong rabid dog, man. Shit, he even manages to break one of the car windows and straight up tear the outside door handle off with his mouth! At one point, after things have calmed down a bit, Donna tries to leave the car for that baseball bat. But Cujo is waiting for her, and attacks her against the Pinto. She gets back into the car, but the big dog follows her inside, and there’s a whole bunch of screaming and growling going on as she beats at him with a water bottle and he bites her in the leg. Eventually, she’s able to get him out of the car and close the door again. Might wanna get that cut washed pronto though, lady, last thing you need is rabies. It’ll leave your head spinning more than this insane camera movement, that whips around inside the car like one of those carnival rides that you control with a wheel inside. They’re usually shaped like apples or strawberries or some shit, you know what I’m talking about. Throughout Donna’s farm adventure, we’ve been checking in with Vic at his out-of-town meeting, where he keeps calling back home but never getting any answer. On the second night, he finally gets worried enough to tell his business partner that he has to head home, ’cause something must be wrong, and he can deal with the blood poop problem himself. Day three comes, and Donna wakes up to Tad hyperventilating in the car. Oh shit, that is not a face you want to see your kid making. And the DOG isn’t making anything BETTER, thanks a lot, Cujo! Donna eventually gets Tad breathing again, but clearly this is not a sustainable situation. Back at the Trenton home, Steve Kemp lets himself in, and caresses some knife blades, making me real happy that Donna and Tad aren’t home. Later, Vic comes home to find the place in disarray, the bedroom torn to shreds with feathers all over the place. He tells the Castle Rock P.D. that it must’ve been Steve Kemp, surmising that he kidnapped his family as well. When the cops ask about Donna’s missing car, Vic tells them it’s out at the Camber place for repairs, so Sheriff George Bannerman leaves to check it out, getting over there in no time. Shit, Cujo! It’s Five-O, better scram! When George parks and gets out of his car, he sees the Pinto, and is just about to radio it in when a noise lures him into the barn. Oh, he’s one of *those* horror movie characters, huh. Cujo attacks him and knocks his gun out of his hand, so you know this guy’s a goner. Cujo kills him after knocking him from the high ground and getting him on the barn floor, where he mauls him for a mo’. The final fleshy tear leaves George in a gravity-defying death pose as Cujo turns his attention back towards the car. The cops tells Vic that they talked to Steve Kemp, and although he admitted to trashing the house, he said he never saw Donna or Tad. When the cop also mentions that they haven’t heard back from Sheriff George yet, Vic takes it into his own hands to head out to the Camber place. Are we gonna have a last-minute daddy rescue? If so, he’d better get there soon, ’cause big bad Tad is almost down and out from all this heat and dehydration. Donna finally decides it’s time to get out and make a run for the baseball bat, which she gets to right as a very bloody Cujo runs up to her. She beats down on the dog, but since nobody wants to see a dog pummeled with a bat, rabid or not, it’s all done through clever camera movements, editing, and sound effects. Eventually, the bat breaks, leaving only a jagged little shank with a handle. It ends up working out after Donna trips and Cujo accidentally jumps right on top of it, getting impaled through his Saint Bernard belly and apparently dying right on top of Donna. Until she rolls him off of her. She said roll over, boy! Donna picks up the sheriff’s gun, and thinks about double-tapping the deadly dog, but instead heads back to the car and pistol-whips the back windshield to break into it and free Tad. She takes her unconscious son inside the house, and gives him some water and mouth-to-mouth, eventually resuscitating the little Tadpole back to life. But this is the moment where the supposedly-dead killer comes back to life for one last scare. So Cujo jumps through the window and turns on his heels to face down Donna and Tad with a mouthful of mange. Donna grabs the nearby sheriff’s gun and fires into the camera, killing Cujo offscreen. And for once, I’ll make an exception to the “no dogs on the Count rule, ” because c’mon, it’s frickin’ Cujo. And it’s National Dog Day, I don’t wanna be disrespectful. The movie ends with Vic pulling up to the Camber place, and embracing his wife and son on the porch in a freeze-frame. So how’s it work out when you send a dog to do a killer’s job? Let’s find out and get to the numbers. [Cujo barks]
[James:] Cujo! [Cujo continues to bark] [“U Make Me Feel” by MK2 plays] [James:] There were four deaths in Cujo, three humans and one big ol’ Saint Bernard. All of the victims were male, but, y’know, one of them was a dog, so I dunno, have this pie chart! With a runtime of 93 minutes, we wound up with a kill on average every 23.25 minutes. I’ll give the Golden Chainsaw for coolest kill to Gary, ’cause it’s when we first realize how deadly Cujo has become. And it’s the most graphic death, since we get to see the aftermath. Dull Machete for lamest kill will go to Joe Camber, who was killed offscreen after Cujo charges at him. And that’s it. Cujo came out in 1983, just two years after King’s novel, and was recently referenced in the new Hulu series Castle Rock, so that’s fun. I’ll be back to Halloween on Friday, but until then, I’m James A. Janisse, this has been The Kill Count. Thanks a lot for watching this extra Kill Count! I wanna thank a couple of patrons, like Connor Barrett, Jake Rawls, Gary Storey, and Mavis Van Poe. I put a lottery ticket in the background ’cause of the whole lottery thing in the movie. Let’s see if I won anything! Game 1, no. Game 2, no. [sighs] Game 3… Uh, so I didn’t win any of that, and then Game 4…nope nope nope nope. Nope, okay, and then Game 5. Uh, nope, I won nothing. Also this is Austin, a bat we bought in Austin, Texas. They have bats there! Bat good people…