Cujo is one of the best-known of Stephen King’s novels and was the inspiration for a major Hollywood movie. The story is about a good dog gone bad, a canine gentle giant in the neighborhood who becomes afflicted with rabies. I was skeptical, when I first picked up the book, about whether a plot that seemed so simple on the surface could carry a novel-length book. As usual, however, King delivers a frightening tale that turns the mundane into the horrific. The story is full of characters who have detailed personal histories, unique mannerisms, and who are thus believably human. They seem like people who you might meet in everyday life in a small town and with whose problems a reader can relate. It is the interaction of these characters, the way in which they develop, and how they deal with situations of stress and terror that really make the story.
King has a strong grasp of what is horrific, and he uses it very effectively in this book to include details that drive home the fear and hopelessness of a situation. He also capitalizes on the fact that some people are not nice and can be as bad as “the monsters”. Some of the people in the story, whether through evil, pettiness, or simple incompetence, serve to make a bad situation even worse.
This book is a must-read for Stephen King fans, and should be on the list of every horror fan.
Profanity/Language: 67 religious exclamations; 54 mild obscenities; 20 religious profanities; 25 derogatory names; 80 scatological words; 26 anatomical terms; 2 offensive hand gestures; 57 f-word derivatives.
Violence/Gore: A man threatens to rape a woman; a man threatens to beat his wife; a man threatens to shoot a puppy; a man briefly considers raping a woman; a verbal threat; report of a string of murders in the past; report of a suicide; report of an accidental death; a character speculates briefly about violent ways he might die; report of natural death of a child; a few characters have injuries from a past war; a few reports of spouse and child abuse; a character has dreams that include watching a man murder a child; report of a child injured in an accident; mention of past murders and rape; a few reports of a people killed or losing limbs in heavy machinery accidents; a report of deaths in a drunk driving accident; people bite each other a few times;an animal bites another animal; a few creepy scenes in which a child imagines a monster; a character has a gory dream about killing someone; a character remembers a sick dog that was put down by being shot (gory description); a character has a scary dream a few times; a few disturbing scenes in which an animal corners, threatens, and tries to reach characters to attack them; a child has a convulsion, and this is described in a disturbing way; an animal mauls a character, leaving bloody wounds and organs exposed; a character is stabbed to death in a gory scene;a house is ransacked and vandalized; a few descriptive scenes in which an animal viciously attacks and kills a person; a man discovers a body with blood and gory wounds; a character imagines the awful ways someone could die; a character attempts to smash an animal’s head using repeated strikes of a blunt object.
Sex/Nudity: A man puts his arms around a woman; mention of “scrotum” in an anatomical/non-sexual context; a toddler’s privates show because his diaper slipped down; a woman wears no shirt (but does have a bra) throughout several scenes; mention of “orgasm” as a metaphor for another pleasant experience; a character has an old injury to his privates that makes sex difficult; a female character is uncomfortable with how a man looks at her; a character makes a joke about oral sex; condoms are mentioned among other litter; mention of venereal disease; men joke about prostitutes; a man is referred to as a “pervert”; mention of teens looking for an isolated spot for parking on a date; losing virginity is mentioned in passing; speculation that men are hiring prostitutes; man briefly considers raping a woman; girl has an embarrassing high school memory involving her period; bodily fluids indicative of sex are left at a crime scene; mention that a teen girl is getting breasts;a man obsesses about whether his wife is having an affair; report of oral sex; report of two separate instances of masturbation by characters (one of these is a teen); a man and woman have had an affair in the past; man imagines, graphically, his wife having sex with another man; a man and woman candidly discuss an extramarital affair that one of them had (with few details divulged); a married man remembers having sex with his wife (no details); report of a teen girl sleeping with several teen boys; report of a teen getting pregnant;mention of X-rated movies; a man threatens to rape a woman and grabs her (clothed) breast; a man has an erection while doing violence because the violence excites him; a sex scene between adults with few details; a character masturbates in a brief but descriptive scene.
Mature Subject Matter:
Domestic strife and divorce; drug and alcohol addiction; domestic abuse; terminal illness; prostitution (mention); rape (mention); drunk driving (mention); death.
Alcohol / Drug Use:
Adults drink alcohol and smoke cigarettes; marijuana (mention); a character is addicted to morphine after using it medicinally; character has various illegal drugs in his possession; drunk driving (mention).