Despite the film receiving mixed reviews and being a modest success during its theatrical release, the film has gathered a major cult following in the years since its release. A remake was announced in 2015 and is currently in production.
Cujo, an easygoing St. Bernard, playfully chases a rabbit until he accidentally gets his head stuck in a cave, where a rabid bat bites his nose. Meanwhile, the Trenton family – advertiser Vic, housewife Donna, and their sensitive young son Tad – take their car to the rural home of abusive mechanic Joe Camber for some repairs, where they meet Cujo (the dog from the prologue), who is the Camber family's pet. Donna notices Cujo's bite but thinks little of it. Later, Vic and Donna's marriage is tested when Vic learns that Donna is having an affair with her ex-boyfriend from high school, Steve Kemp, while Vic's advertising for a cereal commercial is failing. Charity and Brett, Joe's wife and son leave the house for a week to visit Charity's sister Holly. When the bite infection drives Cujo mad, he kills their alcoholic neighbor, Gary Pervier and Joe (who fails to call the authorities).
Vic goes out of town on a business trip as Donna and Tad return to the Camber's house for more car repairs. Cujo attacks them, and they take shelter in their Ford Pinto. Donna tries to drive home, but the car's alternator dies and the two are trapped inside. The hot sun makes conditions nearly unbearable and Donna realizes that she must do something before they both die from heatstroke or dehydration. Attempts at escape, however, are foiled by Cujo's repeated attacks. Vic returns home to rekindle his marriage, only to find Donna and Tad missing and his house vandalized by Kemp. He suspects the possessive Kemp of kidnapping, but then realizes his wife and son might be at the Camber's residence.
The local sheriff, George Bannerman, arrives at the house and has a brief standoff, before Cujo kills him, knocking him off the catwalk in the barn and biting him. Meanwhile, Donna takes advantage of a momentary distraction and hits Cujo with a baseball bat until it breaks, leaving only a jagged handle. Cujo jumps at her and is impaled in the stomach by the broken bat. Donna then retrieves a dehydrated and overheated Tad, along with the sheriff's revolver. As Donna revives Tad in the house, a recovered Cujo breaks through the kitchen window and tries to kill them. However, Donna shoots Cujo dead, before Vic arrives and reunites with his family.Dee Wallace as Donna Trenton
Danny Pintauro as Tad Trenton
Daniel Hugh-Kelly as Vic Trenton
Christopher Stone as Steve Kemp
Ed Lauter as Joe Camber
Kaiulani Lee as Charity Camber
Billy Jacoby as Brett Camber
Mills Watson as Gary Pervier
Jerry Hardin as Masen
Sandy Ward as George Bannerman
The original director was Peter Medak, who left the project two days into filming, along with his DOP Tony Richardson. They were replaced by Lewis Teague and Jan de Bont respectively.
Cujo was a modest box office success for Warner Brothers. The film was released August 12, 1983 in the United States, opening in second place that weekend. It grossed a total of $21,156,152 domestically, making it the fourth highest grossing horror film of 1983 behind Jaws 3-D, Psycho II, and Twilight Zone: The Movie.
Critical reception for Cujo has been mixed to positive. On Rotten Tomatoes the film has an approval rating of 60% based on 30 reviews with an average rating of 5.6/10. Author and film critic Leonard Maltin gave the film three out of a possible four stars, calling it "genuinely frightening" also writing, "Builds slowly but surely to [its] terrifying (but not gory) climax." Despite the mixed reception, Stephen King called the film "terrific" and named it one of his favorite adaptations.
In 2015, Sunn Classic Pictures announced they would develop a remake titled C.U.J.O., which stands for “Canine Unit Joint Operations”.