Monday, April 11, 2005


We watched Cujo this weekend at my cousin's house this weekend in the Heart of Darkness (to you non-Michigan people, that is Columbus, Ohio). Cujo isn't the greatest movie ever, but it gets pretty good once it's revved up. Stephen King adaptations are a pretty uneven lot. One thing I like about pre-CGI movies is that a director has to be a little more creative with his action sequences. This was what made Jaws so effective: the mechanical shark didn't work like it was supposed to, so Spielberg had to use the unseen menace of the shark instead of full shots to show how huge the shark actually was. The director of Cujo had to do the same thing. He could show Cujo attacking people, but he had to imply action sometimes instead of showing close-up graphic violence. I think more horror movies could benefit from this kind of understatement.

All these considerations aside, the main reason for this post is that watching Cujo reminded me of how influential King has been over his career. I can remember my high school English teachers scoffing at Stephen King as pop fiction that wouldn't last, but I wonder about that. I'm not going to get carried away and compare King's works to Dickens, or even Steinbeck to use an American, but I don't think that he will be forgotten like my teachers seemed to believe. After all, Poe is still read, as is Lovecraft. Dracula is considered a classic too, even though it verges on purple prose. I could imagine people hearing references to the rabid dog Cujo, the high school reject Carrie, or the slow maddening of Jack Torrance ("Here's Johnny!" in the movie), and picking up the books to see where it all came from. King's advantage, especially in his early books before his writing started to bloat, is that once you start reading his books they are very difficult to put down, unlike many other classics whose language has become dated and difficult for the less seasoned reader. I could be wrong about this theory (it is a theory, after all), but I do know that it has been 24 years since Cujo was originally published, and I would wager that more educated people could identify its author than that of The Wizard of Oz.


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