A while back we heard the somewhat crazy news that someone in the studio system thought it was a good idea to pitch Kevin Smith on a remake of Stephen King’s Cujo. The news was passed along from Smith over on one of his many podcasts, where he says he turned down the potential remake due to his love of animals. And all of this raises a lot of questions in my mind.
One, there is someone out there attempting to remake Stephen King’s Cujo? I mean I guess it was only a matter of time before someone to the remake sheers to Stephen King’s Cujo. So it might as well be now, right? But what has me more interested in this proposed remake is this question: Why would a producer think Kevin Smith was right for a remake of Cujo?
Smith never says when he was offered the project, so hell potentially he was offered it after Clerks hit it big back in the 90’s, but I doubt it. Something (the massive success of IT) makes me think this film was offered to him recently. Not that it matters much though as you can read above, he turned it down flat.
A fun bit of trivia regarding King’s novel is that in his other non-fiction work On Writing (which is my favorite book of all time next to King’s IT) King mentions how he doesn’t even remember writing Cujo. He says he was so coked out at the time that nothing stuck. And I guess that explains the book’s formatting – which doesn’t contain any chapters, it’s all just one crazy coked-out King writing (what I assume to be) stream of conscious.
Anyhow, enough about the book, let’s talk what Smith’s adaptation may have looked like. To start all of this off, I guess the idea of Kevin Smith remaking Cujo isn’t the world’s craziest idea (that falls to the plot of Tusk). After all, Smith has tried his hand at horror a few times over the years with surprising results. I personally liked his entry into the horror anthology Holidays, and Tusk – as mentioned above – has to be awarded points for its sheer insanity and boldness. But let’s not forget that Smith also directed the killer church flick Red State starring Michael Parks and John Goodman. I don’t know if you’ve seen Red State, but I consider it to be a damn-near masterpiece. The ending is a bit weak but other than that Red State is one of Smith’s most assured directing efforts to date.
By the way, is Yoga Hosers a horror movie? I’ve seen it, but I’m just still not sure. Oh, well. Whatever. Moving on. Smith has also been offered his fair share of remakes over the years, with quite possibly the most well know being Troma’s planned remake of The Toxic Avenger. In the end, Smith turned down that remake as well. But let’s get back to THIS remake.
The original film was directed by Lewis Teague from a script written by Don Carlos Dunaway and Lauren Currier based, obviously, on the novel by Stephen King. It starred Dee Wallace as Donna Trenton and Danny Pintauro as Tad Trenton, the young boy trapped along with his mother in the little yellow pinto with the killer dog outside. One thing that I think Smith could have honed in on with this remake is he could have cast his wife and his daughter to play the roles of those trapped in the car, which would have made for a much more personal film.
One thing that I feel would set apart a remake of Cujo is to switch up – not the location – but the season. The original film took place in the throes of summer, so a remake would do well to change the season to a blistering winter. This changes the visual style, let’ the filmmakers hide the mechanics of the dog, and adds in a Christmas or Thanksgiving style theme to the piece. After all, Saint Bernard’s are famous for helping people trapped in the snow.
Another aspect I think could do with a change is to switch up the dynamic of the mother and son trapped in the car. On this go-round, it would be the mother slowly dying from not only dog bites, but the cold, and a case of needing insulin shots. This way it is the little boy vs the dog. Maybe not all the way through, but how surprising would it be to see the mother bite the big one towards the end – or almost die – and Tad has to get out of the car, get into the house, and save her. Sounds like fun to me, with the right child actor in tow. And speaking of the third act, I would introduce a bigger setpiece once inside the house (bring the bats back). On top of all that, the remake should keep the creepy-as-fuck implied supernatural aspect of the novel just under the surface.
I don’t know if Kevin Smith would have done any of these things, but I like to think he would have… and I also like to think the dog would never smoke weed in the film… but that aspect seems much more likely. So a fun way to end all of this might be to go ahead and accept that Kevin Smith wasn’t the world’s best choice of a remake of Stephen King’s Cujo. Fair enough. Not every director needs to be that versatile. But now that we know Smith wasn’t the right fit, let me put forth this question: Who would be?
Personally, I think Adam Green would be the perfect fit. He has already shown he can handle contained horror with his best film Frozen, and his love of animals (see The Movie Crypt’s annual “Save the Yorkies” for reference) makes him my top pick. After all, the story could use a bit of (slight) humor thrown in, and his love of animals could make for some interesting new points of view in favor of the titular pooch. I say bring on Adam Green’s Cujo!