Cujo is a happy, lovable, romping bundle of muscle and fur. He's doted on by his owner, young Brett Camber and life is sweet. Well, not quite. Billy's father Joe, a mechanic, is sullen and domineering with his son and wife, Charity. The Cambers' gloomy home life is a sharp contrast to Joe's work life, where he's respected and liked by all who bring their cars to him.
Among his customers are the Trentons; Donna, Vic and their five-year old son Tad. The Trentons have their own gloomy home life, now that Donna's been having an affair with Vic's best friend, Steve. It gets gloomier when Vic finds out about it right before he's scheduled to leave town on a business trip.
One day in the middle of all of this, Cujo sticks his head in a rabbit hole. He's bitten on the face by a rabid bat and that's the end of that. Disease slowly eats away at his brain until he's no longer lovable or happy. That the Cambers never have him put down is a tragedy not only because of what Cujo does later, but also because on his way towards going berserk, he's in obvious misery.
Brett and Charity leave on a trip and while Joe's home alone, Cujo mauls him in the garage. Then the dog kills Joe's friend Gary.
Then Donna sputters up the Cambers' long, long driveway in her failing VW, Tad beside her in the passenger seat. When the car dies, they're trapped; Cujo lurks outside, no living person for miles. Not even Vic, who's out of town and furious at the time, knows where they are. There they sit for three days, Tad convulsing with heat prostration and thirst.
It's a sad, and sincerely told story. Dee Wallace is strong as Donna, Ed Lauter is a perfect casting choice for Joe. The Trentons and the Cambers, like Cujo himself, are a tragic example of what happens to us when we lose control of our emotions. This was better than I'd remembered.