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Soundtrack review: Cujo (Charles Bernstein – 1983, 2016)

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“Cujo” is a 1983 American psychological horror/thriller film based on Stephen King’s novel of the same name. It was directed by Lewis Teague, and written by Don Carlos Dunaway and Lauren Currier. The story is simple: A friendly St. Bernard named “Cujo” contracts rabies and conducts a reign of terror on a small American town. As a big Stephen King fan I have read this book of course. It’s one of the more special in his career because as successful as the book was the author has no recollection of writing it because he was high almost all the time. Intrada released the Charles Benrstein score in 2016.

It’s so nice to connect with the score from the first few seconds! My reaction is instant and almost unconscious when I hear the dark electronic beat I always associate with 80s horror or Sci-fi. Welcome back, old friend. It’s just a glimpse before the score goes in a different direction but it’s enough to get me in. the change in direction is quite surprising though: I was expecting a horror score with fright and sharp turns and instead I find myself looking inside the characters that are terrorized by the mad dog. Even more the composer doesn’t put their fear into notes; he focuses on feelings of love and care, tender moments which make for an enjoyable and constant score.

The “Terminator” like sound returns for “Cujo kills Gary”. I get such a nostalgia rush from a cue like this. This sound accompanies the rabid dog in his darkest of deeds and provides balance to the sweetness of the rest of the moments. This is all the variation this score gets but it doesn’t need more. The music of “Cujo” is simple and effective. I hear the barrenness of that time and place; I hear the stripped down 80s sound in some moments and beautiful romance in others.

I enjoy a score like this as I would a walk through the empty park on a late autumn afternoon. There are no more leaves on the trees and everything is grey but I feel comfortable in this environment. Every now and then there’s a sudden burst of wind that chills me to the bone and makes me feel like I don’t have anywhere to hide. The horror moments are as effective as that and I really can’t fault this score. I’m glad we got this release.

Cue rating: 86 / 100

Total minutes of excellence: 20 / 50

Album excellence: 40%

Highlights:

Hoist Delivery & Spilt Milk

Monster Words Wall & Cujo In Fog

Cujo Kills Gary

Pee-Em Phone & Sunrise

Cujo Attacks Car

Revive Tad

End Credits

About the author

Mihnea Manduteanu

I have been listening to film music for 25 years and writing about it since 2014. I've written over 1000 reviews and I can't imagine myself doing anything else. I am also a member of IFMCA (International Film Music Critics Association).

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