Nope, Nothing Wrong Here: The Making Of Cujo by Lee Gambin (book review).

May 15, 2018 | By | Reply More

In the pantheon of great horror films, ‘Cujo’ seems a little out of place. Based on Stephen King’s 1981 novel, the film adaptation directed by Lewis Teague appeared when King’s ubiquity on the bookshelves meant that everything except his laundry list was made into a film.

Released to modest reviews, the story about a rabid dog who terrorises a woman and her son who find themselves trapped in a car, ‘Cujo’ was seen as having some effective moments, though not in the list of great movies or even in the list of great King adaptations, though King himself counts it as one of his favourites. But time has been kind and the film has garnered something of a cult following over the years. Now, in ‘Nope, Nothing Wrong Here: The Making Of Cujo’, Lee Gambin has created a very comprehensive and honest account of the creation of the film.

Structurally, the book alternates between a scene-by-scene analysis of the film and recollections from the cast about the making of the film. On the former, Gambin veers between close examination of the film’s techniques, such as the use of low camera angles to emphasise Cujo’s point of view and praise. Gambin is an engaging and enthusiastic writer, though sometimes his praise for the film does drift into the realm of hyperbole. A more measured take on the positives and negatives of the film would sometimes be welcome.

Gambin has managed to speak to almost major player in the film, from star Dee Wallace and director Lewis Teague to the daughter of deceased dog trainer Karl Lewis Miller. Perhaps the biggest omission is cinematographer Jan De Bont. Gambin is lucky in that the cast and crew are effusive with their recollections and anecdotes, with most remembering much about the film. Jerry Hardin, perhaps most notable for playing Deep Throat in ‘The X-Files’ is an exception, as he basically says ‘I don’t remember a thing’ about his small part.

These parts are the most interesting part of the book, partly because many of the interviewees don’t care about being polite. The strains and stresses of Peter Medak, the original director who was fired a few days into production, are dealt with refreshing honesty. Medak and his son, Christopher, who stayed on to work on the film, are both interviewed. De Bont becomes something of a villain, portrayed as a genius cinematographer but someone who cares very little about other people’s well-being or feelings.

This is perhaps why De Bont is a notable omission, alongside Stephen King, from those interviewed for the book. There’s also an exploration of some of the more debauched behaviour behind the scenes as well as the camaraderie amongst a mostly non-union crew.

Some of these reminiscences could do with a bit of judicious editing as there is a bit of repetition amongst anecdotes as well as something slightly arbitrary about where they are placed. It’s almost as if Gambin was so pleased to get people talking that he found it very hard to cut out any extraneous information.

Obviously, ‘Nope, Nothing Wrong Here’ is mainly aimed at ‘Cujo’ fandom who will undoubtedly devour the book like a juicy bone. Those with a more passing interesting in horror or Stephen King fans for example may find some of the excesses of the book irksome, but should still find something of interest.

As a chronicle of early 80s filmmaking, the book has some interesting insights into both studio politics and the practicalities of trying to bring a rabid big dog to life in an era without CGI. Of course, if you’re Jan De Bont then you’ll hate it.

Laurence Boyce

May 2018

(pub: BearManor Media. 502 page paperback. Price: $30.00 (US), £21.28 (UK). ISBN: 978-1-62933-135-5)

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Category: Horror, Movie books

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About Laurence Boyce

Laurence Boyce is a film journalist who likes Bond, Batman and Doctor Who (just to prove the things he enjoys things that don't just start with a 'B'). He is also a film programmer for various film festivals in the UK and abroad.

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