Not Quite Horror: “Caddyshack” (1980)


Not Quite Horror contains reviews of films not traditionally considered horror films. By analyzing them as horror films (identifying the monster, discussing the shared worry for the audience and the main characters, and understanding the depth of horror available to the viewer), who knows? There’s more than one way to watch a movie.

Caddyshack (1980)

The Monster: A dancing mutant gopher. When the animal learns it has been targeted for death by the golf course it lives on, it spies on the dim-witted groundskeeper. After foiling its enemy’s attempts, the malicious rodent places the groundskeeper’s explosives all around the course and blows everything to high heaven.

Then, pleased, the gopher dances to celebrate this destruction.

It is worth noting the lack of other gophers on the course. What has this dancing demon done with them?

The Horror: Caddyshack clearly sides with the gopher, but it doesn’t take much reflection to realize this is a supernatural creature. It displays emotions. It is able to create and then enact elaborate battle strategies in its war against the groundskeeper.

The gopher is undefeatable, and it dances when you lose.

It loves to dance.

The Shared Fate: If you’ve ever had a non-comedic rodent problem, you understand the frustration and horror of trying to destroy vermin that simply won’t die. An intentional horror film, Of Unknown Origin (1983) explores a similar story in a serious manner.

The dancing Caddyshack gopher made it into the sequel and even got to shake and shimmy in toy form.

Imagine that gopher dancing atop your chest in the middle of the night, and that smile won’t seem “all right” at all.

— I am indebted to Noel Carroll’s The Philosophy of Horror for his ideas on defining horror, as well as John Skipp and Craig Spector’s article “Death’s Rich Pageantry, or Skipp & Spector’s Handy-Dandy Splatterpunk Guide to the Horrors of Non-horror Film” in Cut! Horror Writers on Horror Film for a similar idea.–

–Axel Kohagen