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Awfully Good: Ernest Scared Stupid

10.30.2013

Ernest Scared Stupid (1991)

Director: John Cherry
Stars: Jim Varney, Eartha Kitt, Austin Nagler

Ernest P. Worrell accidentally unleashes a gruesome troll that turns children in to wood.

The ERNEST movies are stupid. I don’t think anybody would argue that. In fact, the character of Ernest is such a bizarre choice to headline a film series when you think about it. What’s the guy’s appeal? He’s a denim-loving redneck who seems mentally challenged yet strangely eloquent. He’s clueless and awkward in most social situations, yet in others he’s a master of disguise worthy of being a super spy. He’s obsessed with some guy named Vern and is constantly asking people if they know what he means.


Still better than FREDDY VS. JASON.

This is going to sound, well, stupid, but the intangible ingredient that still makes these movies enjoyable is the heart. Ernest is a lovable idiot, thanks in no small part to the late, great Jim Varney. Varney was a classically trained thespian, who somehow found his calling as rubber-faced buffoon in a series of commercials that eventually led to a television and film franchise. There's really no explanation for it, other than Varney's talent for making Ernest a character who's both genuine and watchable. Even when he's fighting a guy in a cheesy troll costume.


DERP DRUM DERP.

After a brief montage of bad 50s horror movies to get you in the Awfully Good mood, ERNEST SCARED STUPID opens hundreds of years in the past, as Ernest's ancestors and the local townspeople capture a child-stealing troll named Trantor and bury him under a tree. For some unexplained reason, this act set in place an embarrassingly vague prophecy that a future member of the Worrell family will accidentally unleash Trantor and the end of the world. Oddly unfazed by this, the townspeople go about their business, instead of—I don't know—doing anything to prevent the Troll Apocalypse.


No, sorry. You're looking for Nilbog.

Cut to present day and the Ernest we know and love is an inept trash collector who spends his free time helping local kids build treehouses on haunted burial ground. A mysterious old woman (played by former Catwoman Eartha Kitt) immediately pulls him aside and warns him about the prophecy by telling him exactly how to free the troll and asking him not to do it. Of course the town remains troll-free for the next 30 seconds. The rest of the film chronicles our hero's attempts to stop the fearsome ogre and save the world. Thankfully, Ernest just happens to know the two guys who sell troll hunting equipment. He also tries to enlist the help of the children, but their parents understandably don't want their kids hanging out with a weird garbage man that spends all his time alone with minors.


That's what she said!

It might be nostalgia, but I still had a blast watching ERNEST SCARED STUPID 20 years later. A lot of the adult jokes and Varney's off-the-cuff one-liners still crack me up, as does all the dumb stuff. The giant can opener gag, Ernest's multiple personalities and their obsession with the country of Botswana, the fact that he actually located a bottle of "MIAK"—all of these things help the film live up to the "stupid" in its title. I also enjoy that the big moral lesson for children seems to be "Disobey your parents as long as you think you're right."


That's what she said?

The most memorable part of this movie, however, is the troll. Created by effects artists the Chiodo Brothers (KILLER KLOWNS FROM OUTER SPACE), Trantor is such an odd creation, although he did scare the crap out of me as a child. His powers include super strength, bad breath that can destroy glass, and the ability to imitate anyone's voice despite being almost completely unintelligible himself. His evil plan consists of stealing the souls of children and turning them in to wooden dolls which in turn power his magical tree to grow new troll Brussels sprouts. In a twist that seems Shyamalan-esque, Trantor's big weakness ends up being milk. That is until the finale, where he calls upon demons to turn him in to a Super Troll, which apparently means he gets dreadlocks and slightly longer horns. Utterly useless to stop the invincible foe, Ernest turns to the only weapon left in his arsenal—unconditional love, motherf*ckers! Ernest ends up saving the day by hugging and dancing with the troll, before finally killing it by cradling it in his arms and giving it a kiss. It's probably the stupidest ending you could imagine. And perfectly at home in an Ernest movie.


You're irreplaceable, Jim.

Random dialogue like this only works because of how awesome Jim Varney is.

Some of the movie's stupidest moments featuring Ernest (and the troll).

Do naked trolls count?


Who the hell is Vern? Buy this movie here!

Take a shot or drink every time:
  • Ernest gets a fact wrong
  • Ernest plays a different character
  • Ernest's dog is a dick
  • Ernest says "boogerlips"
  • The troll imitates someone
  • Eartha Kitt uses a flame thrower
Double shot if:
  • Ernest says, "Y'know what I mean?"

Thanks to Justin and Adam for suggesting this week's movie!

Seen a movie that should be featured on this column? Shoot Jason an email or follow him on Twitter and give him an excuse to drink.

Extra Tidbit: Grindcore band The Great Redneck Hope derived their name from this film. You may know them from their seminal album, "Behold the F*ck Thunder."
Source: JoBlo.com

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5:47PM on 10/30/2013
The Ernest films were some of my favorite films as a kid. This one in particular was my favorite.
The Ernest films were some of my favorite films as a kid. This one in particular was my favorite.
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4:30PM on 10/30/2013
i watched this a few days ago not ashamed i like it these movies wouldn't work if someone else played ernest jim varney was great as ernest
i watched this a few days ago not ashamed i like it these movies wouldn't work if someone else played ernest jim varney was great as ernest
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3:51PM on 10/30/2013
Thinking about picking it up on blu-ray
Thinking about picking it up on blu-ray
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1:14PM on 10/30/2013
While I grew up watching Ernest movies, I actually think I only saw this one once. I think it might be the most popular of his movies (though my personal favorite is Goes to Jail). Man I miss Jim Varney though. A regular modern-day Don Knotts.
While I grew up watching Ernest movies, I actually think I only saw this one once. I think it might be the most popular of his movies (though my personal favorite is Goes to Jail). Man I miss Jim Varney though. A regular modern-day Don Knotts.
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12:03PM on 10/30/2013

I grew up watching every Ernest film

This one was always my favorite and to this day is one of my "must-watches" of this current season. I recently showed it to my girlfriend, who was very surprised at how much she enjoyed it! I actually think it's an incredibly thoughtful movie. It's a rare breed, they don't make 'em like they used to, knowwhatImean?
This one was always my favorite and to this day is one of my "must-watches" of this current season. I recently showed it to my girlfriend, who was very surprised at how much she enjoyed it! I actually think it's an incredibly thoughtful movie. It's a rare breed, they don't make 'em like they used to, knowwhatImean?
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10:11AM on 10/30/2013
HOLY SHIT. This was one of my favorite movies when I was young. Even at 4 or 5 I knew it was so cheesy, but awesome.
HOLY SHIT. This was one of my favorite movies when I was young. Even at 4 or 5 I knew it was so cheesy, but awesome.
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+10
9:44AM on 10/30/2013

Favorite Ernest movie

"There ain't no trees in Botswana uh uh I know I am a Botswanian lumberjack and I ain't never had a job." I still watch Scared Stupid and Goes to Camp every so often. I miss Jim Varney.
"There ain't no trees in Botswana uh uh I know I am a Botswanian lumberjack and I ain't never had a job." I still watch Scared Stupid and Goes to Camp every so often. I miss Jim Varney.
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9:44AM on 10/30/2013
Jim Varney's best film, in my opinion.
Jim Varney's best film, in my opinion.
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6:56AM on 10/30/2013

This was always my favourite Ernest movie

And it might be my own nostalgia, but I think this one and Ernest Saves Christmas still hold up surprisingly well.
And it might be my own nostalgia, but I think this one and Ernest Saves Christmas still hold up surprisingly well.
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2:38AM on 10/30/2013
fun movie. Ernest is always fun to laugh with. RIP Jim Varney. If only you had been around a little longer. Would have been interesting to see what movies you could have showed up in!
fun movie. Ernest is always fun to laugh with. RIP Jim Varney. If only you had been around a little longer. Would have been interesting to see what movies you could have showed up in!
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