Awfully Good: Ernest Scared Stupid

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.


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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