The classic horror comedy movie Ernest Scared Stupid has just celebrated its 30th anniversary. Directed by John Cherry and starring Jim Varney in his long-running role as Ernest P. Worrell, it is the fifth feature film to bring the character to the big screen. Many of the classic Ernest films have their fans and are widely celebrated by Varney fans, though there are a great many who would consider Ernest Scared Stupid to be an absolute favorite.
Ernest Scared Stupid provides a bit of a backstory for Ernest P. Worrell, revealing why the character is the way he is. As it turns out, a demonic troll had been sealed under a tree by one of Ernest’s ancestors, and in revenge, the troll placed a curse on his family. The troll can only be released by a Worrell just before Halloween, and the curse ensures each generation in the family will get less and less intelligent until someone is foolish enough to release the troll.
Of course, leave it to Ernest to unwittingly do just that. It’s now also up to cinema’s most beloved sanitation worker to put a stop to it. Things look bleak when an army of trolls are summoned to take over the town, though Ernest turns back the tide by discovering their only weakness, milk… though that came after a little bit of experimentation with miak. But what it ultimately takes to destroy Trantor the troll’s reign of terror is to shower him with love.
“This was my first horror film… I loved it,” Jim Varney said in a 1991 interview with The Baltimore Sun to promote the movie. “As a kid, anything that gave me nightmares, I had to watch.”
Later looking back at the movie with Art of the Title, main title designer Barbara Laszewski Garner said, “The movie was the brainchild of John Cherry and Coke Sams. The titles were a collaboration between John and myself. John and I did the storyboarding… [Working with Jim Varney was] fabulous! He didn’t need a lot of direction. I just told him the premise for each scene and he just did it in one or two takes.”
Jim Varney passed away more than two decades ago, but for those of us who were there for the rise of Ernest in the 80s and 90s, it doesn’t seem like it’s been quite so long. That’s thanks to the mark Varney left on cinema history in movies like Ernest Scared Stupid and the others in the series. These days, a group of filmmakers are planning to honor Varney after recently launching a successful crowdfunding campaign. They will be telling his story in the documentary The Importance of Being Ernest: The Life of Actor Jim Varney.
We are in the midst of Halloween season, and with the 30th anniversary now here, it’s a perfect time to add Ernest Scared Stupid to the horror movie watch list. The movie is a classic reminder of just how unique Jim Varney was as an entertainer, and Ernest Scared Stupid remains one of his greatest works. Watch it today for a guaranteed laugh.