A Trip Back In Time

32 Years Later, Ernest Scared Stupid Is Still An Underrated Halloween Classic

Get ready to fall back in love with Ernest P. Worrell.

'Ernest Scared Stupid' first released in theaters in 1991.
Buena Vista Pictures Distribution

There are some movies or TV shows you look back on from your childhood and wonder, “Why the heck did I like watching that? What was I thinking?!” And to be honest, that’s precisely what I thought would happen when I decided to rewatch Ernest Scared Stupid — one of the many films that starred actor Jim Varney playing the role of the lovable yet extremely gullible character Ernest P. Worrell.

Throughout the late ‘80s and the bulk of the ‘90s, there was an entire movie franchise dedicated to Ernest and the many hilarious predicaments he would get himself into. Was it silly and kind of ridiculous? Absolutely. But that was all part of Ernest’s appeal, especially to the many kids who enjoyed his films over the years. As an adult viewer, though, I expected a slightly different result. Yet I’m happy to say that Ernest’s hijinks still hold up and can withstand the test of time — at least when it comes to this particular Halloween classic.

For those of you unfamiliar with the premise, Ernest Scared Stupid centers around Ernest, who accidentally releases a demonic troll from his prison. Once out, the creature begins turning children into wooden dolls, allowing the troll to feed off their energy and begin growing an army of his own. And, of course, it’s up to Ernest to stop him or watch the entire town get destroyed. (See, kids, not all heroes wear capes; sometimes, they wear denim vests!)

Obviously, the plot sounds ridiculous, and the level of absurdity that ensues does have some eye-rolling moments. (Like when Ernest and his kid friends realize that the troll’s weakness is milk, prompting them to launch a full-blown dairy battle against the creatures to save the town.)

At the same time, though, there were interesting aspects to the film that were completely unique to the franchise, such as learning a bit about Ernest’s ancestry, given that his ancestor imprisoned the troll in the first place. It’s also what gave him the power to release the troll from his prison.

The scare factor made for a nice change of pace as well. Because while the premise may sound kooky, that troll was downright terrifying. Even now, seeing it run after the children or lure them with trickery kept me on the edge of my seat. And yeah, the nostalgia of it all was definitely a factor as well. I used to love watching this every Halloween, so to be able to recapture some of that magic made it all well worth the rewatch in and of itself.

That all being said, the biggest reason this film still works so well is because of Varney’s masterclass performance with this character. He always did a fantastic job of making Ernest goofy but not annoying, silly but with a lot of heart, and clumsy but with a certain level of charm. It’s a tricky line to toe, yet Varney nails it in this movie. From the various impressions he has Ernest do to the heartbreaking scene when his dog Rimshot becomes one of the troll’s wooden victims, you can’t help but root for this character — even if you wouldn’t be able to stand him in real life.

So, if you’re looking to add an underrated Halloween classic into your viewing rotation this fall, I highly recommend giving Ernest Scared Stupid a shot. If you allow yourself to embrace the silliness, you’ll find yourself feeling like a kid again.