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Film / Ernest Scared Stupid

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"You are the only troll fighter we've got! You're the seventh son of the seventh son, you're the baby, you're the boy! You are the GREAT REDNECK HOPE!"

Ernest Scared Stupid (a.k.a. "Ernest Saves Halloween") is a 1991 American comedy film directed by John R. Cherry III and starring Jim Varney. It's the fourth (technically fifth) film to feature the character Ernest P. Worrell.

In 19th century Briarville, Missouri, Trantor the troll has been on a rampage, turning children into wooden dolls so that he can feast upon their energy. The townspeople lure the troll into a trap, chain him up and cast him into a pit, whereupon the village elder, Phineas Worrell, seals the troll beneath an oak tree, that it may never terrorize the children of Briarville again. Trantor swears to Phineas that he will rise again.

Fast-forward to the 1990s, where Phineas Worrell's descendant, Ernest, is a garbageman and friend to the neighborhood children, Kenny, Elizabeth and Joey. The kids are busy working on a haunted house for Halloween, until it gets destroyed by a couple of bullies. Ernest steps in to help them build a treehouse instead. And of course, which tree does he decide would be the best choice?

The film also features Eartha Kitt as Old Lady Hackmore, the creepy old witchy lady who lives near the tree.


  • Adults Are Useless:
    • Except for Old Lady Hackmore; Ernest at least tries to be useful, and ultimately, he is in the end.
      • Though to be fair, telling Ernest the exact detailed steps required to free Trantor qualifies her for the Idiot Ball.
    • Played straight with the rest of the adults, even when they learned of the troll's existence.
      • Subverted in the opening sequence, in which the adults manage to capture and seal away Trantor.
  • All Trolls Are Different: Trantor is an evil troll who goes after children, turning them into little wooden dolls which give him his power, which he uses to try to create more trolls. He also has the ability to mimic the voice of anyone he's turned into a doll. Younger trolls can be killed by milk (mother's care) and older ones be driven off, but for the most powerful trolls, the only thing that can defeat them is unconditional love (the heart of a child). Also, Trantor has two noses.
  • Amplified Animal Aptitude: Rimshot, who is smart enough to help Ernest work his contrapions and briefly drives Ernest's pickup while Ernest is fighting Trantor.
  • Asshole Victim: Non-fatal example (it is a kid's movie, after all): One of the Murdock brothers gets turned into the last doll Trantor needs to revive his fellow trolls.
  • Bedmate Reveal: After checking under the bed and being relieved that nothing's hiding under there, Elizabeth finds Trantor laying in bed next to her.
  • Black Belt in Origami: While being menaced by Trantor for the first time, Ernest claims to know tai chi, kung fu, chow mein and that he saw Hulkamania three times, once in slow-motion.
  • Breaking the Fourth Wall: Old Lady Hackmore does this at the end. She doesn't say anything but briefly acknowledges the audience.
  • Broken Aesop: "Of course! Showing unconditional love to kill your enemies! That's the ultimate weapon of destruction! Peace and love! What am I missing here?!"
  • The Bully: The Murdocks, who wreck the kids' haunted house, try to wreck their treehouse
  • Car Fu: Ernest tries to stop Trantor by hitting him with his truck. It doesn't work.
  • Care-Bear Stare: Ernest is able to defeat Trantor using unconditional love.
  • Cassandra Truth: Nobody believes Ernest or the kids about the troll except for Old Lady Hackmore.
  • Chekhov's Gag: The entire reason they build a treehouse to begin with was so the kids had "the high ground" to defend themselves from the bullies. Come the end of the movie, it serves as the actual high ground in the fight against the trolls.
  • Chekhov's Gun: During the first attack in the treehouse, Ernest accidentally spills some milk during the struggle - causing Trantor to flee. Trantor's aversion to milk is hinted a couple more times before the reveal.
    • Unconditional love, the heart of a child.
  • Child Eater: Trantor, a troll who deliberately preys on children.
  • Crouching Moron, Hidden Badass: Ernest may be a goofy Manchild, but he by far handles Trantor and the other trolls the best - more so than the other adults.
  • The Cuckoolander Was Right: No one takes Ernest's claims of a troll seriously, but parents are in a positive panic when their kids suddenly start disappearing without a trace. It gets worse once they realize Ernest was right.
  • Curb-Stomp Battle: The townsfolk are on the receiving end of one by Trantor's minions at the end — at least, until the children intervene with their secret weapon.
  • Defeat Equals Explosion: After Ernest uses the Power of Love on Trantor, he violently explodes.
  • Delayed Reaction: It takes Ernest 10 seconds of careful, calculated thinking before he realizes that his fingers have been slammed in the lid of a dumpster and that he should scream in pain.
  • Determinator: According to Ernest's fourth grade teacher:
    "He never knew when to quit."
    [Young Ernest begins dragging his Nails on a Blackboard]
  • Dub Name Change: In the French dub, Rimshot is renamed Plumo.
  • Edible Ammunition: The weapons Ernest builds to defend the treehouse shoot dog food and pizzas. During the climax he uses another that shoots ice cubes, the kids fill water guns with milk to fight the trolls, and the dog food shooter is repurposed to fire cottage cheese.
  • Evil-Detecting Dog: Rimshot is the first to notice the disturbed spirits coming out of the base of the tree while Ernest and the kids are building a treehouse in it.
  • Evil Sounds Deep: Trantor, the kidnapping, soul-stealing troll has a voice that sounds like an African bullfrog learned to speak English.
  • Friend to All Children: Ernest. Though the other adults certainly don't like it.
  • Funny Schizophrenia: Kenny accuses Ernest of this whenever he launches into multiple costume-changes while describing the art of war.
    Kenny: You're a great bunch of guys.
  • Gone Behind the Bend: Ernest tries to pull this while being chased around the inside of the treehouse by a couple of Trantor's offspring, but it flops when he takes a moment to chuckle at his cleverness.
  • Guttural Growler: Trantor has a very distinctive snarl that almost sounds identical to that of the Cookie Monster. Director John Cherry, in his memoir, said he wanted to create a beast with a growl whose pitch could stop a person dead in his or her tracks.
  • Halloween Special: The alternate title is "Ernest Saves Halloween", after all.
  • Ham-to-Ham Combat: Ernest vs. Hackmore gives us a good dose of this.
  • Heroes Love Dogs: Ernest loves Rimshot more than anything else in his life.
  • Hoist by His Own Petard: Trantor cursed the Worrell family to become dumber with each generation, possibly trying to create one dumb enough to free him. By the present, Ernest is basically a Manchild. But it's this child-like innocence that allows him to kill Trantor once and for all.
  • Home Made Inventions: Ernest has an attachment on his garbage truck which dumps wet sponges held by robot hands repeatedly. We don't get to see what it actually does, though. He likely invented the food-launching cannons in the tree-house, and he also built a troll trap using a dumpster.
  • Hyperspace Wardrobe:
    • Whenever Ernest does his impressions.
    • Doubles with Changing Clothes Is a Free Action, as the changes are usually one after another in rapid succession, which is taken up to eleven when he has a number of double-takes as different characters to the same event.
  • Idiot Ball:
    • Old Lady Hackmore told Ernest, the only one who could release Trantor, the exact steps to do so and expected him not to do it.
    • Ernest demonstrated the required ritual, on the required tree, to the kids.
    • Neither one of them were able to guess "Milk' from "M-I-something-K," even with the clue that it was "a mother's care."
      Ernest: Of course! Authentic Bulgarian MIAK!
  • Identical Grandson: Ernest looks much like his ancestor, Phineas Worrell. Jim Varney played both.
  • I Have a Family: When Ernest imitates a doll voice and wrestles with the dilemma of using a doll to stop the gears of a garbage masher.
    Ernest: [as the doll] No, no, don't stick my head in those gears!
    Ernest: [as himself] But it's either me or you.
    Ernest: [as the doll But I have a family at the doll factory.
    Ernest: [as himself] [Beat] I'll send them a nice card.
    Ernest: [as the doll] You can't get away with this, Ernest, I know where you live!
  • It's Personal: Even though he has his own goal of reviving the other trolls by sacrificing five kids, Trantor also wants to kill Ernest and avenge himself against the Worrell family for imprisoning him. Then he turns Rimshot into a wooden doll and Ernest gets pissed.
  • Kick the Dog: Trantor turning Rimshot into a wooden statue.
  • Large Ham: You can always expect Ernest to bring the goods, but Old Lady Hackmore is wonderfully hammy as well (which is certainly no surprise if you're familiar with Eartha Kitt).
  • Made of Iron: Trantor. He was able to shrug off being HIT BY A TRUCK. And sandwiched between said truck and a tree.
  • Magical Seventh Son: Old Lady Hackmore says "you're the seventh son of the seventh son" when listing all the auspices that make Ernest The Chosen One for fulfilling his ancestor's legacy and defeating Trantor the Troll once and for all. It's not clear if she's being metaphorical or not, though, especially since she refers to him as the direct descendant of Phineas Worrell.
  • Misunderstood Loner with a Heart of Gold: Old Lady Hackmore, to a degree.
  • Mood-Swinger: The girl arguing with her mother about the ridiculous Halloween costume that she herself picked out: tempers flare and harsh words are exchanged, almost immediately followed by the two exchanging apologies and hugging.
  • Nails on a Blackboard: A young Ernest does this in a flashback before getting whacked in the head by his teacher.
  • Nice Job Breaking It, Hero: Ernest does exactly what Old Lady Hackmore says not to do and awakens Trantor. One could argue that Hackmore should be responsible for "breaking" it because she actually told Ernest how to awaken Trantor, and then expected him not to do it.
  • No Ontological Inertia: When Trantor is destroyed, all the people he turned into wooden dolls are restored to normal. Even the ones from the 19th century.
  • Not Now, Kiddo: Kenny gets this a lot from his father. And given his child-like nature, even Ernest gets this treatment from the other adults.
  • O.O.C. Is Serious Business: When Ernest sees what Trantor did to Rimshot. Probably the angriest Ernest has ever been across the whole franchise.
    Ernest: Somebody with a runny nose is gonna die!
  • One of the Kids: Ernest, who is always hanging out with the neighborhood kids. Even other adults treat him like a kid, and no one listens to him about Trantor.
  • One-Winged Angel: Once Ernest and the kids bust out the Milk to beat the Trolls, Trantor calls upon demonic magic to gain a more powerful form that can only be beaten by unconditional love.
  • Packed Hero: Ernest manages to get himself stuck inside his garbage truck and compacted into a trash box.
  • Pre-Asskicking One-Liner
    Ernest: How 'bout a bumper sandwich, booger lips?
  • Precision F-Strike: When Ernest seemingly has Trantor trapped in his garbage truck, he brings it to Kenny's dad, only to go into his usual pseudo bragging rights for capturing it, prompting Kenny's dad to shout, "Just open the damn thing, Ernest!" This seems to be the only time a swear word that has ever been heard in any Ernest title.
  • Police Are Useless: Kenny's dad isn't really that much help, even after learning that Trantor really does exist.
  • Sacrificial Lamb: Joey is almost immediately transformed into the first of Trantor's statues after he is released.
  • Sacrificial Lion: Kenny is the deuteragonist of the film; a Kid Hero who gets the most screentime next to Ernest. When Trantor transforms him into a wooden statue in the climax, it shows he's not screwing around anymore.
  • Sealed Evil in a Tree: Trantor was sealed beneath a tree by one of Ernest's ancestors.
  • Sheathe Your Sword: At the climax, everyone is urging Ernest to confront Trantor violently using milk! But amongst the throngs crying for blood, Ernest overhears Old Lady Hackmore advise him that there's an alternative: unconditional love. At hearing this, Ernest chooses the latter and basically showers Trantor with love. It works!
  • Shout-Out: A passing milk truck, a carton of chocolate milk Ernest drinks at the convenience store, and the milk cartons used by the kids in the climax are all branded "Purity," Which was the local dairy farm brand Ernest used to advertise in his commercial days.
  • The Smurfette Principle: Elizabeth is the only girl in her friend group, and only prominent female role aside from Old Lady Hackmore.
  • Spikes of Villainy: After invoking demonic power to make himself invincible, Trantor grows dozens of spikes all over his face.
  • Super-Persistent Predator: Trantor going after Kenny and Elizabeth. He gives up his first pursuit to grab a passer-by, but resumes pursuing the two later despite all sorts of other kids in the neighbor and him being on a strict deadline. He really goes out of his way pursuing Kenny (and only gives up after being scared off by a milk truck). Perhaps he is just that sadistic, as evidenced by him turning Kenny to wood after achieving his goals.
  • Stock Footage: The opening credits spice themselves up by featuring an assortment of clips taken from old black-and-white horror/monster movies, mostly B-Movies. The precise list of films referenced are:
  • Taken for Granite: Trantor turns children and dogs, it would seem into wooden statues.
  • Team Pet: Rimshot, Ernest's pet terrier, is naturally beloved by the whole team.
  • Temporary Substitute: After appearing in Goes to Camp, Saves Christmas, and Goes to Jail, Gailard Sartain sits this one out. His character, Chuck, is replaced by the very similar Tom.
  • The Power of Love: Milk is only able to kill the trolls because it embodies a mother's love. The only thing that can stop Trantor after he goes One-Winged Angel is the power of unconditional love.
  • Too Dumb to Live: The Murdock brother who gets turned into a doll by Trantor sees the troll and decides it's smart to insult his "costume."
    • In fairness he honestly thought it was a costume.
  • Town with a Dark Secret: Played With, as Old Lady Hackmore seems to be the only resident aware of Trantor being buried beneath that tree.
  • Vile Villain, Saccharine Show: The kidnapping Trantor, played mostly straight as a horror movie monster, is pretty heavy stuff for an installment in the usually carefree Ernest movies.
  • Voice Changeling: Trantor has this ability, using it to mimic both Ernest and Elizabeth at different points.
  • The Voiceless: Bobby, as usual, except for one line: "Plus tax."
  • The Walls Are Closing In: When Ernest gets stuck in the back of his own garbage truck.
  • Weaksauce Weakness: Milk.
    • And not "miak."
      • He didn't even get to use it yet.
  • What the Fu Are You Doing?: Ernest claims to be a master of "hedgeclip-kido" while swinging around a pair of improvised nunchaku made from the handles of a broken hedgeclipper, but only succeeds in smacking himself in the face.
  • When Trees Attack: The book which describes Trantor's goals and weaknesses is titled "Trolls and Other Tree Devils." This helps explain why Trantor's "children" grow from seed pods and why he transforms children into wood, but raises a big question mark over Phineas Worrell's decision to seal him under an oak tree (which he transforms from his prison into his base of operations).

No fuss, no muss, the trolls are dust, knowhutimean?