Part of the Halloween season that is so enjoyable is how it can turn the clock back for just about everyone. Just because you can’t trick-or-treat anymore doesn’t mean you can’t feel like a kid. Getting scared creates a sense of innocence as the idea ofsafety is thrown out the window, even for just a split second. Tuesday’s from here on out are dedicated to films that rely on childhood, whether that is your own or the children that the films were made out for. Starting off, Childhood Tuesday’s brings us a familiar face that many may have forgotten about- Ernest P. Worrell.
There was a time when Ernest was a household name; several feature length films and the television show flooded the market with Jim Varney’s iconic character of buffoonery. “Ernest Scared Stupid” might be the most popular if the bunch as it throws the character into a world of family-friendly frights.
Like majority of his life, Ernest finds a way to cause a ruckus through his very own stupidity; but now in a much more dangerous manner. As descendant of an 19th century villager, Ernest accidentally frees an ancient troll named Trantor in present day, the exact troll which his ancestor captured long ago. If that wasn’t enough, the troll terrorizes the town as he captures children’s spirits to bring to life his own troll army. Working with the kids of the town, Ernest has to bring down Trantor before world domination sets.
Let’s be honest, “Ernest Scared Stupid” isn’t an award winning film or even a worthy contender of top horror related movies, but what it does have is nostalgia. Jim Varney himself is a wonderful character actor, who is utilized very much within the film. His raspy voice and goofy faces only help sell the film to children. What made Ernest such a popular character was how relatable he is to kids. By having just about every aspect dialed to 10, the eccentricity mirrors that of a child’s behavior. Throughout the film, Ernest jumps between personalities, such as an ancient Roman, a soldier and even an elderly woman. At first glance it may seem quite ridiculous, but being an adult sized child, Ernest is filled with imagination.
There’s no denying that “Ernest Scared Stupid” is very much a cheese fest. Just about every character has at least one cringe-inducing line of dialogue. Aside from Varney, every actor is either over the top or underwhelming acting skills. To be fair, this works within the world as Ernest is the star and deserves all the attention.
For those that do remember, the film is famously known to 80’s/90’s kids as a scary movie- thanks to the trolls. Children who are captured by Trantor the troll are transformed into miniature wood carvings, a morbid depiction for a kid’s film. If that wasn’t enough, the design of the trolls can send shivers down the spine to any adolescent. This is all due to the fantastic practical effects. If this movie was made today, all the charm would be thrown out the window with the use of CGI. Thankfully, like most films in the same era, practical effects offer a physical object that feels realer than any computer made product. For a low budget movie, “Ernest Scared Stupid” prevails when it comes to visual looks. Trantor can give off a series of emotions through animatronics build into the costume. Blistering eyebrows wrinkle as he scowls at his victims, and the drool factor is indeed in play. Even with its bulky size, the costume allows the actor to have full range motion, making it easy for Trantor to run, climb and pursue his targets
Is this a film going to satisfy your thirst for screams? Most likely not. But if you want to have a night of nostalgia or a Halloween themed family movie night this is it. Throw out any judgement before hand and experience it as it was meant to be- with a childhood mindset.