Ernest Scared Stupid

Ernest Scared Stupid is a 1991 American comedy horror film directed by John R. Cherry III and starring Jim Varney. It is the fifth film to feature the character Ernest P. Worrell. It has him accidentally unleashing an army of trolls upon a small town on Halloween and the plot involves him joining a few children in fighting back. It was shot in Nashville, Tennessee like its predecessors Dr. Otto and the Riddle of the Gloom Beam, Ernest Goes to Camp, Ernest Saves Christmas, and Ernest Goes to Jail.

Ernest Scared Stupid
Theatrical release poster by John Alvin.
Directed byJohn Cherry
Produced byStacy Williams
Martin Erlichman
Coke Sams (Co-producer)
Screenplay byCharlie Gale
Coke Sams
Story byJohn Cherry
Coke Sams
Music byBruce Arntson
Kirby Shelstad
CinematographyHanania Baer
Edited byCraig Bassett
Distributed byBuena Vista Pictures
Release date
October 11, 1991 (Theatrical)
Running time
91 minutes
CountryUnited States
Box office$14.1 million[1]

Due to its modest gross of $14,143,280 at the U.S. box office,[2] it was the final Ernest film to be released under the Disney label Touchstone Pictures. All future Ernest films were independently produced, and following the financial failure of the theatrical release Ernest Rides Again, the Ernest films shifted to a straight-to-video market.

Its opening credits feature a montage of clips from various horror and science fiction films, including Nosferatu (1922), White Zombie (1932), Phantom from Space (1953), The Brain from Planet Arous (1957), The Screaming Skull (1958), Missile to the Moon (1958), The Hideous Sun Demon (1958), The Giant Gila Monster (1959), The Killer Shrews (1959), Battle Beyond the Sun (1959), and The Little Shop of Horrors (1960).


Trantor is a demonic troll who transforms children into wooden dolls to feast upon their energy out on Briarville, Missouri in the late 19th Century. He is captured by the townsfolk and sealed under an oak tree. One of the village elders, Phineas Worrell, an ancestor of Ernest, establishes the seal. Out of vengeance, Trantor places a curse on the Worrell family, stating that he can only be released on the night before Halloween and by the hands of a Worrell. As part of the curse, every generation of Worrells will get "dumber and dumber and dumber", until the dumbest member of the family is foolish enough to release him from his earthly prison, culminating in Ernest P. Worrell.

One hundred years later, Ernest, a sanitation worker, helps a few of his middle school friends, Kenny Binder, Elizabeth and Joey, construct a tree house in the same tree that unknowingly contains the dormant creature, after the mayor's sons demolished their own cardboard haunted house. When Old Lady Hackmore discovers this, she angrily leaves. When Ernest follows her, he learns the story of Trantor and idiotically reports it to the kids. Inadvertently, Ernest releases the troll. Joey is walking home from the tree house when he hears something rustling through the trees. Joey slowly walks and slips down in a muddy hole. Trantor grabs Joey's wrist and turns him into a wooden doll. Ernest finds Sheriff Binder, who is Kenny's dad, and explains the situation but they do not believe him. After none of the towns folk will assist Ernest because they care about the Halloween party, he mounts a one-man (and one-dog) defense operation in preparation for Trantor's appearance. Meanwhile, Trantor captures a boy on a skateboard for his second victim.

Tom and Bobby Tulip, hoping to take advantage of Ernest, sell him a variety of fake troll traps, but one backfires on the mayor's sons and Ernest is fired from his job. Ernest, Kenny and Elizabeth return to Hackmore, where they learn that "the heart of a child, and a mother's care" are the only defenses against the troll. Later that night, Trantor claims Elizabeth as his third victim as he sneaks into her house while she is resting on her bed.

While Kenny and a friend named Gregg are walking, Trantor uses Elizabeth's voice to lure Kenny away, then takes Gregg as a fourth victim. Despite parents being upset at their missing children, Mayor Murdock and Sheriff Cliff Binder still proceed with a Halloween party at the school and they believe the missing children will be at the party. Trantor appears there and takes the mayor's oldest son as his fifth and final wooden doll. In the ensuing fight between Trantor and Ernest, Trantor turns Ernest's dog Rimshot into a wooden doll before being driven off by soft serve ice cream covering Ernest's hands. Kenny realizes that "mother's care" refers to milk and rallies a troll-fighting team to destroy them.

Back at the treehouse, Trantor successfully summons dozens of trolls while Ernest tries, but fails, to stop them. The townspeople show up; however, the trolls overwhelm and beat them up. Kenny and his friends arrive and begin destroying the trolls with milk. During the fight, Trantor escapes beneath the tree where he summons the powers of the underworld, making him invincible, especially to milk. Kenny unsuccessfully tries to destroy Trantor, who turns Kenny into a doll as well. With the rest of the townsfolk now backing him up and telling him to douse Trantor in milk, Ernest realizes that the troll children were susceptible to the milk, while Trantor himself would be weak against unconditional love: "the heart of a child." He takes Trantor and dances with him while the mob watches, filling him with as much love as possible and finishing it off with a kiss to his snot-ridden nose, which causes Trantor to explode.

With Trantor's destruction, Ernest is proclaimed a hero. All of the wooden dolls are restored, including those from the 19th century, and life returns to normal. Sheriff Cliff Binder apologizes to his son for not believing him and Ernest. Ernest is happy that his dog is back to normal as well.


  • Jim Varney as Ernest P. Worrell, Bunny Worrell, Auntie Nelda, and others
  • Eartha Kitt as Francis "Old Lady" Hackmore
  • Austin Nagler as Kenny Binder
  • Shay Astar as Elizabeth
  • Alec Klapper as Joey
  • John Cadenhead as Tom Tulip
  • Bill Byrge as Bobby Tulip
  • Richard Woolf as Matt Murdock
  • Nick Victory as Mike Murdock
  • Jonas Moscartolo as Trantor
  • Ernie Fosselius as Trantor (voice)
  • Daniel Butler as Sheriff Cliff Binder
  • Esther Huston as Amanda Binder
  • Larry Black as Mayor Murdock
  • Denice Hicks as Elizabeth's mother
  • Jackie Welch as Teacher
  • Barkley as Rimshot


The film currently holds a 17% on Rotten Tomatoes. The horror blog A Boos/Booze Situation compared the film to Hocus Pocuswhich also received a poor box office showing but was cemented as a cult classic. In addition, the blog praised the scene in which a girl discovers the troll in her bed, claiming that it has a strong reputation for terrifying young viewers.

Home media

The film had its first DVD release from Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment on September 3, 2002. Mill Creek Entertainment re-released it on DVD on January 18, 2011, as part of the two-disc set Ernest Triple Feature along with Ernest Goes to Camp and Ernest Goes to Jail. Its third re-release was on May 10, 2011 as an individual film.


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