The Film: Ernest Scared Stupid (1991)
The Principals: John Cherry (director), Jim Varney, Eartha Kitt, Austin Nagler, Nick Victory, Troll
The Premise: A biting introspection of a savant’s willingness to challenge his own proletarian surroundings against the backdrop of the classic troll-in-a-tree-capturing-children’s-souls traducement. A post-Judeo Christian nightmare that uses cultural introspection to fortify its own spiritual messages, if Ernest is indeed Scared Stupid, he’s a saint for scaring audiences smart.
Is it Good? Only a philistine would suggest otherwise. Director John Cherry, redefining what it means to be an auteur, works from Godard’s compacted modernism to convey the moral reckoning of Ernest, a sanitation engineer and friend of the prepubescent youth movement in his greater protestant encampment. He and his cohorts fall under the spell of Trantor, a nihilistic troll person reveling in his own decadent, mystical woodworking techniques – no doubt representing the commercialistic ideals of the modern carpentry industry.
Is it Worth a Look? The maestro Cherry improvs on classic riffs, and Ernest is but a meat puppet bending to his master’s whims. Ernest’s presence here is twofold, both unifying a divided base of children while also facing off with his own pederastic desires and, indeed, demons. His predilection to denim teases a presence that is strictly blue-collar (is it a coincidence that his collar is blue?). But his transgressions reveal a savant whose goodwill is motivated by greed and corruption when he opens a troll motel. Is he trying to protect the town from the great troll threat or capitalizing on the social predispotion of the troll’s lower class status? The manic performance by Jim Varney is an indictment of Ernest the captialist fool, only finding moral clarity once he has embraced the troll with a kiss – a promise to seperate the societal divides that threaten to isolate inter-species lovemaking.
In 1991 Ernest not only redeemed himself, he redeemed cinema and pushed the boundaries of what art can be and how we are supposed to perceive it.
Random Anecdotes: Jim Varney is dead. A prophecy hidden within the cadence of this film’s montages foretells his return.
Cinematic Soulmates: Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengence, The Last Temptation of Christ, Beaches