Jesse Bullington and Molly Tanzer have decided to embark upon a quest: watching “classic” adventure movies that informed one or both of their childhoods. These columns will run every Wednesday on their blogs, excluding the last post of each month, which will appear over at Fantasy Magazine. This week, as they prepare to go out of town for a conference, they asked us, their respective spouses Raechel and John, to take over for them. Sure, we said. We’ll take great care of your column. We’ll treat it like our own. Hey, it’s October. How about a classic Halloween film? Something classy and intelligent, yet terrifying. Leave it to us. Really, don’t worry about a thing. Have fun at the conference!
WHOSE RESPONSIBLE THIS??? Jim Varney and the gentle hand of a loving God. Mostly Jim Varney (Ernest Goes to Camp, Ernest Goes to Jail, Ernest Rides Again, and The Beverly Hillbillies) as Ernest, of course. Written and directed by John R. Cherry III (Ernest Goes to Camp, Ernest Goes to Jail, Ernest Rides Again, and shockingly enough not The Beverly Hillbillies). Child acting by a bunch of children who went on to do literally nothing else (with the notable exception of Shay Astar, who rockets from the success of this film right into your nightmares as the “imaginary” friend Isabella in a terrible early episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation.) The voice of Ernie Fosselius as the voice of Trantor the Troll! (Who’s Ernie Fosselius? Only the director of Hardware Wars, the greatest Star Wars parody ever made! Also, apparently, the voice of most of the “ack-ack” noises in Mars Attacks!) Oh, and Eartha Kitt (classic Catwoman, of course) setting this film apart from all other Ernest films by actually acting and being awesome in that way that only Eartha Kitt could.
Quote: “You’re the seventh son of the seventh son, you’re the baby, you’re the boy. . . you are the great redneck hope!”
Alternate quote: “You don’t want to fight me. . . I know tai chi, kung fu, chow mein, and. . . I saw Hulkamania three times, once in slow-mo!”
Alternate alternate quote: “Oh! I sure hope you’re from Keebler!”
And one more for good measure: “Well, nobody’s home! I guess they’re out robbing graves or biting the heads off of chickens or whatever’s in voodoo vogue.”
First viewing by John: The moment it came out on video. I’m guessing ’92, making it pretty much the perfect end to the Reagan/Bush years. I imagine W watched this at least a million times while he was supposed to be running his father’s re-election campaign.
First viewing by Raechel: Same here. Also, I’m pretty sure this movie was the cause of my dad’s dramatic breakup with Blockbuster. Upon returning Ernest Scared Stupid for what must have been the hundredth time, he incurred yet another $4/day late fee and finally snapped.
Most recent viewing by both: Too long ago, that’s for sure. Two weeks ago? Maybe more. Too long.
Impact on John’s childhood development: Huge. Ernest Goes to Camp was the Ernest film that kicked my childhood in the nuts (Molly says: wait, what? What does that even mean? Is that a good thing, or a bad thing? How did it come to pass that I married you?), but I only saw it once, at a friend’s house. Scared Stupid came out when my younger brothers were coming of age, and someone gave it to us as a gift, so it was screened in my living room pretty much every day between its release and the release of Major Payne. If I wasn’t watching Ernest I was hearing him in the background or listening to my brothers quote him. Sometimes when I listen to the rain I hear it tap out a soft, whispering “knowhatimean” on the rooftop.
Impact on Raechel’s childhood development: Like John, I was hooked on Ernest after seeing Ernest Goes to Camp, and really, how could one not be? Scared Stupid is the first cinematic masterpiece I ever watched, and I watched it over and over and over.
Random youtube clip that hasn’t been taken down for copyright infringement:
John’s thoughts prior to re-watching: Hells yeah! It’s like Christmas in October!
Raechel’s thoughts prior to re-watching: What the fuck is wrong with Molly and Jesse? Who wouldn’t want to watch this!? Whatever, they’re probably watching some period piece about ladies who die of sadness and people who live off of accrued interest. (Editorial note: Molly believes at least the latter half of that was actually true at the time.)
John’s thoughts post-viewing: God, this movie is even better than I remembered! Seeing Jim Varney and Eartha Kitt in a movie together is like watching a ninja make love to a supernova. It takes your breath away, but it leaves you with a feeling of deep, untarnished joy (Raechel says: this is perhaps the only time I have ever agreed with John’s assessment of a movie). Ernest Scared Stupid has everything that a movie should have: Ernest, Eartha Kitt, a troll named Trantor, an ancient prophecy, Jim Varney playing Ernest’s great-great-etc. grandfather, Ernest driving a garbage truck, a dog. . . everything! And it’s only an hour and a half! You can watch it twice in the time that it takes to watch a lot of movies that have neither Jim Varney nor Eartha Kitt! This movie is perfection.
Raechel’s thoughts post-viewing: Okay, confession time: I developed a severe allergy to slapstick and potty humor quite early in life. I hate most things that can be described as “silly,” and of all the silly things in the world, one of my least favorites is the category of Halloween movies that aren’t about people being gruesomely murdered (Jesse says: someday you’ll have to fess up to owning the Criterion Collection dvd of Hocus Pocus. . .). In short, if I must suffer a Halloween movie that is not rated R for “graphic horror violence and gore,” it’d better be a damn good one. Ernest Scared Stupid is just that. In truth, I was a little worried about re-watching this one because it prominently features children, which I dislike almost as much as slapstick. But in the end, it didn’t matter because Eartha Kitt screaming at Jim Varney while wielding a motherfucking flamethrower is pretty much the best thing ever to grace the big screen. Also, the main troll’s name is Trantor. Oh, and I’m glad I didn’t watch this film with Jesse because I cried when Ernest’s tiny dog, Rimshot, was transformed into a wooden doll, and while John at least tried to comfort me, Jesse is dogscriminatory and would have laughed at my tears. (Molly says: I just asked John “Is the dog really named Rimshot? Like. . . the thing that happens in a bad comedy routine?” John replied: “Yes, it is a joke about humor.” Oh my god.)
High Points: Jim Varney as Ernest. Jim Varney as a dozen other characters. Eartha Kitt. Eartha Kitt screaming and brandishing a flamethrower. The opening credits, which feature Jim Varney making silly faces interspersed with clips from old horror movies. Also, for all you history buffs out there, Ernest’s take on the Ottoman Empire’s attempts to expand into south Africa:
Low Points: The sad, sad fact that it does, no matter how hard you wish it wouldn’t, end.
Final Verdict: Watch it every October and you will achieve enlightenment.
Next Time: Who knows? Probably not an Ernest movie, so who cares?