Ernest Scared Stupid: The Story of a Snot-Nosed Troll That Wrecked My Youth
What makes a creature scary? The first thing is that the creature has a single purpose. Nothing on the planet is more valuable to the creature than that one thing he wants. There is no negotiation with the creature. He won’t enter into a conversation about anything. Physically, he must be menacing, He swings his arms when he is walking. The pitch of his growl has the ability to stop you in your tracks. And, most of all, there is snot.
John Cherry – Ernest Scared Stupid Director
Ernest Scared Stupid destroyed me for several months back in 1991. I legitimately couldn’t sleep and I was convinced a snot-nosed troll would attack me at any moment (check out my fear in graph form). This must seem like a joke, but I am totally earnest when it comes to my fear of Trantor the troll. I watched countless horror films as an unsupervised child of the 1990s and I lost zero sleep. Jason, Freddy, Chucky, Michael Myers and and all the others didn’t scare me because they had a pattern, stuck to summer camps and slaughtered teenagers. I was never afraid of the killers because the situations didn’t feel familiar. I didn’t go to summer camps, my parents didn’t burn a killer, and I’m pretty sure I didn’t have a psychotic brother in a mental hospital.
There was no safeguard against the little bastard and even the director John Cherry admitted he made the troll too scary in his book Keeper of the Clown: My Life With Ernest. In Cherry’s quest for a terrible villain he shot himself in the foot and later admitted:
It turns out the troll was too scary, and it hurt the box office by $10,000,000.
I’m still amazed at what Cherry was able to get away with in Ernest Scared Stupid. Children were straight up hunted and Trantor’s style was so unpredictable that nobody knew when or where he would strike. The little shit attacked at random and when he missed one opportunity he would move on to the next with no plan. His only plan was to kidnap children in any way possible. For instance, in what might be the most frightening PG-moment of all time Trantor decided to capture a young girl by waiting for her on her bed.
The scene is cruel because it messes with your head. You initially think Elizabeth is safe because there is nothing under the bed and she seems relaxed after the ordeal. However, once she lays back down Trantor is staring at her like an evil punk*ss demon spawn. Who thought this was good for kids? Did anybody at Disney think this was too scary? The crazy thing is I remember that the adults next to me jumped when the troll appeared. Adults were scared! I distinctly remember leaving all the lights on in my room and looking under the bed from my bedroom door. I took every precaution to not become a wooden statue, but I always knew my attempts would be futile against such a determined killer.
There have been characters that hunted children in films before, but none of them had so much snot. I remember watching Chitty Chitty Bang Bang and thinking I could beat up the Child Catcher. I wouldn’t have fallen for the Child Catcher’s lame ploys and I was annoyed that so many people were scared of him.
I never thought I could fistfight Trantor, and I was pretty certain my parents wouldn’t allow me to always carry milk around with me. I just accepted the fact that I would inevitably become troll fodder. Before I watched Ernest Scared Stupid I loved riding my bike around the surrounding neighborhoods because it felt like freedom. However, after the viewing I rode my bike as fast as I could and stayed away from the woods surrounding my house. What initially felt like a vast wonderland became a terrifying area filled with countless places I could be attacked by a troll. It didn’t help that Ernest was a grown man with a big truck and he couldn’t bruise the immortal troll. Take a look at this clip and you will realize how powerful Trantor was.
Ernest Scared Stupid was meant to be a children’s film that featured a grown man being cheeky. However, it became a nightmare factory that scared the life out of thousands of unsuspecting children. If you have young children please don’t show them Ernest Scared Stupid. If you do, I guarantee you’d rather have your hand stuck in a dumpster than deal with the justifiably frightened children.