Ernest P. Worrell, the legendary character of film and television, was created by classically trained thespian Jim Varney. In the 1980's, Varney starred in hundreds of commercials in the United States, selling everything from Sprite to dairy products. He then took the inept yet loveable bumpkin to the big screen, starting with "Ernest Goes To Camp" in 1987, the last "Ernest" movie was 1998's "Ernest in the Army". All of these movies essentially had the same formula: Ernest is a resident of some small "Anywhere U.S.A." town, something crazy happens, everyone of normal intelligence fails to save the day, and somehow Ernest is the one to pull out the big win. Seems a bit far fetched, right? How could someone who seems too dumb to function in society somehow come out victorious every time? It's my belief that not only was Ernest P. Worrell NOT an idiot, but he was in fact a genius with ties to the supernatural, saving us from evils that we couldn't possibly comprehend. I'll be exploring three films: "Ernest Goes to Camp", "Ernest Goes to Jail", and "Ernest Scared Stupid". Within these three iconic films, which I also believe are linked, I'll be able to show evidence to prove what I already speculate to be true. That truth, is that Ernest P. Worrell was made for one thing, and that thing is war with evil forces.
First, let's look at the first of the "Ernest..." series, the campy (pun intended) "Ernest Goes to Camp". Taking place in Camp Kikakee, a fictional camp somewhere in the Midwest. Ernest is a handyman who yearns to be a counselor, willing to do anything for a chance, including taking a group of juvenile criminals under his wing. He slowly earns the trust and respect of his wards, teaching them the importance of friendship and standing up for your beliefs. Ernest makes a major blunder, as he does throughout the series, and fast talks the owner of the camp, an elderly Native American chief, into selling the camp to a brutal mining corporation. Ernest and the campers then fight off the corporation with the help of the camp cook and a bunch of turtles with parachutes. The mining thugs are defeated and peace is restored. "Ernest the Idiot" saves the camp somehow. But, is it as simple as it seems? I think not!
It is my belief that in this first "Ernest" film it is more than just suggested that Ernest is in fact in league with the supernatural. The Native chief's granddaughter is angry with Ernest because she says "You and I are the only two that are able to communicate with my grandfather". So, you're telling me that Ernest is some kind of simpleton, yet is somehow able to comprehend a form of sign language used by less than 1% of the American population? Not likely! This is the first sign that there's more going on upstairs for Ernest. Next, before their big battle with the miners, the chief gives Ernest and the campers war paint while singing. Then, when Ernest has his final battle with the biggest, toughest miner, the miner pulled a gun. We're reminded of a story the head counselor tells earlier in the movie, about an "Indian brave" who is unharmed in battle. The mine enforcer is unable to hit Ernest with a bullet even though he is ten feet away. Why? While applying the war paint, the chief is in fact placing a spell on Ernest to make him invincible! Which explains how Ernest can go through all the physical trauma in the other movies with barely a scratch! ERNEST CAN NOT DIE! We'll see further examples of this phenomenon in the other two films.
Second, 1990's "Ernest Goes to Jail", one of the more bizarre "Ernest" films. Where Ernest is a bank janitor who, sort of like he did in "Camp", yearns for a better position, in this case a bank teller job. Ernest is chosen for jury duty for the trial of an inmate who killed a man while in prison. The inmate informs Felix Nash, a hardened killer who is on death row, that there's a man on his jury that is Nash's exact double. They hatch a plot to kidnap Ernest while the jury is touring the crime scene, switch their clothes, and let Ernest be killed in the electric chair while Nash walks free, taking over Ernest's life. Their plan almost comes to fruition, but Ernest is able to be-friend an inmate and escape, rescuing his coworkers, saving his love interest, and flying (yes, flying) away with a bomb before it could destroy the bank where he works.
There are several more examples of Ernest's ties to the underworld in this superb specimen of cinematic mastery. First, it's my belief that Felix Nash wasn't just a guy who happened to look just like Ernest. This was actually Ernest's doppleganger, his evil twin, the night to his day. Ernest, being of pure light, a crusader for good, was being drawn to Felix Nash, a man of pure evil. The universe often sets itself right, and this battle of the two would have happened eventually. It wasn't enough that Nash would have been executed, Ernest would have to defeat this man in mortal combat in order to set the rules of space and time correct. It's just like Jet Li in "The One". The Good and Bad versions of the same man, separated by parallel dimensions, are drawn to one another for a final showdown.
Second, Ernest's ability to absorb electricity and then use that power at will. He is able to take the energy he absorbs during his botched execution to escape from prison, then the same power helps him overpower Nash, rendering him unconscious for the police to apprehend him. Ernest then takes the bomb that Nash has rigged to explode and leaps into the air. He crashed through the skylight and into the black night sky. The bomb explodes in a dazzling display of sparks and fire. It seems as though all is lost, our hero is dead. Then, suddenly, Ernest falls hundreds of feet from the sky to the hard tile floor. He is charred, a bit sore, but otherwise unharmed. He then utters the words, "I came. I saw. I got blow'd up". Tell me, how could it be that Ernest can fly through a skylight without a scratch, survive a massive explosion, then fall hundreds of feet unscathed? He is obviously still under the protection of the Native American spell placed upon him from the chief in "Ernest Goes to Camp". Once again, Ernest P. Worrell is a man unable to die, on a mission to take down the forces of darkness.
Finally, let's explore "Ernest Scared Stupid", the 1991 film that has our hero in Briarville, Missouri. He's a garbage man working for the city. He oddly enough is best friends with three ten year olds, Kenny, Elizabeth, and Joey, whom he takes deep in the woods to build a treehouse after bullies destroy the cardboard haunted house they constructed. After their house is completed, "Old Lady Hackmore" (Eartha Kitt), whose land this tree house is built upon, informs Ernest that the tree sits atop the prison of Trantor the Troll. A demon who feeds upon the souls of children and turns them into wooden dolls. She informs him that the troll can only be awakened the night before Halloween, and only after Ernest says a certain incantation. It can only be Ernest because his ancestor, Phineas Worrell, is the one who placed Trantor in captivity. Ernest releases the troll, the troll soon captures several children, and releases his evil troll army to reek havoc on the world. Kenny, the son of the sheriff, figures out that milk (referred in an ancient book as "a mothers' care"), is the only way to kill the trolls. The children to Briarville raid the local supermarket for all their dairy products and begin to lay waste to their troll enemies. All the trolls are dead, except for Trantor, who becomes some sort of super troll, and is unable to be taken down by milk. Ernest figures out that the other part of the ancient text, "the heart of a child", means to destroy the troll you must show this evil creature pure love that only a child could. The troll is destroyed and happiness reigns through the land.
Again here is the constant that we are seeing throughout these movies, Ernest is unable to die. At one point while playing with modifications he made in his garbage truck, he falls in the truck and his crushed. Kenny and Elizabeth hear his cries and come to his rescue. You see Ernest in a cube of crushed trash, with his legs and arms bent and twisted. He then fall face first to the concrete, yet seconds later he is fine, driving the truck without a scratch. He's immortal. The spell put upon him by the chief is still at work. He's untouchable.
Why does Ernest release the troll? Because, even if the troll is imprisoned under the tree, the troll still lives. In order to vanquish this evil force, Ernest must first set it free. Of course, this means that he's willing to put the children of Briarville in danger. Ernest though is in full control of the situation. Even when it seems as though he's flying by the seat of his pants, it's part of the plan. This plan has been stretching through the three films we've been exploring. The spell by the Native American chief has been protecting him from harm, the powers he absorbed from the electricity and the explosion in "Ernest Goes to Jail", have prepared him for this adventure. Vanquishing this evil force and save the world from a demon troll invasion. My theory is that it all began with his Great-Grandfather, Phineas. When he put Trantor in this hole, it was then written that one day, a Worrell would be in charge of ridding the world of this terror. Early in life Ernest decided that it would be him, that he would learn the skills needed to kill trolls. To set in motion the events that would set him up to be a hero. Remember, Old Lady Hackmore was there when Phineas Worrell put Trantor in the ground (something that is implied when at the end, her siblings come out of the tree. Past victims of Trantor the Troll). It's also obvious that Briarville is Ernest's hometown, or at least where his family is from. He always knew he'd be back. He took labor jobs to make his body strong, but had to seem inept at these jobs to keep up his guise of being a simpleton. He went to Camp Kikakee to learn the magical ways of Native Americans, he took a job at that certain bank in order to take out Felix Nash, his double who would be executed, leaving the energy the two of them shared to be left only to Ernest, and then finally as the garbage man in Briarville, the place he needed to be to kill a troll and save the children of the world.
Ernest P. Worrell is such a great example of "don't judge a book by it's cover". Here's a man living as an outcast. Walking the Earth alone with only his dog at his side. He puts his life on the line to keep down the evil in the world that is so eager to destroy us all.
Thank you Ernest. Rest in Peace Mr. James Varney.
PS - "Eat Miak and die, Boogerlips!"