Ever pick up a DVD or Blu-ray and learn that the horror movie you’ve been aching to see happened to have an awesome alternate ending?
This phenomenon isn’t entirely uncommon, but it’s always an interesting experience. One would automatically assume that an official theatrical release, or a standard home-release edition, would feature, by default, the greatest finale filmed… but that’s not always the case.
Get a look at a handful of some of our personal favorite films that surprised fans when their home video releases revealed alternate endings that probably should have been the theatrical endings from the jump!
[WARNING: Spoilers ahead!]
THE DESCENT (2005)
No doubt one of the front-runners of a category such as this, Neil Marshall’s THE DESCENT is an amazing and truly creepy picture. It also got chopped up quite a bit for its stateside release. Marshall’s planned and exceptionally bleak finale sees Sarah (Shauna Macdonald) stuck in the cave as the film comes to an end, still unable to escape. She either hallucinates an encounter with her deceased daughter, or she’s already dead… and that’s what the next phase offers.
Either way, it was much darker than the climax we witnessed here in the US, in which Sarah does escape from the cave — ultimately allowing THE DESCENT 2 to take place.
THE BUTTERFLY EFFECT (2004)
Full disclosure: I still don’t know exactly what the fuck was going on for half of THE BUTTERFLY EFFECT. What I do know is this: Ashton Kutcher’s character Evan has the ability to basically travel back in time and change the way certain scenarios unfold. It seems like a cool idea — until the changes start to screw up the present. Evan ultimately decides he’s got to take some drastic measures to ensure that, in the long run, everyone makes it out of his reality intact.
The final moments of the film see Evan head back in time and axe an entire relationship by being a complete asshole to his would-be love. The alternate Director’s Cut version, however, is bat-shit crazy — and brutally dark: Evan doesn’t just travel back to a moment to execute his future relationship early; he flat-out strangles himself while still inside the womb… with his own fucking umbilical cord, no less. Harsh? Sure. Savagely superb? Absolutely!
PARANORMAL ACTIVITY (2007)
Oren Peli’s first low-budget indie injected some serious life into the found footage sub-genre — which seems to ride a rollercoaster in regard to popularity and reception. It’s well-made, creepy as all hell, and occasionally bone-chilling. While I understand the decision to ensure Katie survives the events of the film — especially given its immense popularity — Peli’s original finale kind of rocked.
Instead of surviving and going all ghoulish in the final frames, Katie (Katie Featherston) is actually gunned down and killed after she’s murdered her boyfriend Micah. The outcome leaves a pit in the belly, and has a seriously disconcerting effect, but it would have basically buried the potential of a sequel — which we all know proved very fruitful.
DAWN OF THE DEAD (1978)
We’re all still reeling from the recent loss of the legendary George A. Romero; the man essentially invented what we recognize as the modern zombie, and he turned a slick, inventive concept into a long-running vehicle for terror and powerful social commentary. DAWN OF THE DEAD, the second flick in Romero’s zombie franchise, remains a big fan-favorite… but it wasn’t always going to end as we witnessed, with Peter (Ken Foree) and Fran (Gaylen Ross) flying off in the news chopper. Romero’s original and wildly powerful concept for a close was much darker… pitch black, in fact.
Rather than flying away, and hopefully living to see another day, Peter and Fran kill themselves: Peter sends a bullet flying into his own melon, while Fran jumps face-first into the helicopter’s spinning blades — turning her head into a mist of regurgitated Spaghetti-Os.
Ultimately, Romero chose not to film this scripted finale… but there is an image, shown above, of what is said to be a test shot of the original ending.
FRIDAY THE 13TH PART III (1982)
It’s the thing of Hollywood legend — the wonderfully conceived, but never actually shot, alternate ending of FRIDAY THE 13TH PART III. What you remember is a spooky little dream sequence that sees Jason pop up in a window as Chris (Dana Kimmell) wakes in a boat on the lake. She sees him, panics and immediately attempts to paddle away. When she looks back, Jason’s gone, and for a split second we’re led to believe it was all just a hallucination, and nothing more. Then — in a nod to the original film’s conclusion — we see the rotted corpse of a no-longer-headless Pamela Voorhees leap from the water and drag Chris beneath the surface. It’s a cool enough closing piece… but it’s nowhere near as cool as one of the primary alternate shots.
In that version, instead of allowing the heroine to paddle away from Jason, we would have seen the hulking beast get his hands on Chris, promptly taking her head clean off with his trusty machete. This scene was shot — but to date it hasn’t emerged intact. However, there are a number of still images of the complete scene, and thanks to one crafty YouTuber, it’s been reconstructed in relatively smooth fashion (as shown above).
There’s a wealth of other noteworthy alternate endings out there, so we may have missed your favorite… If that’s the case, let us know, and we’ll be back with more!