The Blair Witch Project almost instantly entered the annals of great horror with its ending; the two final survivors, Heather and Mike, coming upon a dilapidated house in the middle of the woods.
Hearing the voice of their friend Josh, calling out to them from inside the building, the pair rush in, but soon become separated; when Heather finds Mike again, he's standing eerily in the corner of the room, his face turned away from her.
She screams, her camera falls, the film ends, and audiences leave their seats shaking in terror; The Blair Witch Project always triumphed on its simplicity, but the film nearly took some quite bewildering turns.
"When we came up with that ending we had been agonizing over making sure there was a pay-off," the film's co-director Dan Myrick told Entertainment Weekly. "We didn’t want to lead the audience on this entire build-up and then just cut to black; there needed to be some kind of what-the-f*ck moment at the end, but at the same time we didn’t want to see a person in a bad witch costume come out and grab them."
"Our big struggle with the movie was always how to end it," co-director Eduardo Sanchez added. "We didn’t have any money, so we couldn’t do any special effects so we had to figure out how to end it without ruining the rest of the film. We came up with the idea three days before we shot it. We thought it was great — kind of unexplained, but it gave you the idea that something supernatural was happening."
However, the simplicity of the film's ending inevitably confused test audiences, even though they still admitted they were terrified, which caused distributor Artisan to panic. Myrick and Sanchez were sent to film possible alternate endings, ranging from Mike hanging from a noose, crucified on one of the film's stick men, and with a bloodied chest.
The endings appear to have made their way online, and it's pretty clear they don't come close to the sinister effectiveness of the film's original ending, with some even looking downright silly.
The directors returned to the executives and stuck by their original ending; Myrick explained, "what makes us fearful is something that’s out of the ordinary, unexplained. The first ending kept the audience off balance; it challenged our real world conventions and that’s what really made it scary."
The executives relented, though warning it would cost them millions at the box office. In reality, the film proved a gargantuan hit, grossing $248.6 million worldwide, over 4,000 times its original budget. So perhaps it's always best to trust your instincts, after all.
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