The final frames of The Blair Witch Project are beautifully enigmatic. Michael faces a corner as Heather, who holds the camera, is about to meet a grim, unseen end. It's chilling. It's so iconic we use that film as a measuring stick for other films. However, it turns out there was almost an entirely different ending, according to the directors in a recent interview.
Co-directors Dan Myrick and Eduardo Sanchez told Entertainment Weekly the ending was a product of wanting to do something jarring and strange. It was also a product of having no budget to do something more elaborate.
"When we came up with that ending we had been agonizing over making sure there was a pay-off," Myrick told EW. "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–k 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."
"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," Sanchez added. "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."
After Artisan picked up the film at Sundance, test screenings turned up one clear response. The ending was scary as hell, but it was also totally confusing. "When we screened it, people were overwhelmingly confused," Myrick said. "However, when asked if they were scared, 19 out of 20 hands went up." Something had to change.
"We went back to that house with a skeleton crew and basically just shot all the endings that Ed and I threw out when we were dreaming up the script," Myrick said. Some of those endings included Michael "hanging from a noose, crucified on a wooden stick man, and with a bloodied chest."
In addition to those endings, the team shot one extra interview that would help explain why Michael was standing in the corner in the original version. "We shot an interview with a guy where he explains a little bit of the mythology of the killer Rustin Parr; how he would make one kid stand in the corner while he killed the others," Sanchez explained. "We felt that if we stuck it in early in the movie there was going to be some audience members that would connect it to the ending."
That interview gave audiences and executives enough to chew on and the original ending stuck. Just think, if they hadn't shot that pick-up, you wouldn't pee just a little any time you saw someone standing in a corner.
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