When it comes to horror movies, it’s always interesting to learn how the moviemakers came up with their endings — especially endings as ambiguously terrifying as that of The Blair Witch Project. An ending can make or break a horror movie, and the directors recently revealed how they thought up theirs, as well as all the alternate ones they shot which were a lot weirder, but maybe less scary.

The ending to The Blair Witch Project (spoilers, obviously), consists of the last two characters standing, Heather and Mike, running through a dark house looking for their friend Josh, who they can hear calling from somewhere in the building. They get separated, and Heather finds Mike standing in the corner of a room. She screams, drops her camera, and the movie ends. Dan Myrick and Eduardo Sanchez recently sat down with Entertainment Weekly to talk about their unused alternate endings, and explained exactly why they picked the one they did. Myrick said they knew their ending had to be a pay-off for the rest of the movie.

When we came up with that ending we had been agonizing over making sure there was a pay-off. 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--- 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.

Sanchez said that apparently they came up with the ending when they were almost done with the rest of the movie.

Our big struggle with the movie was always how to end it. 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.

The studio, Artisan, wasn’t sure that an ending as ambiguous as that would be enough, so they sent the team back to film a few more (which are embedded below (h/t /Film). They’re a lot weirder and most of them bring those creepy stick crosses back. However, Myrick and Sanchez kept their original idea, and the movie was a hit. Said Myrick:

When we screened it, people were overwhelmingly confused. However, when asked if they were scared, 19 out of 20 hands went up.

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.

Horror is best when left up to the imagination. Plenty of movies have been ruined by too much explanation, which makes an illogical situation logical and takes the fearful ambiguity out of it. Myrick and Sanchez had the right idea with their ending: the film made $248.6 million worldwide, which is about four thousand times their budget, and the ending is iconic to this day.

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