Secret horror movie endings you never knew existed

Providing the audience with a satisfying conclusion to a movie is one of the most difficult aspects of filmmaking. If an ending is lackluster, the disappointment can tarnish the entire experience, which is why we often see alternate endings among the bonus materials included in a movie's home release. Directors frequently shoot several endings and then use test audiences as guinea pigs to gauge reactions to their work, and horror movies are no exception. Below are some lesser-known alternate endings to mainstream horror movies, and be warned: if you haven't seen these films, there are spoilers ahead

The Shining (1980)

At the end of director Stanley Kubrick's The Shining, Jack Torrance (Jack Nicholson) freezes to death in the hedge maze of the Overlook Hotel as his wife Wendy (Shelley Duvall) and son Danny (Danny Lloyd) escape his evil spirit-induced murderous rampage in a snow plow. The original ending some audiences saw adds an extra scene that shows Wendy and Danny recovering in the hospital. The hotel's manager, Stuart Ullman (Barry Nelson), shows up to explain to Wendy that she hallucinated the supernatural events at the hotel, and before leaving, he throws a yellow ball to Danny—a ball mirroring the one Danny saw before entering the infamous room 237, suggesting Ullman was somehow complicit in (or at least aware of) the Overlook's evil.

28 Days Later (2002)

The seminal horror movie 28 Days Later arguably brought zombies back into mainstream popular culture. Fans will remember that the movie ends after our heroes Jim, Selena, and Hannah escape from the military compound run by crazed British soldiers. Major Henry West (Christopher Eccleston) shoots Jim (Cillian Murphy) during the escape. In the theatrical ending, Jim survives and we see him later help Selena and Hannah signal a plane for rescue. In the much bleaker original ending, however, Jim dies despite Selena's efforts to save him.

Friday the 13th Part III (1982)

Jason Voorhees' murderous rampage ends in Friday the 13th Part III after our heroine, Chris (Dana Kimmell), plants an ax in his hockey-masked face. Then, in a final act mirroring the ending of the first film, she rows out to the middle of a lake in a canoe and falls asleep. (That's horror movie logic, folks.) Chris hallucinates a horrible vision in which she sees an unmasked Jason leering at her and tries to paddle away in the canoe, but the decomposed corpse of Jason's mother, Pamela, rises out of the water and pulls her under—which turns out to be yet another hallucination. In the original ending, Chris staggered back to shore after waking up in the canoe, only to discover Jason waiting to lop off her head with a machete. The public has never seen this alternate finale, aside from a few stills.

Manhunter (1986)

In director Michael Mann's film adaptation of the Hannibal Lecter novel Red Dragon, the story ends with Will Graham (William Petersen) gunning down the Tooth Fairy (Tom Noonan) before he can claim his last victim. The movie then cuts to an idyllic scene with Graham on the beach with his wife. Mann actually filmed an alternate ending that originally went between those two scenes, showing Graham driving to the house of the Tooth Fairy's next intended victims—and leading the audience to wonder whether Graham's empathy with the Tooth Fairy has led him to become a killer himself. Ultimately Graham shows up, stands in the family's doorway, refuses coffee, and leaves. The scene was probably best left deleted; it's pretty cheesy, and the background track, "Heartbeat" by Red 7, only adds to the corniness.

The Thing (1982)

Director John Carpenter's version of The Thing ends on an ambiguous note. The last two survivors of the alien attack, MacReady (Kurt Russell) and Childs (Keith David), are left in the ruins of their Antarctic base camp. The audience doesn't know if neither, one, or both characters are the creature in disguise. Some TV versions of the movie show one of the camp's dogs escaping into the wilderness—the implication being that the dog is the creature. In another cut, the final confrontation between MacReady and the creature-possessed Blair (Wilford Brimley) featured more stop-motion animation. This version was probably scrapped because the animation quality is somewhat poor. Was Brimley's presence in the movie an indication that The Thing is really the 'beetus in disguise? We'll let you decide.

World War Z (2013)

The version of World War Z we saw in theaters ended with Gerry Lane (Brad Pitt) discovering a potentially workable solution to the zombie infection in Wales. Paramount spent millions to film this new ending after it scrapped the original conclusion, in which Gerry travels from Israel to Moscow, unwillingly joins an anti-zombie squad, and learns that the undead are sensitive to the cold. We also discover that Gerry's wife Karin (Mireille Enos) and their daughters are in a refugee camp in the Everglades, where Karin is sleeping with a soldier (Matthew Fox) in order to survive. Gerry ultimately travels back to the U.S., landing in Oregon, and his quest to rescue his family would have presumably led into a second movie. Obviously this ending is a lot more downbeat that the version we saw in theaters, and it also explains why Fox is in the movie. He appears only briefly, as a soldier during the helicopter rescue scene, in the theatrical version.

Seven

The serial killer thriller Seven boasts one of the most disturbing and memorable endings in modern-day cinema. In the theatrical cut, Detective Mills (Brad Pitt) ignores the pleas of his partner (Morgan Freeman) and guns down the murderous John Doe (Kevin Spacey) after learning—in spectacularly grisly and get-wrenching fashion—that Doe murdered his wife (Gwyneth Paltrow). Director David Fincher also storyboarded, but never shot, an alternate ending. The situation is the same, but before Mills can shoot John, Somerset does it instead, presumably to prevent Mills from killing a suspect and staining his conscience while ruining his fledgling career. You can view the storyboarded sequence here.