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The ending is arguably the most important part of any horror movie -- you can make the greatest chiller of all time and then ruin it in the last five minutes. That's why Jaws doesn't feature an epilogue where Brody and Hooper ride a tandem bike to a Red Lobster parking lot and listlessly scream, "Now we gotta screw a shark!" while a rotting church organ slowly wheezes out an unsettling rendition of "America The Beautiful." (Actually, bad example.)

Anyway, many of your favorite horror flicks only narrowly avoided being forever cast into the bargain bin of mediocrity by having ridiculously shitty endings that were fortunately changed at the last minute. DECADES-OLD SPOILERS AHEAD.

7
The Shining Originally Ended With The Hotel Manager Adopting Jack Nicholson's Family

Warner Bros.

The most horrifying hotel experience outside of pointing a blacklight at your bedsheets, The Shining is one of the most obsessed-over horror movies ever made. The devotion to this film is so great that an entirely separate film was made just to discuss all the dumbshit fan theories about it.

At the end of the movie, possessed caretaker Jack Torrance freezes to death, allowing his wife and son, Wendy and Danny, to escape. Then we see that Jack has become a ghost, or maybe he was always a ghost, or maybe you're the ghost. Anyway, it's a creepily ambiguous ending that doesn't spell things out for the audience.

Warner Bros.
But it probably involves ghosts.

The Dumb Ending That Almost Happened:

The original version of The Shining featured an epilogue with Wendy and Danny in a hospital. The hotel manager, Ullman, whom you only ever see for a brief sequence in the beginning of the movie, shows up and asks Wendy to come live with him in L.A.

Warner Bros.
"Hi, I'm here to throw a romantic Hail Mary."

Warner Bros.
"Is ... is he serious?"

Warner Bros.
"Haunted hotel and chill?"

Then Ullman rolls Danny a yellow ball, just like the one Danny plays with in the hotel, implying either that Ullman is king of the ghosts or that the whole "evil hotel" bit is just a gaslighting scheme he uses to pick up women.

Of course, the biggest question on everyone's mind at the end of The Shining is: How will all the evil and attempted murders affect The Overlook Hotel's business? Luckily the movie's final shot would have been a block of text putting those fears to rest.

Warner Bros.
*play for full effect*

The "creepy guy hitting on a hospitalized widow followed by The Overlook's Yelp profile" ending played for a week in theaters before director Stanley Kubrick realized how totally dumb it was and had it removed from every print.

6
A Nightmare On Elm Street Was Almost All Just A Dream

New Line Cinema

Wes Craven's A Nightmare On Elm Street was everywhere in the '80s. Freddy Krueger had more crap with his name on it than The California Raisins, Fido Dido, and New Kids On The Block combined. If a product existed, movie executives would find a way to slap the undead pedophile's face on it and market it to kids, presumably to satisfy some blood magic curse of eternal irony.

x-entertainment
"Hey, remember when Freddy murdered all those teenagers? Wasn't that bodacious?"

Of course, it's hard to believe any of that would have happened if they'd gone with the original ending, which would have ruined any chance of Freddy becoming the marketable mascot of a major franchise.

The Dumb Ending That Almost Happened:

At the end of A Nightmare On Elm Street, Freddy Krueger is defeated, and heroine Nancy wakes up to find everything has gone back to normal, Wizard Of Oz-style. All of her friends are still alive, her mother isn't a crazy drunk anymore, and she skips off into a convertible with them. But just when you think everything is OK, Freddy's arm explodes through the front door of Nancy's house and drags her mom through the tiny window straight into downtown Hell.

New Line Cinema
Dude, the doorknob is like right there.

In the original cut, Freddy never showed up again. Nancy and her friends hop into their car ... and that's it. They have a wonderful day together. Everything else had been a dream. Freddy was just some monster she'd whipped up in her own nightmare.

New Line Cinema

New Line Cinema
It was all a setup for Nightmare On Elm Street 2: Oh Crap, I Forgot To Study For My Algebra Final!

Regardless of the fact that "it was all a dream" was already a stale narrative device back in the '80s, this means that Freddy himself had never really existed. Instead of an all-consuming evil, Freddy was likely just Nancy's way of dealing with some bad carne asada. Craven only changed the ending because the head of New Line Cinema, the studio that released the movie, wanted to make room for a lucrative run of sequels. Yes, this unused ending would've deprived civilization of an entire album's worth of Freddy Krueger singing sock-hop ballads.

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5
The Cursed Videotape Nearly Wound Up In A Random Video Store In The Ring

DreamWorks Pictures

The Ring terrified audiences back in 2002 -- unless you stuck it out with Betamax, in which case you were probably laughing at all the deaths the evil VHS tape caused, what with its inferior picture quality and slightly larger cassette size.

Of course, one of the biggest problems Naomi Watts faces at the end of the film is what to do with the haunted videotape once she's made a copy of it to save her unfortunately curious child. (One early solution was for her to give the tape to a child killer, although that idea was dropped in favor of the brilliant idea to not have a random child murderer suddenly appear in the movie.) Ultimately, they made the bold decision to just never answer that question and leave the ending ambiguous -- we have no idea who she's going to show the video to, but we know she has to show it to somebody.

The Dumb Ending That Almost Happened:

Originally, there was going to be a scene early in the film where Naomi Watts goes to a video store. The clerk dickishly implies that she's only renting movies for her child so she can spend the evening getting hammered on boxed wine, because in the early 2000s, video store clerks still foolishly believed they were indestructible kings.

DreamWorks Pictures
"Hi, I'd like to rent this movie."

DreamWorks Pictures
"Oh yeah? Maybe you should also rent my dick."

DreamWorks Pictures
"No! Mocked by the Gods Themselves!"

You can tell this encounter has really stuck in her craw, so at the end of the movie, where does she decide to put the videotape that will kill anyone who watches it? At that same video store, because take that, subpar customer service.

DreamWorks Pictures
And that's why brick-and-mortar video stores are all dead now.

We can see what they were going for, implying that she had given away her humanity to save her son by placing the videotape in an area where any innocent person (including another child) might pick it up and watch it, but this is a terrible plan. Who the hell is going to rent an unmarked videotape from a Blockbuster? Her seven days would come and go and that video would sit there unrented, and the ghost would show up and scary-face her son to death. Of course, the most disturbing part of this unused ending is that the "Employee Picks" section features Caddyshack II.

4
Gremlins Almost Had Gizmo Die And Come Back To Life As A Tinkerbell-Like Fairy

Warner Bros.

Apart from the fact that it may be a coded allegory for white suburban xenophobia and/or one repressed man's violent sexual awakening, Gremlins is a fun Christmas-themed horror movie for the whole family, reinforcing the notion that if you don't obey a simple set of rules, everyone in your town will be horribly killed.

At the end of the film, the mysterious Chinese vendor reclaims Gizmo, the adorable Howie Mandel-voiced puppet, from the silly white people who basically kidnapped him. Everyone learns a valuable lesson about stealing magical animals from dimly lit curiosity shops, and a jaunty synth-driven theme song carries us into the end credits.

The Dumb Ending That Almost Happened:

In the original scripted ending, Gizmo battles the Gremlins leader, Stripe, then succumbs to his wounds and dies. As will soon become clear, this is actually the least appalling thing that happens.

Warner Bros.
"He is much like my interest in this script."

Gizmo's cuddly little corpse starts to glow, then grows technicolor butterfly wings and starts flying around like "Tinkerbell" with "colorful stardust" trailing behind, presumably because screenwriter Chris Columbus had just taken a bunch of acid and watched Peter Pan.

Warner Bros.
"I hope it flies straight up my nostrils, oh man."

The movie ends with Gizmo flying away in a candy-colored, psychedelic fireworks show, leaving Billy behind to mumble out some dumbshit thing about what a lovely Christmas this has turned out to be in spite of all their friends and neighbors being slaughtered by monsters.

Warner Bros.
"Merry Cocainemas! Merry Cocainemas, everyone!"

This isn't an ending to a horror-comedy; it's the cover of a prog-rock album from the 1970s. No one's ever watched a scary movie and thought, "I wish that character had transformed into a laser show at the planetarium when he died." On top of that, it wrecks the central theme of the movie, which is that if you don't follow the rules, chaos erupts. In this ending, the only lesson Billy learns is that when he endangers his entire town, things get amazing.

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3
The Exorcist Almost Ended With A Goofy Casablanca Reference

Warner Bros.

William Friedkin's The Exorcist was one of the most shocking movies of all time when it was released. It's famous for not only its graphic, disturbing imagery but for literally being the only good movie about demonic possession ever made.

Originally, the movie ended with the heroic Father Karras throwing himself out a window to destroy the evil spirit, and new best pals Father Dyer and Lt. Kinderman meeting briefly afterward to discuss what a crazy adventure they'd just witnessed.

The Dumb Ending That Almost Happened:

The original ending, which can be seen in the director's cut of The Exorcist, extends the final chummy meeting between Dyer and Kinderman, giving us an even fuller dose of these two new buddies palling around as if we all didn't just see a girl stabbing her vagina into bloody oblivion with a crucifix 40 minutes earlier.

Warner Bros.
"So ... pub?"

Warner Bros.
"I guess the strippers aren't open yet, so sure!"

It's a little bit like the ending to Casablanca ... which, in the scripted version of the scene, was exactly what the characters thought, too.

Warner Bros.

Warner Bros.
"A rainbow with 'THE END' in the middle then shoots across the screen."

Screenwriter William Peter Blatty (who also wrote the novel on which The Exorcist is based) felt that the audience needed this extra bit of help to understand the subtle brilliance of his craft. Friedkin trimmed this part out (you can't even see it in the director's cut), presumably because he realized that a pair of supporting characters cheekily breaking the fourth wall was perhaps not the best way to end his legendary horror film.

2
A Hitchcock Classic Almost Had A Dumb Ending Thanks To Censors

Paramount Pictures

Alfred Hitchcock's Vertigo is considered by some to be the greatest movie of all time, probably because those polls were being conducted in regions where Die Hard was never released. Basically, Jimmy Stewart is a private investigator with an intense fear of heights who gets hired by a friend to follow the friend's wife. Because this is a Hitchcock film and not a Shyamalan film, there's an unexpected twist that makes narrative sense, and Stewart eventually realizes he's been used as a pawn to help cover up a murder.

The film ends with Stewart finally unraveling the mystery and conquering his acrophobia, only to have his love interest suddenly fall to her death, because this is a Hitchcock film and Hitchcock hated women.

It's an abruptly haunting ending, especially when the audience was expecting all of Jimmy Stewart's friends and neighbors to show up and cheer him with piles of money and a chorus of "Auld Lang Syne."

Paramount Pictures
"It's a good thing this tower has a bell I can ring."

The Dumb Ending That Almost Happened:

Unfortunately, the censors didn't like the fact that the murdering villain of the film gets away with the whole thing. So Hitchcock was forced to film an extra scene just in case it was determined that no one could handle his realness.

However, Instead of having the villain eaten by wolves or blown away by Jimmy Stewart's bazooka, Hitch added a scene completely devoid of dialogue wherein Jimmy Stewart enters an apartment and silently downs some booze with his ex-fiancee.

Paramount Pictures

Paramount Pictures

Paramount Pictures
"... Pity sex?"

Meanwhile, a radio in the background announces that the film's villain was just arrested in Switzerland, facing possible extradition. Aaaaand that's it. They just stand there drinking and listening to the radio, like Christmas in the 1940s.

The ending was ultimately never used, but you can watch it on the Vertigo DVD, which makes goddamned sure you know how bullshit it is before allowing you to watch it:

Paramount Pictures
"Fuck you for even watching this, you stupid prick."

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1
The Fly Almost Ended With A Flying Puppet Baby

20th Century Fox

David Cronenberg's The Fly is one of the grossest movies ever made, because David Cronenberg doesn't believe in filming anything that doesn't look like it just blew up in a microwave.

20th Century Fox
Hot Pockets came out the year before production started on this. Just Sayin'.

In the movie, Jeff Goldblum slowly rots away into a giant fly man who tries to use a mad scientist machine to fuse his pregnant girlfriend, Geena Davis, together into his own hideous body. He is thwarted at the last minute when the machine malfunctions and Geena blasts his head off with a shotgun. This ... this movie is fucked up, everyone.

The Dumb Ending That Almost Happened:

Because all that body horror just wasn't enough, Cronenberg nearly attached a super weird epilogue. Several months after killing Jeff Goldblum, Geena Davis is now married to her dickhead former lover, Beardy McEighties, and awakens from a nightmare.

20th Century Fox
"I had a terrible nightmare about Alan Rickman shooting you."

She tells him that she just had another horrible nightmare about giving birth to a giant maggot, to which Beardy responds that she has nothing to worry about, because the baby is his, suggesting that they either had an abortion and conceived a new child, or that Beardy's beard has magical, DNA-transmogrifying powers. A reassured Geena goes back to sleep and somehow manages to have a much weirder dream:

20th Century Fox

20th Century Fox

20th Century Fox

20th Century Fox

20th Century Fox
Come my baby
Come, come my baby
You're a butterfly
Stupid, crazy

In the dream, a butterfly-winged baby puppet emerges from a cocoon and flies into a white light, which is possibly meant to be symbolic of her finally letting Jeff Goldblum go. Or that maybe her baby could be a really awesome human-fly hybrid instead of the garbage fire Goldblum mutated into. Or maybe ... you know what? Who knows what the hell it's supposed to mean. It's totally insane, and by this point in the film, the audience has had about as much total insanity as any human being is meant to experience over the course of an entire lifetime.

Also check out 9 Terrifying Old Movies That Put Modern Horror To Shame and 5 Real-Life Horror Movies Deleted From Your History Books.

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