In 1999, a horror flick made for less than $25,000 shattered independent film records at the box office. The Blair Witch Project, which went on to gross $248 million worldwide, is a classic Hollywood success story. But a new interview with the film's directors reveals that their humble budget didn’t just give the movie its underdog status—it also resulted in one of its most chilling scenes.
The majority of The Blair Witch Project follows college film students Heather, Josh, and Mike as they’re antagonized by a supernatural force hiding off-screen. The suspense builds until the final scene, when instead of facing a monster, Heather walks into a room to find Mike standing in the corner with his back toward the entrance. The image calls back to an interview with a townsperson at the beginning of the film, where he describes how a local murderer made one of his victims face the corner as he killed the others. The last scene doesn’t contain a single frame of gore, but it’s remembered as one of the scariest horror movie endings of all time—and it almost never happened.
As co-directors Dan Myrick and Eduardo Sánchez told Entertainment Weekly, the scene was born out of necessity rather than creative genius. "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 said. "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."
At the test screening, audience members agreed that the ending was terrifying, but they also found it confusing. The crew returned to the set and filmed a few alternative endings that were more straightforward. According to Myrick, they included shots of Michael “hanging from a noose, crucified on a wooden stick man, and with a bloodied chest."
They also filmed the interview that explains the mythology of the killer forcing his victims to stand in the corner, a scene that wasn’t included in the original script. That new detail added an eerie layer of significance to the first ending. Both scenes ended up making the final cut, and they've been inspiring nightmares ever since.
[h/t Entertainment Weekly]