Making a movie is hard work, especially when it comes to crafting a satisfying ending. Directors and screenwriters can weave a captivating tale for 85+ minutes, but if the story closes on the wrong note then that’s what people will remember.
As such, many filmmakers shoot a variety of endings when they’re making a film. Sometimes they’re just slight variations of the same basic scene, and other times they’re completely different either in setting, resolution, or tone. Thanks to DVD, Blu-ray, and the Internet, it’s easier than ever to see some of these unused endings, and website io9 has a great feature up that showcases 12 films that shot happy endings and (luckily for all of us…) never used them.
Of the 12 films on the list, the one that really stands out is Wes Craven’s A Nightmare on Elm Street. The horror icon’s first feature film about dream-stalking child-killer Freddy Krueger is one of the best slasher films of the 1980s – and it has an unforgettable stinger ending that opened the door for a series of sequels that would come in the following years. That being said, Craven actually shot several other endings for Freddy’s first adventure – including one that counts as a very traditional “happy” ending.
In this first clip, we see Nancy and her mother come out of the house and have their little chat about the bright fog and Mom’s decision to stop drinking. Glen and the crew (who were all killed by Freddy in the movie) pull up to the curb, Nancy gets in, and they all go off to school. The end.
We’re really glad Craven didn’t go with this ending. While NOES is a film about nightmares – one that constantly fools us with countless “that was a dream” moments – the idea of ending the film by flat out admitting everything that happened in the previous 85+ minutes was just an extended nightmare is aggravating.
Our second Nightmare ending isn’t happy at all – and is largely the same as the one Craven eventually used. This is the “the nightmare isn’t really over” ending, which features the kids getting in the car, the car locking them in, and Freddy’s arm ripping Ronee Blakley through the window on the door. The one difference is that we get an extra shot missing from the regular ending – one that shows Freddy is actually driving the kids to school. We’re not sure why Craven dropped it (maybe because it was too fantastical to think of Freddy ripping Ronee Blakely through the door and then also driving the car at the same time? It’s a nightmare, though – it doesn’t have to make sense), but it would have created an interesting link to the opening of Freddy’s Revenge, which begins with Krueger driving a school bus.
Finally, we get a third alternate ending that straddles the line between all of the others. I like to call this one the real happy ending, because it offers up the best of all worlds.
In this one, Nancy and her friends get in the car, drive off to school, and Ronee Blakley watches from the porch. Then, BAM! Freddy's arm rips her through the door’s window, and ... cue creepy kids singing Freddy’s nursery rhyme.
We like this one because it feels like justice. Nancy and her friends (who are all good, if somewhat troubled, teenagers) get to live, while Ronee Blakely (who’s not only an alcoholic, but also an incredibly annoying character who actually was part of the mob that killed Freddy back in the day) meets her maker.
Plus, in some ways, this ending makes more sense when we get around to the series’ third installment – Dream Warriors. If Freddy is still after Nancy at the end of NOES and presumably gets her in the stinger, how does she turn up in the third film? That’s reading way too much into it (Craven and New Line weren’t even sure there’d be a second film when they were shooting these endings), but that’s what we horror geeks do.
So,there you have it – a look at several of the alternate endings Wes Craven shot for the original Nightmare on Elm Street. Let us know which one is your favorite below.