Ideas For Horror Movies That Were Too Brutal To Put On Film
Horror fans are no strangers to the curse of deleted scenes and the seemingly arbitrary nature of the MPAA. Genre heavyweights like Brandon Cronenberg must contend with a rating system that can make or break a film, while studios cut R-rated features, endeavoring to garner that more accessible, ever-so-profitable PG-13. Throughout horror history, there are hundreds of excised scenes, some of which, including the now infamous baboon from "The Fly," are readily available, with others, such as many "Friday the 13th" deaths, relegated to the annals of "could have been."
Even more curious, however, are ideas so brutal they were never filmed, to begin with. While brutality at times seems to be the genre’s core attraction (there are nine "Saw" movies, after all), there are times when, either at the behest of a studio or filmmaker, planned scenes are scrapped. While the reasons differ from production to production, here we’ll be looking at six ideas from famous horror movies that were too brutal to put on film.
The Meg’s R-rated cut
"The Meg" wasn’t the disaster it easily could have been. While not exactly a critical darling, "The Meg" performed well enough to merit a sequel, the forthcoming "Meg 2: The Trench" from "Kill List" director Ben Wheatley. A bonafide popcorn movie, "The Meg" had a hard road getting to theaters, eventually becoming a U.S.-China co-production. Consequently, there were a lot of hands involved all the way through to ensure "The Meg" performed well both domestically and in China.
One of the clearest decisions was making "The Meg" PG-13. While fans of the source material were likely disappointed to see their favorite giant shark neutered for profits, the decision doesn’t hamper the film that much. An R-rated cut would be cool, though, according to director Jon Turteltaub, audiences will never have a chance to see it. In an exclusive interview with Bloody Disgusting, Turteltaub recounts plans for a much more violent megalodon, with some scenes either being filmed or in the beginning stages of visual effects development. According to Turteltaub, "It’s too fun a movie to not let people who don’t like blood and people who are under, say, 14 years old into the theater." He later explains that within the constraints of modern filmmaking, those few scenes filmed still aren’t available since the cost of completing the VFX simply wouldn’t be worth it. For anyone with children, thank them the next time you watch "The Meg."
Alien’s alternate ending
20th Century Fox
Even avowed fans of certain movies can learn a little tidbit that completely recontextualizes their attitude toward one of their favorites. There’s no denying Ridley Scott’s "Alien" is an absolute masterpiece. One of the scariest films ever made, Scott’s attempt to make a haunted house movie in space, swapping ghosts for a nasty, slimy alien, is historic. With a longstanding and ongoing franchise (the FX series premieres in 2024), the first "Alien" was the little Xenomorph that could. Only, it almost didn’t — if Scott’s original scripted ending had been used.
In both the theatrical and director’s cuts, Sigourney Weaver’s Ellen Ripley defeats the Xenomorph before entering stasis, setting up the events of James Cameron’s "Aliens." In an interview with Entertainment Weekly, Ridley Scott revealed his original, brutal ending that had executives threatening to fire him if he proceeded with the grim plan. In her final battle with the Xenomorph, Ripley was poised to lose. The alien was to strike at her, impaling her space helmet and ripping her head clean off. It would have been a brutal way to end the film, one that would have effectively killed the entire franchise.
Dawn of the Dead’s grim ending
George A. Romero’s "Dawn of the Dead" is one of the greatest zombie movies ever made. It’s abounding in gory deaths, sick social commentary, and plenty of undead tension, which undoubtedly continue to influence zombie cinema. While "Night of the Living Dead" kindled the fire, "Dawn of the Dead" ignited it. In "Dawn of the Dead," survivors of a zombie outbreak barricade themselves in a shopping mall, taking on both consumerism and the undead as they endeavor to survive for as long as possible. In the filmed ending, Peter (Ken Foree) and Fran (Gaylen Ross) successfully escape the mall by helicopter.
As outlined by Little White Lies, Romero originally scripted a much darker conclusion that would have seen Peter dying by suicide off-screen (a decision he chooses not to make in the filmed version) and Fran, now without hope, thrusting her head into the helicopter’s spinning blades. Speculatively, Romero was said to be so attached to the characters by the time they began to film the end that he couldn’t in good conscience have them killed so brutally. Disparate accounts exist as to whether the ending was shot, though as it stands, Fran and Peter survive and fly off into an uncertain, zombie-filled future.
If you or anyone you know is having suicidal thoughts, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline by dialing 988 or by calling 1-800-273-TALK (8255).
King Kong’s spider pit
The "King Kong" cinematic universe is no stranger to deleted scenes. Peter Jackson’s 2005 revitalization of the iconic property features a lengthy deleted scene that sees the core cast battling a monstrous, piranha-esque creature in the rivers of Skull Island. The scene is available on YouTube, with close-to-finished audio and visuals, though the sequence was unfortunately excised from the theatrical cut. Perhaps most infamous, however, is the missing spider pit from Merian C. Cooper and Ernest B. Schoedsack’s 1933 original. While Jackson would pay homage to the sequence almost a century later, the original scene remains the subject of intense scrutiny and speculation.
For the uninitiated, the original 1933 film had planned a spider pit sequence that would see Jack Driscoll (Bruce Cabot) and company falling into a pit of arachnoid creatures after King Kong shakes them from a log. In the released cut, the film seamlessly transitions to Jack’s escape from the pit, with the other sailors presumably dying from the fall. The plan, however, was to have them devoured by spiders living at the bottom of the pit. Some speculate the scene was scrapped before filming, while others contend footage does exist, though it was scrapped after test audiences deemed it too brutal (which is reasonable). Whether it exists or not, there is some comfort in knowing that, at some point, the 1933 Fay Wray masterpiece might well have been considerably more brutal.
Slender Man’s violent cut
"Slender Man" sort of came and went. Like the creepypasta phenomenon itself, Slender Man is a mid-aughts artifact, a digital specter of online urban legends and chatroom spookshows (see Marble Hornets). While it would have made considerably more sense for studios to capitalize on the craze when Slender Man was in the zeitgeist, that didn’t happen. As a result, "Slender Man" arrived too little, too late, with the added controversy of releasing in an environment where Slender Man was in the news for very different reasons.
According to Bloody Disgusting, Screen Gems radically reworked "Slender Man." First, for a more teen-friendly tone, David Birke’s screenplay was rewritten, scrapping the more adult content for something more accessibly PG-13. Compounding the problems was a real-life case of a "Slender Man" stabbing. Both Sony and Screen Gems opted to cut several key scenes, including a few glimpsed in "Slender Man’" trailer, to sidestep the controversy of ostensibly exploiting a real-life crime. As Bloody Disgusting contends, the combination of script changes and cut scenes results in a movie that doesn’t feel much like a movie at all. Whatever "Slender Man’s" legacy should have been, this is certainly not it.
Terrifier 2’s balloon animal anatomy
Much like the first "Terrifier," Damien Leone’s "Terrifier 2" revels in brutality, so much so the sequel had audiences walking out of the theater, some sick to their stomachs because of the violence on display (just thinking about that salt scene is nauseating). Yet, for as brutal as "Terrifier 2" is, for as much as it seems filmmaker Leone doesn’t have a single line he’s not willing to cross, there is one taboo, and it involves a little bit of male anatomy.
In the released cut, Art the Clown (David Howard Thornton) stabs Jeff (Charlie McElveen) directly in the junk. It’s a brutal scene, and audiences might wonder how the graphic death could have been any worse. In an interview with Variety, Leone remarked how the scene was originally scripted as much worse, with Art "possibly making a balloon animal out of it." Leone passed on the idea once filming began, worried the death was taking things considerably too far. It was likely the right call, too. Despite the uber-violence and 138-minute runtime, "Terrifier 2" was a staggering success. There’s a delicate balance with making a slasher of this violent scale work, and balloon animal genitalia might have been a step too far.