A film’s opening is crucial, it’s where the directors set out their stall and invite us to stay and watch. If they don’t grab us here, we’re gone, a lost cause.
The ending is just as important, even though, by this time, we’ve sat through ninety-plus minutes of their opus. This is where they send us off into the night, satisfied (they hope).
Some, like a magician, have a reveal – remember The Sixth Sense? Others, like Inception, leave us buzzing with questions. Yet others, like Aliens, leave the way open for a sequel.
But some are a let down. Like an annoying self-help guru, they insist on positive thinking in the face of all disaster and tragedy. The finish is unlikely, even laughable, given what came before. They take the gloss off what should have been a great picture and leave us with a sense of being cheated of the rightful outcome.
28 Days Later and I Am Legend, to pick just a couple, have other endings that are better and more satisfying but which failed to make it into the theatrical releases.
There’s actually more than one alternative ending for 28 Days Later, but the most well-known is the far more logical conclusion to events. But it was downbeat as opposed to the more hopeful finish that made it onto cinema screens (although it did appear after the credits on US screenprints).
This was the ending that was in the original script but was dumped after poor test screening feedback. And this I think is the problem. Test audiences (who are these people? Do they get paid? Can I apply?) always seem to take the movie down a saccharine path. Why?
Now, don’t get me wrong, I like a little bit of sunshine in my life and I can relate to a happy ending as much as the next person. But only when it fits the story. If the story is dark, I can take a dark finish. I am an adult, I can take it, honest.