Home » Horror Movies With Notorious Alternate Cuts (and the Versions You Should Watch)

Horror Movies With Notorious Alternate Cuts (and the Versions You Should Watch)

Dawn of the Dead - alternate cuts

Whether we’ve seen it or not, every horror movie has an alternate cut or had one at one point. The editing process is long, arduous, and the people who suffer through it never get the credit they deserve. But the post-production stage is also where the movie truly takes form into what audiences are going to either love or hate. Obviously the screenplay and actual filming of the movie are important, but the editing determines the entire tone. One shot removed from a scene can completely change the context of that sequence.

It’s also no secret that large studios and especially censorship boards like the MPAA don’t have an overt fondness for the horror genre. This leads to so many horror films being recut and butchered after the initial, final cut has been turned in. It happens to many more features than you’ll see on this list, but it’s also the basic reason as to why there are so many horror flicks out there with sought after alternate cuts.

It can be tricky to know which version of the film you should to track down, if you’re a fan collecting these types of movies. Most of it comes down to opinion. I’m just going to tell you the versions that I think represent each feature best, and I’m sure many will disagree. But that’s fine. In the end, this is a basic overview. If you’re curious and have the time, find as many cuts as you can and test them out for yourself.

Because the amazing thing is that you can do that now. Most of these alternate versions eluded fans for years, but now almost all of them are available in official releases.

Halloween: The Curse of Michael Myers

Recommended Version: Theatrical

Let’s just get this one over with, because I know I’m going to get a lot of flack for it. I was so excited to see the official release of the Producer’s Cut and they did an amazing job restoring it. It does make more sense. But it’s not a better movie. And the theatrical cut is at least a choppy, bad Halloween sequel whereas the Producer’s Cut is an insane gothic incest story that totally reshapes the mythology in a way that is not for the better.

Michael grabs an ax in Halloween 6

Army of Darkness

Recommended Version: Theatrical

I don’t know if it was an intentional trick that Universal somehow had control over, but all of the friends I met in college who discovered the film through nefarious, illegal means saw the UK cut with the alternate ending and had no clue that the version they were watching was not the one released in the USA. I love the idea that people who don’t want to pay for movies have to suffer through a worse version. While there aren’t terribly many differences, the US cut gives us some of the best lines.

Army of Darkness alternate endingHalloween

Recommended Version: Both

The TV cut of Halloween has many scenes that are not included in the original film, including glimpses of Michael’s time in the sanitarium and the days leading up to his escape. Now, Halloween is pretty perfectly structured on its own. But if you’re marathoning the whole series, I would actually suggest watching the TV cut. Shot at the same time as Halloween II, the TV cut of the original retcons in several clues that lead up to the sequel’s major twist.

Halloween 1978Nightbreed

Recommended Version: Director’s Cut

Now that we’ve finally gotten the director’s cut we were once told would be impossible to see, there’s no reason to ever watch the theatrical version ever again. This is a longer movie that makes more sense, devotes much more time to character work, puts Cronenberg’s creepy villain in the shadows a little bit more and is all in all a much better representation of Clive Barker’s story and the world he was trying to create.

nightbreed 1990Dawn of the Dead

Recommended Versions: All

There are three major cuts of Dawn of the Dead and all three of them are very different. But Romero’s zombie classic is so strong that all three cuts—the director’s, theatrical and Italian cuts—never seem to suffer from being rearranged into tonally different stories. The Italian cut is best for gore fans, not surprisingly. It takes out a lot of the character stuff and slow build and really turns the whole thing into a horror/action vehicle similar to Lamberto Bava’s Demons. If you love the character work, you get even more of it in the director’s cut.

Dawn of the Dead 1978Exorcist: The Beginning/Dominion: Prequel to the Exorcist

Recommended Version: Dominion

As much as I love Renny Harlin, Paul Schrader’s Dominion is the better cut of this movie. It’s much darker, more melancholy and the performances shine a little bit brighter than the studio release. However, both cuts are far from perfect and this version, while interesting, certainly feels unfinished.

Exorcist The Beginning The Exorcist

Recommended Version: Director’s Cut

Ironically, for most people in 2016, the touted Version You’ve Never Seen is the only version most people have seen. Much like the special editions of Star Wars, it seemed to replace the original. But this was not replacing it with something flashier, it was restoring some of the most emotional and scariest moments to a narrative that already clearly worked very well. Virtually everything you get from the theatrical cut is here, but with the addition of the spider-walk sequence, which has already gone on to be memorized as one of the scariest bits in the movie—or film history, for that matter.

Linda Blair as Regan McNeil in the Exorcist.Alien

Recommended Cut: Theatrical

The director’s cut of Alien is interesting, but it doesn’t add anything to the overall film and it leaves the viewer with more questions than answers. Seeing Dallas cocooned actually throws off the pacing of the movie and while it’s a disturbing sequence on its own, it takes away from the creature’s overall mystery and scare factor.

Ridley Scott's Alien 1979

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Written by Nat Brehmer
In addition to contributing to Wicked Horror, Nathaniel Brehmer has also written for Horror Bid, HorrorDomain, Dread Central, Bloody Disgusting, We Got This Covered, and more. He has also had fiction published in Sanitarium Magazine, Hello Horror, Bloodbond and more. He currently lives in Florida with his wife and his black cat, Poe.
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