‘The Conjuring’ Early Reviews: Is This the Scariest Movie of 2013?

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A scary doll in The Conjuring The Conjuring Early Reviews: Is This the Scariest Movie of 2013?

The Conjuring is on many a horror fan’s list of films to see this summer, and with good reason: some profoundly effective trailers and a prodigious amount of talent attached have understandably drawn a lot of attention to this fundamentally simple haunted house spookfest – and that attention is likely to grow now that early reviews of The Conjuring are being revealed online.

The film was written by sibling team Chad and Carey Hayes, whose contributions to the genre so far have included the remake of House of Wax and the biblically-bad plague flick, The Reaping. To counterbalance that, the director’s chair was filled by James Wan, one of the most notable talents in the current horror genre, who directed the original Saw, the critically-acclaimed “haunted child” movie Insidious, and the forthcoming sequel Insidious Chapter 2.

Just as with Insidious, The Conjuring features a scary old ghost lady as one of its main antagonists, and trailers have shown her (and other ghosts) doing any manner of unpleasant things, including hiding on top of wardrobes, hanging from trees and playing clapping games. The story centers around the Perron family (led by Lili Taylor and Ron Livingston as Carolyn and Roger Perron), who have the misfortune of moving into a house where malicious spirits are intent on tormenting them and their five daughters. The Perron’s call upon the aid of real-life paranormal investigators Ed and Lorraine Warren (Patrick Wilson and Vera Farmiga), who set about uncovering the mysteries of the house and chasing away the ghosts.

Vera Farmiga and Patrick Wilson in The Conjuring The Conjuring Early Reviews: Is This the Scariest Movie of 2013?

The measure of what makes a good movie seems to necessarily shift depending on what kind of movie it is, since we’re not just measuring whether it’s good, but also whether it’s a good addition to the genre. So, just as comedies can be forgiven for transgressions in terms of plot cohesion – so long as they succeed in making the audience laugh – so too is the most important measure of a horror movie its ability to disgust, disturb, shock or terrify. As such, let’s break up our round-up of early reviews into two questions: is The Conjuring good, and is it scary?

To the latter question, the answer seems to be an almost universal “yes.” This is unsurprising, perhaps, given that despite its bloodlessness, The Conjuring was awarded an R rating by the MPAA, who considered it to simply be too frightening for children. Based on the responses of these toughened reviewers, such caution appears to be justified:

Uncle Creepy – Dread Central

“The Conjuring is home to some of the single most frightening haunted house scares ever committed to film. My biggest fear going in was that some of these moments would come off as goofy or too over-the-top, but Wan manages to clearly ride the line between reality and the absurd as if he were a stone grinding against the blade of a razor. While the film is home to some big-time scare moments, nothing ever comes off as too campy or ridiculous. Wan shows a lot of restraint, and as a result the flick delivers in spades.”

Sheri Linden – The Hollywood Reporter:

“The film doesn’t leave a deep, lasting chill, but it excels at putting a refining gloss on cheap shocks. Until a climactic sequence that pulls out all the stops, the director’s modulation teases out plenty of don’t-go-there moments, both formulaic and innovative, for all they’re worth.”

Justin Chang – Variety:

“It takes almost no time for “The Conjuring” to immerse the viewer in its spell, as it teases seemingly minor jolts into frissons of terror, and turns a simple game of hide-and-seek into a tour de force of sustained excitement… The film achieves its most startling effects through motion, not stasis. Wan’s command of horror technique isn’t just virtuosic; it’s borderline rhapsodic, playing the audience like Hitchcock’s proverbial piano.”

Tim Grierson – ScreenDaily

The Conjuring aims to be a classier, more reserved breed of fright film, showing almost no blood and resorting to few overtly gotcha scares.”

Lili Taylor in The Conjuring The Conjuring Early Reviews: Is This the Scariest Movie of 2013?

Based on these reactions, it sounds like The Conjuring‘s scares are terrifying while they last, but that the fear itself only lasts until the credits roll. You might find yourself trying to hide under your seat as you watch the film, but you probably won’t be inclined to turn on every light in the house when you get home. Whether or not you find this favorable or not probably comes down to a matter of taste, but “roller-coaster ride” horror films are a great pick for moviegoers who want plenty of fun and thrills in the cinema, but would prefer it if the ghosts didn’t follow them home.

Ultimately, the sustainability of the scare is only a peripheral aspect of the quality. The consensus between the reviews seems to be that Wan pulls off the frights masterfully, without resorting to camp or cliché, which seems to tally with what the director has done before. Insidious, for example, consistently surprised the audience by having the scares appear out of nowhere, in the middle of the day and in brightly lit rooms. To balance this out, in one of the other notable Blumhouse Productions horrors released in recent years, Sinister, the protagonist only ever seemed interested in investigating his creepy new house at night, and refused to turn any lights on while he did so.

Vera Farmiga as Lorraine Warren in The Conjuring The Conjuring Early Reviews: Is This the Scariest Movie of 2013?

Happily, the critics also seem to agree that the film is more than just a few jumps in the cinema seat. There is much praise given not only to the performances from the ensemble cast, but also to the technical aspects of it – such as the sound design and cinematography – which come together to create a well-made piece of cinema. For those fans of Insidious who were disappointed with the film’s third act, ScreenDaily assures readers that the best bits of The Conjuring come towards the end.

The Hollywood Reporter:

“With its minimal use of digital effects, its strong, sympathetic performances and ace design work, the pic harks back in themes and methods to The Exorcist and The Amityville Horror, not quite attaining the poignancy and depth of the former but far exceeding the latter in sheer cinematic beauty.”


“Coming from the director who helped push indie horror toward ever more dubious torture-porn extremes with Saw 10 years ago, The Conjuring feels all the more remarkable for being a relatively gore-free piece of mainstream craftsmanship, the work of a B-movie maestro in full command of his studio-given resources.”


The Conjuring’s third act … is incredibly intense. Wan’s finale may recall dozens of previous horror movies’, but the skill of his staging and the commitment of the performances are such that the film very confidently puts you through one hell of a wringer.

Dread Central:

“I truly believe that Ed [Warren], who passed away many years ago, would be very proud of this film, and that’s the highest compliment I could ever pay it. The Conjuring is a masterclass in absolute terror that’s destined to become a classic within the genre.”

In conclusion, it sounds like the plot of The Conjuring (which is based on one of the Warrens’ case files) might not blow you away in terms of complexity or novelty, but the success of the story is in its telling. Will The Conjuring turn out to be the most frightening film of the year (as we predicted as far back as last year), or will Wan outdo himself with Insidious Chapter 2? Let us know if you’d to be the judge, or whether you’re planning to give The Conjuring a miss next month.

517737850 cv1 620 439 The Conjuring Early Reviews: Is This the Scariest Movie of 2013?


The Conjuring is out in theaters on July 19, 2013.

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Follow H. Shaw-Williams on Twitter @HSW3K
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  1. OK, I’m sold.

    Another movie to see this summer!

    • This is all BS! The reviewers must work for the producers because this film sucked. Its not the worst ever but close. I don’t normally write reviews but I would hate for others to waste their money. This movie sucked. Cheap thrills through-out that never added up to anything. Something jumps out but never pans out to be anything real.

      What a waste of time

      • Woah… wrong.

        Probably the best horror film this decade. This is coming from someone who has seen them all. Easily the scariest film in years.

      • You obviously did not see this movie, or were not watching. Go to the movies when you are in the mood and aren’t in dire need of sleep. You cannot possibly be talking about The Conjuring. There is absolutely no good reason to insult this movie at all. It’s the only Haunted House movie ever made to my knowledge that actually scares. Heck, even the Excorsist(although a great film)is not scary unless you are extremely religious. My teenage sons laughed during the Excorcist. My oldest teenage son was terrified at The Conjuring. As were just about everyone who saw it. For every great film there is always some bonehead out there to downgrade it. Likely because of a lack of intelligence. “Uhh… I don’t get it”

      • Omg I went to see this movie after my friends told me not too…why didn’t I listen?
        This movie was So predictable I was calling out the next part as the movie went on …dobt get me wrong there where some good parts that did startle me …but not scare me…
        Like me friends said ..cheap knock off of Amityville. ..these so called great reviwes from experts are far from wrong..dont waste your cash!

        • AGREE

      • Yeah this was not the scariest movie ever. It was slow for big parts of it and predictable for many of them as well. Really would give it a 3 out of 5 stars possibly.

      • There’s no way you saw this movie! You must be confusing it with something else. This was the most epic scary movie in years. Anyone who doesn’t agree is in denial, or couldn’t accept that they got the scare of their lives. People are so immature sometimes, they can’t even face the facts and stop being stubborn.

      • Ive Seen Every Scarey Movie Too And This Is Very Well Done

    • I’m the one for ” seeing is believing.” I have seen the movie Insidious and wasn’t really impressed. What caught my attention is that it’s about the investigators the Warrens, whom I have followed for many years. I’m excited to see about this one for that fact. I’m hoping this movie will be worth the movie ticket. :)

  2. Wow, sounds pretty good!

  3. When the trailer came out I thought it looks good but wondered if it was a case where the trailer showed all the good stuff and the rest of the movie was dull? I am glad it didn’t and the film seems to have gone in the right direction. I am excited to see this movie now

  4. I can’t wait!

  5. I’m glad to read and hear about the good reviews…
    James Wan is quickly becoming one of my favorite directors working today. In simple terms, he gets it. Horror movies can easily turn into c**p in the wrong hands. Even a great script and premise can easily fall apart if the wrong director gets his hands on it. But from what I’ve read about Wan he seems to understand that #1 is story, #2 is setting and mood and #3 is that characters need act in a some what believable way.
    These 3 things sound simple and one would think is common sense but when you’ve seen as much bad-terrible horror that I have you notice that it’s apparently not.

  6. I’m going to get a group of friends together to see this! I’m not a big fan of gratuitous gore, so the fact that this movie is so frightening without it is awesome. I couldn’t even get through the trailer for Evil Dead :p

  7. Not going to get excited. I’ve gotten hyped up about so many supposedly scary movies the last several years, and they disappoint 99% of the time. Insidious was not even the slightest bit spooky.

    • My son went to the premiere and said it was definitely one of the best ever, and quote “awesome crazy scarey” he reccomends it for many reasons, based on a true story they didn’t need to pump it up, it was really in his opinion, the best of our times!

      • Good to hear, cricket :) I’m planning to see this movie really soon.

  8. Can’t wait for this. I have already read 2 great reviews on this one. I have really enjoyed all Wan’s films so far and this had a great cast to boot. Should be excellent!

  9. *has a great cast to boot.

  10. this film is perfect for a date

  11. Eeh, well, might be worth a peek on Netflix. I’ll put it on my list.

    • Me to

  12. Was already sold on this months ago. I think as long as you actually understand what you’re going to get (simple, albeit very well-done jump scares bolstered by great sound and visual design, but without gore/a long-term scare factor) then you’ll love it. If you’re expecting a Stephen King story then needless to say you’ll be disappointed. For the stuff that Wan can do, he does awesomely.

    • Just saw it a few hours ago, and I couldn’t agree more. I went knowing almost nothing about the movie, expecting a good classic haunted house scare-fest, and I left feeling very fulfilled. It’s not anything totally unique but it does the classic horror haunting movie idea very well, even the sequences devoid of suspense.

  13. Good to see some good old fashion scariness in a film. I will most likely see this on video. I doubt our little theatre will put this on the screen.

  14. Looking forward to it. Based on true events… we were there at the time. :)

    • You were there at the time, at the place during the events?

  15. I am looking forward to seeing The Conjuring and I love a good horror flick. The reviews I read here encouraging but, what makes me nervous is that I thought Insidious was awful. I really hope The Conjuring is better than that.

  16. I’ve spent the past couple of weeks searching for articles & watching YouTube interviews with the folks involved in this case. I haven’t had a really good ‘scare’ since ‘The Exorcist’ nearly 4 decades ago. I’ve planned appropriately by stockpiling an ample supply of light bulbs.

  17. I guess it seems alright you i have heard about gonna go see it tomorrow !!!!!!!!! I mean with like 5 other friends who are spending the night at my house after wards CAN’T WAIT

    • That really sounds like fun. My three sisters and I are going to see it altogether. I love scary movies. Two of my sisters are starting to back out of going for fear of not being able to sleep at night. But I just said, “Oh, we’re going”. Can’t wait. We are going August 9th and also having a sleepover at my house. I’m kicking my husband out for the night. He’s going to sleep at my son’s house. We are in our 50’s. Can’t wait. Hope you have a great scary night and make sure you have enough light bulbs.

  18. Sorry terrible grammar THE CONJURING IS TOTALLY A GO

  19. I’m not going to take too much time on this review because I already wasted two hours tonight watching this BORING garbage. They just ripped off a bunch of older scary movie stunts like from Poltergeist and the Exorcist where their tv is on and showing a screen full of noisy, snowy static and then the possessed chick even looks like and pukes like the chick did in the Exorcist, but it wasn’t scary. Pathetic is what it is.

    A scary movie? lol! In what universe? I really like scary movies. But this thing is like watching an extremely bad two hour long Saturday Night Live sketch that’s making fun of the scary movie genre but the sketch isn’t funny and definitely isn’t scary by any stretch of the imagination.

    I’m angry! After feeling like I got ripped off, I feel compelled to warn you folks about this thing before you do what I did and waste your money and time . The only other thing I’m going to say is this is one of the worst movies I have ever seen. No exaggeration. It is a pathetically boring “talkie” movie with very little action and is not scary whatsoever. Boring is an understatement that can’t be overstated.

    I am so embarrassed at myself for falling for the hype of this crummy movie’s great trailer, which is actually an excellent scary trailer with the visual of those little hands unexpectedly coming out of the dark on that stairway and clapping in that girls face as she kneels at the top of the darkened stairway. I admit that is cool.

    Oh, and the fake positive reviews being spewed by “unbiased viewers” was a nice added touch too.


    Don’t trust my review? Go ahead…….head on down to the big city theatre for a “night out on the town” with your buds to watch this pos. I dare you….no! I double dare you.

    • B.S.!!! As agreed by an entire office sitting ’round my desk reading this. You didn’t see The Conjuring… No.. fr*%kin way!

    • As a man who saw many of the greats like NOTLD, Texas Chainsaw Massacre, The Exorcist during their first runs, it takes a lot to scare me nowadays. The Conjuring did scare me and my kids, and from the screams coming from the packed house so was everyone else. So by your review I take it you didn’t even see it.

  20. Just returned from seeing the movie a few hours ago. It is worth the money to see. Will probably purchase it once its out on video.

  21. Just saw thew movie and I can tell you that by the third and final act the audience was buying into the movie wholeheartedly. I heard more screams and yells in the audience than I have heard for many movie going years. The Conjuring is one terrific movie.

  22. Just watched definatly worth the money.

  23. I’m a horror movie fanatic and have probably watched almost every single horror film out there. I usually like to watch scary flicks alone and I’m so glad I watched this movie in the theatre with 2 other friends. Despite the fact that I watched with hundred other people in the room, I still struggled to sleep for 2 nights. This was so well crafted and the characters played well. The element of a true story made it even more freaky and yes, I did scream a couple of times including frequent screams from the back row of teenage boys. Awesome movie!

  24. This was the scariest movie iv have ever seen!!!!! If u like scary movies! This is a must see!!!

  25. Not scary, The script wasn’t that great. It’s based on a true story but none of its true like the dog? hasn’t anyone read the book? It’s just a bunch of scares not enough story

  26. I personally have had the pleasure of knowing Ed and Lorraine for years after they investigated our home and used the film for their tour in Japan. Yesterday I went to see the movie, and have to say that the actress playing Lorraine was brilliant. The movie had just enough action to pull off the quiet, creepy scenes. The only thing I found that was unrealistic was the fact that the Warrens live in Monroe, Ct. and the movie had scenes of them apparently driving from their home to Rhode Island within minutes of being called. I would say it’s a fantastic movie and worth seeing.

    • That’s amazing. They investigated your home ? Was your house one of their famous cases ?

  27. Great production. Great acting. Scary? Nope. I only say this because I had real high expectations from all the rave reviews and testimony. I also say this because the movie received an ‘R’ rating for the intensity factor alone. It wasn’t any more intense in nature than Mama, Dark Skies, Woman in Black, Sinister or Insidious which were all PG-13. However those movies invoked more fright than ‘The Conjuring’.. especially Dark Skies – which I have to say was the creepiest movie this year. Sorry, it was good, but hardly the scariest movie in recent years.

  28. I went and saw this movie with 4 of my friends on Saturday at 11:00 pm. It was absolutely incredible. I’ve never seen a better scary movie in suchhhh a long time. It scared the living daylight out of me. Anyone who enjoys mysterious, creepy and extremely scary movies should seriously consider going to see this. It was just brilliant. Everything seemed soo realistic, it wasn’t corny or too exaggerated. The people with me that are usually never frightened were even scared. Im glad to say it was worth the money, my movie ticket hasn’t been worth the money in a longggg time. I have nothing to gain when I say GO SEE IT. You’ll love it from beginning till end. Even the ending was just spectacular. The cherry on top. Don’t hesitate, go see this. When it comes out on Blu ray I’m soooo getting it.

  29. This movie was…….ok. The best part for me, were the sound effects. The movie itself was ho-hum. in my opinion. Although it had its moments, I have to say that I MUCH preferred the original Amityville Horror. I think I should have waited to watch this movie when it came out on DVD. It would have been cheaper.