‘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. I noticed in the movie a bad cut out. In the scene where the daughter is slammed to the glass door watched the mom! She was scared and all of a sudden she has her hands down and serious lol

    • Oh well! Why can’t people just see the movie for what it is……a fun horror movie. Quit picking pointless holes in it. It’s just fun to have a good scare and then move on.

  2. I watched The Conjuring Movie and saw that it was based on a true story that happened in Harrisville Rhode Island, so I decided to go check out the old farm house. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=okCr61sYpsI

    • Did you see anything when you visited the old farm house in Harrisville Rhode Island?

  3. Jay – Did you see anything when you visited the old farm house in Harrisville Rhode Island

  4. Ok I Am never scared However ,this movie gave me goosebumps like i have never had ,they started in my feet and slowly took over my entire body face included and they seemed to intensify till they felt like they were gonna explode and not just once ! This was very well done , the acting by children and everyone was very good and the makeup was excellent ( never cheesey) The beginning with the doll had me worried it would be but it turned out to fit in. I would go see it again and I believe it happend . If you are easily scared beware ………………………….

  5. This is by far the scariest movie of the year I really enjoyed it my 7 month old son woke up last night an as I was going into his room I noticed it was 3:07 kinda gave me chills lol but you show me a person that didn’t jump during this movie and I will show you a liar.

    • Holy crap. I would’ve s*** my pants if that happened.

  6. I agree with Ranger & Ricardo, this movie was awful! My husband and I saw it last night and were so disappointed. It started out good, then turned into The Exorcist meets The Birds meets Amityville Horror! So many holes in the story and so many ripoffs! People walking out were complaining that it got good reviews so people would go see it. It had a lot of potential. Don’t waste your money!

    • Thank you Teress! You hit the nail on the head! The movie started off great, but soon lost its luster when the ghost became visible to the audience. The director takes away our use of our own imagination by putting a face to the previous ghost which inhabited the place. In horror movies of this nature, our imagination is what you want to capture the most! Allow us to use our imagination to determine the little girl was not clapping in the closet versus having two hands appear on screen from the closet(which were supposed to be the ghost clapping). Did anyone ever see what had a hold of Regan in the Exorcist? What about what haunted the home in Amityville?

  7. I saw this on Saturday and I’m sorry to say that it didn’t hold up to the hype. Of course plenty of people seemed to have loved it but I’m pretty easy to scare and I was not impressed. I didn’t feel any tension in between scenes except waiting with bated breath for the obnoxiously loud music to stop. There were a couple of decent jump scares, but even some of those had been given away in trailers. This movie was described in positive reviews as exactly the kind of horror movie I like. It just seems like they watched a different movie. If you’re planning on seeing it in the theater keep your expectations low and hope to be pleasantly surprised. Otherwise I’d suggest you wait to rent it and save some money.

  8. My favorite part:
    “It possesses the mother to kill the children! And leaving the house won’t stop the haunting”
    “Oh my god how terrible! Let’s leave the mother alone with all of her children in a cheap motel, with access to her car keys!”

  9. I have only watched two scary movies in my entire 13 years of life, and those were The house at the end of the Street and that Michael Meyers movie (I was 7 okay. I was freaked out). They were a good start because they were pg-13 but I insisted my mom on taking me to see the conjuring. It was so amazing and creepy. There were some faces that made it look cheesy like when Lorraine was down in the basement and the hanging woman turned around to face her and a face appeared on the screen of a witch. It looked cheesy but I like how it still added some intensity and horror and made the movie unique. My mom and I also cried in the end because of how Lorraine and Ed got the demon out of the mom (that beach day with her daughters). Definitely 5 stars in interest and horror.

  10. Absolutely brilliant , loved it
    By far the best scary movie in the last 5-10 years ,
    This movie is different from the rest ,
    Best seen in cinema ,

  11. This was hands down the scariest movie I have ever seen! I thought I was going to pass out a couple times from holding my breath so long. Do not miss this one! Any director who tries to top this one has got their hands full! Well done you literally had me on the edge of my seat ready to run with tears in my eyes but I just couldn’t move!

  12. I feel like I’m in bizarro world reading all the glowing reviews and comments about this film. In my opinion it was a piece of crap that played like Amityville and Left Behind had a retarded child. Cliched, not scary. Will appeal to Christian evangelicals though, as the Warrens are the Benny Hinn of the paranormal community.

  13. After hearing about the story behind this movie, I did some research and lets just say that the movie leaves some GAPING holes! I was really excited to see it, but was very disappointed in the overall result. The story focuses entirely too much on glorifying The Warrens in my opinion. The real-life scenario was very different from how the movie portrayed things and I think that played a large role in how I felt about the movie.The Warrens did not walk in and “save” the day. According to the information disclosed, they actually made the situation much worse on the family.

  14. this movie was terrible my wife her little sister and I all faild to find this movue scary
    6 thumbs down

  15. well worth going to watch scary 10

  16. Just Sharing:
    Something strange happen to our laptop while watching this …
    it suddenly hanged on the word AGITATION like a pirated cd sound which keeps on repeating but in a slow motion..creepy much!!!..
    (PS downloaded movie so it shouldnt be like that)
    im having second thoughts of watching this movie…
    since its the second spooked already ,first was movie stopped on its own and change view to google…then the agitation word…
    i dont want the third to happen..is that movie really scary…
    i actually love and saw lots of horror movies but this just kinda spooked me out…should i continue to watch this?
    thats why ive gone here to read reviews bout this..

  17. The movie doesn’t just speak of the paranormals but it also focuses on the value of having close ties with the family.Obviously, the theme is centered on how much love parents have to their children and the love couples have to one another. Hats off. Congrats to the producer/s, writers, director and the movie actors, and actresses. By the way, after watching the movie, It strengthened my spiritual faith and my love for my family.

  18. this movie in my opinion is completely demonic!!! i dont get scared easy, but this one had me in tears, and for hours after the movie i felt as if someone was sitting on my chest. it was so hard for me to breathe! bad part is i only stayed for abouy 45 min- an hour… i literally couldnt handle it, considering i was raised in a home that had spirits in it… ghosts are not fake people.. and neither are demons… i walked out with tears streaming down my face. my husband in complete shock! i will never ever walk back into a movie like this again!

  19. Best horror movie since the Exorcist… No need for blood spilling. The movie doesn’t even need it…. Great job.

  20. Scariest movie ever.

  21. Great horror movie i’ve ever seen..
    BEST HORROR MOVIE for me this 2013..
    Great well done!!!

  22. Ok! Guys this is the scariest movie of 2013! I am a horror fan n this one. Literally had me terrified, awesomely scary! Totally give it 2 thumbs up, I’m. Actually tempted to watch it again but need company thus time:-)

  23. What struck me most about the film was the lack of gore and body count: the fright effect was achieved via psychological build up: nice.

  24. i watched the movie with my gal at first i tried to keep it cool but jrrr the movie is good i endup loosing it i give it 7/10

  25. I disliked it very much.

    It didn’t live to my expectations, the first part of the movie was good and somehow scary, after the “ghost” appear it became something very alike many other horror movies.

    I was bored since then and I didn’t felt the goosebumps that should come with it.

    For me is a big Nay.

  26. Overall, I’d say the movie is worth seeing because it is well done. The majority of thrills are psychological and almost completely non-gory, which I prefer. I don’t consider gory scary at all, just gross. But like so many viewers have mentioned, if you have already seen The Exorcist, Amityville Horror & maybe even Poltergeist, you’re not really getting any new scares here. And yes, I know most horror movies recycle these scare tactics. But to me, it almost seemed like Wan was giving shout-outs to classic old horror movies throughout the film. What was the point of the raven swarm other than to hark back to Hitchcock’s The Birds? (No, I don’t consider that a spoiler because it was a completely unnecessary scene.)

    Like I said, it is a good movie due to how well it is done. But it is far from a genre classic like so many are suggesting. I’d give it 3.5 out of 5 stars.

  27. The movie is totally fictitious. Not close to Perrons story The real farm is not haunted only claims from the Perron family and Bathsheba Sherman was a real person with no history recorded or in local folklore except what Perrons claim. No murders no suicides no drownings no hangings ever recorded at farm. Bathsheba died of a stroke buried by a Baptist minister and was a practicing Baptist. L Warren claimed she saw the murder happen in pantry when fact is murder she claims was in Uxbridge Mass on the second floor. A great many more details as Warrens did not according to Perron rid them of spirits only made it worse.

  28. The movie was disappointing and full of haunted house cliches. The dog gets killed first, would you believe it. Need I say more.