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The Conjuring Trilogy's Most Pause-Worthy Moments Ranked

Ed and Lorraine Warren are the heart of the "Conjuring" universe. Portrayed with care and charm by Patrick Wilson and Vera Farmiga, no matter how many spin-off tales the franchise may spawn, the films that dramatize the real-life paranormal investigating couple's infamous adventures will always be the bedrock of the series. If they make a billion more movies about these ghost fighting lovebirds — nobody will be mad.

Case in point: the mainline trilogy of the "Conjuring" universe — 2013's "The Conjuring," 2016's "The Conjuring 2," and 2021's "The Conjuring: The Devil Made Me Do It" — is filled with iconic moments that leave viewers fumbling for the pause button. There are a number of reasons you might want to freeze-frame a "Conjuring" scene: to appreciate the artistry of a well-crafted scare; to revel in a franchise-defining moment, or to seek out a well-hidden Easter egg. Whether you smash the spacebar as an act of instinctive self-defense during a spooky scene or you're combing through a shot frame-by-frame to figure out how a stunt was pulled off, "The Conjuring” trilogy rewards attentive viewers.

In the spirit of appreciating this spirit-filled trilogy, here are a solid (spoiler-heavy) handful of moments from the core "Conjuring" trilogy that will make you want to hit the pause button. Read on, clutch your rosary, and remember to get your local priest on speed-dial.

14. The corpse attack in the morgue - The Conjuring: The Devil Made Me Do It

There is a lot to enjoy about the morgue scene in "The Conjuring: The Devil Made Me Do It": Lorraine squeezing the hand of a goopy, water-logged corpse; the Warrens successfully spying on the Occultist only to realize that the connection works both ways; that horrible bloated, lumbering reanimated cadaver. Okay, so maybe "enjoy" isn't exactly the right word. But suffice it to say: there's a lot of incredible moving parts (some of them dead) when it comes to the Warrens' excursion to the morbid meat locker.

But there's one particular moment that is, for lack of a better term, an absolute knockout. It's the gruesomely hilarious shot when the re-animated cadaver smashes headfirst into the ground. You likely didn't have "comedic pratfall" on your "Conjuring 3" bingo card. But truth be told, horror and comedy are often paced to a similar rhythm of tension and release. And in this case, the release in question is the cartoonish, metallic thud of a massive corpse smacking its noggin on the corner of a metallic gurney and plummeting to the floor like a fallen sequoia. Whether the filmmakers intended for this moment to be so gosh darn funny isn't entirely clear. But either way: it's a standout (and then a falldown) moment in the trilogy.

13. Lorraine Warren's cameo - The Conjuring

Ed Warren passed away in 2006, seven years before the first "Conjuring" movie hit theaters. But Lorraine's name can be spied amongst the credits of both the 2013 film and its 2016 follow-up as a consultant. Screenwriters Chad and Carey Hayes would spend "hours on the phone" interviewing Lorraine and both Vera Farmiga and Patrick Wilson journeyed to Connecticut to pick her brain about their roles. Lorraine's involvement with the two films is well known (and advertised in the film's promotional featurettes). But, if you know what you're looking for, attentive viewers will be treated to Lorraine Warren in the flesh.

In an incredibly easy-to-miss cameo, Lorraine can be spotted in the audience attending the Warrens' public lecture on the supernatural. While the petrified Carolyn Perron (Lili Taylor) cowers in the back, hoping to get the help her family desperately needs ... bold, bemused Lorraine is right up front. The dead giveaway is, naturally, the hair — it has even a more distinctive height than that of her on-screen counterpart. 

While "The Conjuring" film's basis in reality is complicated by the unavoidable Hollywood touch (and the longstanding skepticism about the Warrens' work), there's no denying the people involved in these cases were real. All told: including an on-screen nod to the real-life Lorraine is a graceful way to acknowledge the film's debt to her fascinating legacy.

12. The secret Valak figure in Arnes room - The Conjuring: The Devil Made Me Do It

Valak is arguably the overarching antagonist of "The Conjuring" franchise — apart from, you know, Satan

A manipulative, shape-shifting demon, Valak is the star of the show in "The Conjuring 2," appearing as a sinister, sharp-toothed nun to mock Ed and Lorraine's faith. On paper, the subsequent film in the core "The Conjuring" trilogy is devoid of the devious demon. However, if you pay close attention and let your eyes wander a little bit, you may be able to spot a hint of Valak's enduring influence.

During an otherwise adorable scene in which Arne (Ruairi O'Connor) and his girlfriend Debbie (Sarah Catherine Hook) make out a little bit and talk about their future together, a teeny, tiny Valak lurks in the background. After Arne wakes up from his suspiciously deep slumber, pay close attention to the make-shift shelf against the wall. In one of the cinderblocks, you can spot a little nun figurine. In any other franchise, the presence of a nun decoration would be seen as nothing but a protective or a kitsch piece of set design. But in "The Conjuring" franchise? That little nun is a damning omen of Arne's fate. Maybe saying "take me" to a demon wasn't such a good idea, huh?

11. The original demon's design - The Conjuring 2

It's hard to imagine "The Conjuring 2" without The Nun. But, believe it or not, the sinister sister wasn't originally in the film. Before director James Wan had the brilliant/cursed idea to have Valak assume the shape of a towering, terrifying sister of the cloth — a cruel perversion and mockery of the Warrens' faith — Valak looked a lot more like a textbook demon: with spindly horns, dragon-like claws, and pitch-black skin. As Wan wrote in an Instagram post: the demon felt "out of place within the Conjuring world we had built. And so during post-production, I reconceived the villain — feeling it needed to be something more grounded, more personal, and creepier."

While this more fantastical vision of Valak was ultimately scrapped, lingering echoes of the original design can still be spied in the final cut of "The Conjuring 2." It's not a super easy thing to spot in the scene, amidst all that twisting smoke and dark lighting. But look closely and you'll see a towering, horned figure that looks a heck of a lot like the original Valak design.

10. Ed shattering The Occultist's altar - The Conjuring: The Devil Made Me Do It

Ed getting possessed with an insatiable desire to smash Loraine into a pulp with a sledgehammer is arguably a "Conjuring" fan's worst nightmare. After all, the love between these two intrepid demon hunters is the backbone of the franchise. So, seeing Ed twisted into the Occultist's pawn in the final act of "The Conjuring: The Devil Made Me Do It" is a real emotional gut punch. 

Thankfully, the Warrens' love is strong enough to break curses, and once Ed is seeing clearly again, he finds himself with a massive hammer in hand and an opportunity to put the Occultist's shenanigans to bed for good.

Earlier, viewers saw Lorraine struggling to topple the altar, so we know that this satanic slab is no joke. But Ed is fueled by the power of love and the power of being pretty mad at the Occultist for almost making him kill his wife. In one of the most satisfying shots in the trilogy, Ed brings the hammer down on the troublesome table, foiling the Occultist's plot in one fell swoop. It's the perfect punctuation mark: a decisive blow that expels torrents of dust, the camera slowly tracking downward with Ed's swing. It's what the "rewind ten seconds" button was made to do.

9. Valak's name hidden throughout the Warren's house - The Conjuring 2

In the final act of "The Conjuring 2," Lorraine Warren learns that the seemingly malevolent spirit of Bill Wilkins is nothing but a puppet for a much stronger (and sinister) demonic entity: the same demon she encountered during the DeFeo case. Appearing to the faithful Lorraine as a profane nun, the demon assumes many forms, but all it will take to defeat the infernal creature is to know its name. In the nick of time, Lorraine realizes she wrote the demon's name down in her bible during an automatic writing episode, and condemns Valak back to hell.

Thanks to Lorraine's breakthrough, the day is saved. However, things could have been solved a lot faster if the Warrens just took a second to look around their house. You can spy a V-A-L-A-K on their bookshelf, spelled out in wood block letters; in colorful cutout letters by their kitchen window; in raised lettering along their kitchen wall; and even on a friendship bracelet their daughter Judy is making. Lorraine, get your head out of the clouds, you need to pay better attention!

8. The Warrens' containment room for evil artifacts

If you're unfamiliar with the real-life Ed and Lorraine Warren, it may surprise you to know that the containment room in the film full of possessed, demonic, or otherwise cursed objects is, in fact, based on a real-life collection. 

The "Occult Museum" is (or rather, was since it has since been closed due to zoning violations) attached to the Warrens' residence in Monroe, Connecticut. Much like its real-life counterpart, the cabinet of cursed curiosities in the film rewards the wandering eye. Just don't touch anything. It is recommended, however, that you mash the pause button throughout the scene where Ed is giving a tour to an inquisitive journalist. 

Get your magnifying glass out and let your mind wander. How did a mechanical monkey toy wind up here? Was it haunted, or perhaps used in a ritualistic practice? (Two very different mental images!) Similar questions arise for the seemingly mundane objects: the many tea kettles, lamps, and picture frames. How evil could a tea kettle truly be? Sure, Annabelle looks haunted, but what about the stuffed toucan? What's his story? When do we get the "Conjuring" spin-off movie about a spiritually compromised pair of binoculars?

7. The Nun in the hallway - The Conjuring 2

Listen, if you slam your spacebar whenever The Nun shows up on screen to delay the inevitable, nobody will blame you. It's a knee jerk reaction to one of the scariest horror villains in recent horror history — you are forgiven. 

"The Conjuring 2" includes a number of more bombastic Valak appearances: the jump-scare where the demon runs at Lorraine with the portrait Ed painted over its face; the sound-and-fury conclusion where the demon gnashes its teeth and giggles maniacally at the Warrens' prophesied misfortune. And yet, it's the demon's quietest moment that is most terrifying. 

In what is later revealed to be a subconscious vision, Lorraine follows daughter Judy to the hallway. "Mom, who's that?" Judy asks, finger outstretched. At the end of an enclosed, threadbare hallway, looms Valak; a pillar of dark cloth, straight out of our darkest nightmares. The shot is nerve-wracking: evoking the twisted beasties that appear in the hazy corner of a person's vision when walking around the house late at night. Cinematographer John R. Leonetti deserves heaps of credit for the evil energy that radiates off of this shot; it's confrontational, unnervingly still, and positively terrifying.

6. David's flexible exorcism - The Conjuring: The Devil Made Me Do It

Whether or not you personally found "The Conjuring 3: The Devil Made Me Do It" to be effectively scary, you have to admit that the film kicks things off with a bang. 

The film joins the Warrens in the midst of an especially intense paranormal investigation. Thanks to 8-year-old David (Julian Hilliard) — who is under the influence of something — it looks like a bomb went off in the Glatzel house: claw marks eviscerate the wallpaper; shattered glass peppers the carpet, and before you can take the Lord's name in vain little David goes from "feverish" to "stabbing his dad in the kneecap." The expected supernatural thrashings ensue as everyone does their best to restrain the convulsing child.

However, after a priest spritzes David with holy water, things really being to pop off. And by "things popping" that means "David's joints." Twisting like a pretzel at a state fair, David's body contorts and bends into unnatural positions: his head slinks next to his pelvis and his backbone appears to have the rigidity of a wet noodle. It's an effect worth going through frame-by-frame for those interested in how the filmmakers pulled off the magic trick. 

While evocative (read: horrifying) sound design goes a long way, and well-timed light flickers allow for sneaky cuts that make the horrifying movements feel like one fluid sequence, those impressive feats of flexibility weren't CGI. Rather, they were performed in-camera by 12-year-old contortionist Emerald Wulf; Hilliard's face was superimposed in post-production.

5. Interrogating Bill Wilkins - The Conjuring 2

While there are both real-life and in-film skeptics that the Enfield poltergeist is, indeed, a bona fide haunting, "The Conjuring 2" makes it clear to the audience that in this film, the phenomena is real. One of the more evocative instances of the film "showing" us that this ghost is no joke takes place in the scene where Ed Warren interrogates little Janet Hodgson, who has been overcome with the spirit of Bill Wilkins — a grumpy, confused, angry old man who under the influence of the demon Valak.

In the scene, Ed and everyone else present must turn their backs to Janet for Wilkins' spirit to come forward. While Janet holds water inside her mouth, the croaking voice of the old man rattles in her throat, answering Ed's questions. While the unbroken shot focuses on Ed, the viewer watches as the diminutive, out-of-focus silhouette of Janet morphs into the unmistakable outline of an elderly man. It's a subtle shift that has no clear beginning, and rewatching the scene through again (with well-timed pauses) will emphasize the incremental effectiveness of the scene.

4. The final push-zoom towards the cursed music box - The Conjuring

There are plenty of jump scares in "The Conjuring." To the film's credit, the vast majority are well-earned, with careful set-ups and imaginative stingers that don't just feel like a creature shouting "boo!" at us without warning. 

Director James Wan clearly appreciates the art that goes into a good screamer. Which means he also knows when the audience is hardwired to expect a jolt. In the film's final scene, Ed Warren places the cursed music box that little April once used to speak with spirits in the containment room full of other haunted artifacts. In previous tension-filled scenes, Wan has taught viewers how the device works: you wind it up, stare into the mirror, and a spirit appears behind you when the song comes to a close. So now, in the film's final moments, the viewer thinks they know what to expect: push-zooming towards the swirling mirror as the plinking notes drone to their inevitable conclusion. The audience clenches its muscles and braces for impact. But nothing happens. 

The "gotcha!" never comes, and somehow, that's much worse. You'd be forgiven for rewinding the clip ... surely you missed something. But no: Wan wants the viewer to leave the film still holding their breath.

3. Bathsheba reveals herself - The Conjuring

Throughout "The Conjuring," sharp-eyed viewers might catch a couple of half-glimpsed snapshots of Bathsheba Sherman, the occult-affiliated woman who cursed anyone who attempted to take her land before she was hung for witchcraft. Bathsheba is the supernatural evil-doer behind the Perron family's woes, and each snippet of her likeness is both abject nightmare fuel and fleeting. We see her leering grimace — albeit cloaked in shadow — during an especially horrifying push-zoom towards the gleeful hag squatting on top of an ominous wooden dresser. Viewers also get a little peek at Bathsheba in the rocking chair with Annabelle.

But it isn't until the middle of the film's breakneck climax where the audience gets a proper look at the hateful hag. After Ed Warren shouts Bathsheba's name at the possessed Carolyn, the Perron matriarch's contorted face fully morphs into that of the witch. It's hard to decide what's worse: the stringy mat of hair, the canyon-lake wrinkles, or the unblinking, bloodshot eyes (it's definitely the eyes). 

Fans of Wan's work will be especially keen to hit pause to pay homage to the actor playing the wicked witch: frequent collaborator Joseph Bishara. In addition to providing the scores for the vast majority of films in the "Conjuring" universe, Bishara is also a seasoned hand at portraying supernatural baddies, from the Lipstick-Face Demon in the "Insidious" films to the Annabelle Demon in "Annabelle: Creation."

2. Ed Warren, Elvis impersonator - The Conjuring 2

There are very, very few moments of levity in the "Conjuring" trilogy, besides perhaps the moments where possessed characters levitate, because there are plenty of those. Instead, viewers need to be thankful for the merciful few moments that cut the tension; where characters take a break from the paranormal threat and give the freaked out audience a moment to breathe. 

While most of these brief reprieves consist of Ed and Loraine being sweet on each other, Ed Warren's incredible attempt to bring some joy into the lives of the tormented Hodgson children in "The Conjuring 2" far and away takes the cake. When Ed brings an Elvis record back to the house for the kids to listen to (their dad took all the records in the divorce), he's dismayed to discover that the record player is busted. But, no matter: armed with a guitar and an unflappable desire to bring a smile to the kids' faces, Ed conjures the spirit of Elvis with an impression of the crooner's rendition of "Can't Help Falling In Love With You." It's a joyful moment of warmth in an overwhelmingly tense, high-stakes series. In the absence of a Patrick Wilson "Elvis" biopic, you can always watch this delightful scene on repeat. Play it again, Ed.

1. Carolyn getting jump scared in the basement - The Conjuring

There are a number of reasons you might want to hit the pause button during this scene, which contains not only one of the best scares in "The Conjuring" films, but the horror genre writ large. 

After a game of "hide and clap" takes a turn for the spooky, Carolyn follows a series of strange noises that she (and the viewers) suspects aren't her daughter to the basement. An unseen force pushes Carolyn to the bottom of the stairs, locks the door, and explodes the lightbulbs (three things you do not want to have happen in sequence). Cowering on the landing, frantically lighting match after match, a childish voice asks Carolyn if she wants to play, and two ghostly arms shoot out beside her face from the dark, extinguishing the precious flame of her match and plunging the frame into darkness.

Whether you smash the pause button instinctively out of fear, or you freeze frame the jump scare so you can search for a shape lurking in the dark behind Carolyn, the "hide and clap" basement scare is one of the most iconic scenes in the franchise ... and well worth sitting with — whether you're catching your breath, or admiring the anatomy of this awesomeness.