Cookies help us deliver our Services. By using our Services, you agree to our use of cookies. Learn More.

Why This Conjuring Scene Is One Of The Scariest Of All Time

Frequently showing up on lists naming the greatest horror movies of all-time, 2013's "The Conjuring" by director and veteran horror creator James Wan is undeniably a classic of the genre. Written by Chad Hayes and Carey W. Hayes, "The Conjuring" is based on a real-life case of famous paranormal investigators, Ed and Lorraine Warren, played by Patrick Wilson and Vera Farmiga in the film. The movie itself tells the story of Carolyn (Lili Taylor) and Roger Perron (Ron Livingston), who in 1971 move into a Rhode Island farmhouse with their children, whereupon they soon start experiencing supernatural — and terrifying — events.

The film was a critical and commercial success. Not only did it make over $300 million worldwide in box office sales (via Box Office Mojo), it also boasts a high 86% Tomatometer on Rotten Tomatoes. Anyone who has seen the film will undoubtedly understand its success, as it's one of the best and most memorable horror movies to come out of recent years. With a skilled direction, keen writing and excellent acting, "The Conjuring" is a masterclass of suspense, thrills, and the utilization of jump scares.

With all this in mind, it's no surprise that one of the movie's scenes could be considered one of the scariest ever filmed — which is exactly what Meagan Navarro argued in a 2019 article for Slashfilm.

The Conjuring takes advantage of misdirection for a key scene

The key villain of "The Conjuring" is Bathsheba, a previous owner of the house who, in her time of 1863, was an accused witch and sacrificed her newborn baby to the devil (here, it's worth noting that the central "real life" mythology that "The Conjuring" cites, in regard to Bathsheba, appears to be mostly a fabrication: as the magazine Skeptical Inquirer points out, Bathsheba was a real person, but had very little in common with her "Conjuring" counterpart, and the scary stories attached to her today were a posthumous invention that never circulated during her actual life).  

In any case, in "The Conjuring," Bathsheba has been haunting the farmhouse ever since her suicide. And the first time one of the characters — and the viewers — actually get to see Bathsheba is the scene that Navarro cites as one of the scariest of all time.

In the scene, one of the daughters, Andrea (Shanley Caswell), is woken up by her sister Cindy (Mackenzie Foy), a sleepwalker, banging her head against their wardrobe doors, which makes a knocking sound. Andrea goes over and gently guides Cindy back to her bed — only to hear the knocking sound continue from the wardrobe, as if someone is inside trying to get out. Andrea, wary and afraid, slowly walks back to the wardrobe and opens it, only to find it empty. Behind her, Cindy sits up in bed and then loudly gasps. Andrea, turns to her sister and follows Cindy's eyesight — on top of the wardrobe, not in it, is where the ghastly Bathsheba is lurking.

Why the Bathsheba reveal in The Conjuring is so scary

In Meagan Navarro's Slashfilm piece, titled "The Conjuring Helped Shape Modern Horror – And Its Most Frightening Scene is an All-Timer," she explains why this moment is so terrifying, citing misdirection as the key element. She writes, "In [Cindy's] state of subconscious, something is luring Cindy to the wardrobe. She bangs her head against its doors in rhythmic fashion at night, causing the viewer to focus on the question of [what] might be inside of it."

Additionally, Navarro explains, Wan takes his time building up the expectation of where the unknown horror is coming from. She writes, "Even as the tension is mounting, the camera cuts back and forth between Andrea's approach of the wardrobe, Cindy's dawning awareness and fear, and the dark wardrobe itself. It's shot in such a way that it keeps the top of the wardrobe out of frame prior to the reveal, ensuring the jolt is at its most potent." The key here, essentially, is that Wan patiently guides the viewer to expect a scare, but to expect it in a different way than he intends. This way, when Bathsheba is revealed, he has managed to escalate the tension, falsely defuse it, and then double the shock factor when the real scare pops out.

We can definitely all agree that the wardrobe scene has precisely the chilling effect that Wan intended, cementing the scene — and the film — as one of the scariest of all time. Thanks to James Wan's direction, it's no wonder that "The Conjuring" has proven to be one of the most influential horror flicks of the last decade.