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Is Insidious a better horror movie franchise than The Conjuring?

In an era when franchises are everywhere, two of the most under-discussed come from a very similar creative team. Insidious and The Conjuring have been two of the most dominant horror franchises of the last decade, and both franchises spring originally from director James Wan, who directed the first installment of both franchises.

Wan, who has since gone on to make films like Aquaman and Malignant, is one of the more creative minds working on major movies in Hollywood these days, and Insidious and The Conjuring so the promise he’s always had as a director.

Now that both franchises have evolved, and Insidious: The Red Door is set to hit theaters, it’s time to look back on both franchises and determine which one was ultimately better.

Which franchise had a higher peak?

The Conjuring - Official Main Trailer [HD]

Although both Insidious and The Conjuring have had plenty of high highs over their times as franchises, the highest peak of them all is the first installment in The Conjuring franchise, which tells the story of the Warrens, a pair of real-life paranormal investigators who travel to a farmhouse to investigate a haunting there.

The movie is more sharply written and directed than any installment in either franchise, and it’s a high watermark not just for these franchises, but for horror filmmaking in the 21st century.

Winner: The Conjuring.

Which franchise has been more consistently interesting?

The main character of Insidious is sitting in a room looking forward while a scary red-faced demon appears behind him snarling.
Image used with permission by copyright holder

The Conjuring may have had a higher creative peak, but the Insidious franchise has been more consistently compelling over the course of its various installments. Every entry is compelling for one reason or another, and they all tie together much more cleanly than the much more sprawling Conjuring universe.

It’s worth acknowledging that there have been far fewer movies tied to the Insidious universe than to The Conjuring, but on average, those movies have also been much better than the many properties that spun out of the original Conjuring movie.

Winner: Insidious.

Which franchise has the better cast?

INSIDIOUS: THE RED DOOR – Official Trailer (HD)

Perhaps the toughest question of them all, in part because Patrick Wilson is the male lead in both franchises. Ultimately, this question may really come down to whether you prefer Rose Byrne or Vera Farmiga as your female lead, but outside of the first Conjuring installment, the other cast members in the Insidious movies have tended to be stronger on average.

The very best cast in any of these films is in the original Conjuring, but Insidious catches up by casting well in each of its subsequent installments.

Winner: Insidious.

Which franchise has a larger cultural impact?

Patrick Wilson and Frances O' Connor in The Conjuring 2.
Image used with permission by copyright holder

Both franchises have left a legacy behind them, but it’s hard to deny that the stories of the Warrens and everything around them have ultimately had a much larger cultural footprint.

Even just looking at the number of movies that each franchise has spawned feels like an important tell about which one the public has tended to be more interested in. It seems like we may have seen the last of this on-screen iteration of the Warrens with The Devil Made Me Do It, but The Conjuring franchise has now grown far beyond them.

Winner: The Conjuring.

Which franchise has the bigger scares?

The Conjuring Image used with permission by copyright holder

Although we can argue about legacy or casts all day, the one thing most people really care about in any horror movie is how effective it is at frightening you. And, while both of these franchises have offered plenty of great scares throughout their runs, The Conjuring has to win this prize.

The stories in these movies are much more classically horrific, but that doesn’t make them any less effective. Wan knows how to rip the terror out of every moment, and few directors in history have understood how disturbing the right combinations of images can be. He’s really flexed in both franchises, but The Conjuring’s stories of possession and haunted houses (and dolls) are ultimately more likely to leave you sleeping with one eye open.

Winner: The Conjuring.

Which one is the better horror franchise?

The Conjuring, the best horror movies on Netflix
Image used with permission by copyright holder

It was fairly close, but The Conjuring’s sheer terror, as well as its legacy as a franchise, already ultimately make it the better choice for the better overall franchise.

Insidious still has more stories left to tell, but for now, The Conjuring is likely the franchise you’d pick up first if you could only have one of them.

Winner: The Conjuring.

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Joe Allen
Joe Allen is a freelance writer based in upstate New York focused on movies and TV.
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