Directed by Ari Aster, Hereditary (2018) is a thematically heavy horror film that explores grief, trauma and, no doubt, the meaning of inheritance, turning the concept of family demons into something literal and deeply disturbing on an existential level. Before we know the meaning of what is happening, let’s start with where it all begins. Let’s take a step-by-step look at what the movie Hereditary is about.
What is the movie Hereditary 2018 about
It all starts with Annie talking about the death of her mother Ellen, an event she seems ambivalent about due to their complicated relationship. At the funeral, she remarks that she doesn’t even recognize many of the attendees. Soon the grave is “desecrated” – a fact that Annie’s husband, Steve, hides from her.
We further learn that after her mother stayed away from her eldest child, Peter, her mother became very close to Annie’s daughter, Charlie. The little girl is most upset by death. Charlie is a strange child who creates figures without a head. She is haunted by a strange light that spreads in waves around the room.
Annie’s family has a history of mental illness. Her father stopped eating and starved to death, her brother died by suicide (claiming his mother tried to “put people in him”), and her mother suffered from dementia toward the end of her life. While looking through her mother’s books on the occult, Annie finds a note that says, “Our victims will fade next to the rewards.”
Peter, forced to take his sister to a party against their will. Things go really bad when Charlie gets an allergic reaction to the nuts in the chocolate cake. On the way to the hospital by car, the girl stuck her head out of the window, trying to ease her breathing, and was immediately beheaded.
Struggling with loss, Annie considers returning to the group she died in after her mother’s death. After parking her car outside, she meets a friendly woman named Joan. They bond, and after another chance encounter, Joan takes Annie home and has a seance in which she appears to bond with her dead grandson.
The meaning of the movie Hereditary 2018
Much of the movie is about how Annie Toni Collette really understood who her mother was and what was going to happen next. As the film begins, Annie almost taunts her mother’s “secret friends” and their secret rituals, ostensibly in praise. And, as she later realized during one group therapy session, that her mother was manipulative and thus feels responsible for what happens to allow this woman to come home. Annie didn’t want her mother around her first child, Peter.
On a subconscious level, she always suspected that her mother would be their undoing, hence her heavy guilt; Annie ratted out Charlie as a kind of appeasement to protect the rest of her family. Yet Charlie wasn’t what her mother really wanted. Also, it seems like Annie is even knowingly involved, if not fully aware of it.
Her desire to burn her children alive, even if it was in the case of a “walk in a dream”, suggests that she is vaguely aware of their grim birthrights. She did not want to have Peter again, as she reveals in the dream sequence in the film. She tried to miscarry, but he just wouldn’t die. Presumably her resentment towards him, even before Charlie’s death, is also reported by this.
As to why the film used King Paimon, an obscure spirit best known to occultists and apparently a few priests who still practice exorcism.
Some occultists claim that Paimon is a name that comes from Mesopotamian mythology and is essentially a Middle Eastern goddess in origin. The idea of Western mythology turning a goddess into a demon and a female deity into a male spirit so that he can become a “king” is intriguing. It also seems to be deliberately alluded to in the movie, as the Satanists will literally slaughter an entire family so they can move King Paimon’s body from the female vessel to the male.
Also on a thematic level, the film is obviously a metaphor for grief. None of the four main characters communicate how they really feel or think. They simply allow what is not said to accumulate in the growing space between them.
So when those unspoken words include trauma, such as the death of the youngest family member due to the actions of her older brother, it can have a transformative and devastating effect. Peter was already away from his mother before Charlie’s death. After her death, neither can speak at all to each other. And Annie can’t even trust her husband, who wants to leave ugly things better off. So she conveys this in her “art”, grief therapy sessions, and even with a cute smiling witch on the street.
The meaning of the ending of the movie Hereditary 2018
The last scene where Peter was made to be the vessel or host of this demonic entity is literally what happens. At the same time, there is a metaphor there, because the film is about trauma and how trauma can just completely change a person.”
Peter, like Annie, feels tremendous guilt over what happened to Charlie. However, he will not deal with it or take responsibility for it, so he absorbs it whole.
The film is a huge ritual performed to transfer Paimon’s spirit from Charlie, Peter’s spoiled little sister, into Peter’s body. Only in retrospect does it become clear that from the very beginning everything was part of a process that took years or perhaps even decades. Peter and Charlie’s grandmother always intended to use her offspring as a means to bring her family’s beloved demon witches into human flesh.
Write in the comments your assumptions and theories about what the film Hereditary is about and what its meaning is. We look forward to waiting!