Ari Aster: a filmmaker known for his uniquely haunting horror movies that delve deep into the human psyche. His films are not just scary but also intricate and layered, often mixing elements of mysticism, folklore, and family dynamics. Perhaps none of his films better encapsulates Aster’s unique filmmaking sensibilities than Hereditary. This film is a masterclass in atmospheric horror, with a plot that is as complex as it is terrifying.
As shocking as the film may be, the things happening behind the scenes, so to speak, with the Graham family might be even more shocking than some of the most haunting moments in the film. For this reason, we’ll now be delving deep into the complex lore of Hereditary, unpacking the film’s intricate mythology and symbolism, and exploring the deeper themes and motifs that underlie the story.
In Ari Aster’s Hereditary, the Graham family is haunted by disturbing events that ultimately reveal a dark family history and a menacing supernatural presence.
The story follows the Grahams, consisting of Annie (the mother), Steve (the father), Peter (the son), and Charlie (the daughter). When Annie’s mother, Ellen, passes away, the family starts to experience strange occurrences, such as sleepwalking, visions, and mysterious symbols.
Annie’s relationship with her late mother was also tense, as Ellen was manipulative and domineering. Annie’s father and brother both suffered from mental illness, which has had a lasting impact on her own mental health.
Overall, the family is emotionally distant, with various unresolved issues and traumas that come to the surface as supernatural events unfold.
As it turns out, Ellen was not just an emotionally distant relative: she was also a secretive and manipulative woman who had a deep involvement in a cult that worships the demon Paimon.
Ellen is revealed to be the cult’s leader, and she had been grooming her granddaughter, Charlie, to be the vessel for Paimon. The cult believes that Paimon is a powerful demon who can grant them wealth, power, and knowledge if they can successfully summon him into a human host.
As the story unfolds, it is revealed that the cult has been working behind the scenes for generations to manipulate the Graham family into fulfilling their plan to summon Paimon. Ellen’s involvement in the cult and her efforts to groom Charlie serve as the linchpin in their plan, and her death sets the events of the film in motion.
Charlie, the youngest member of the Graham family in Hereditary, is portrayed as a peculiar and isolated child who struggles to fit in with her peers. She exhibits strange behavior throughout the film, such as making clicking noises with her tongue, drawing disturbing images, and even cutting the head off a dead bird.
Charlie’s death is a shocking and pivotal moment in the film. While driving home from a party, she has an allergic reaction after eating a cake containing nuts. Her throat swells shut, and in a panic, Peter swerves to avoid a dead animal in the road, causing Charlie to be decapitated by a telephone pole.
Charlie’s death is the catalyst for the events that follow, as her absence leaves a gaping hole in the family, and Annie’s grief and guilt drive her to seek answers about her family’s dark past. In the end, Charlie’s death serves as a necessary sacrifice in the cult’s plan to summon Paimon, further cementing her role in the film’s disturbing mythology.
It is revealed towards the end of the film that Peter was actually the cult’s target all along, not Charlie. This is because Peter is male and, therefore, a more suitable host for Paimon. The cultists had been manipulating the events leading up to Charlie’s death to ensure that Peter would be vulnerable and receptive to possession by Paimon.
As the film reaches its climax, the cultists succeed in summoning Paimon into Peter’s body, and he becomes the new host for the demon. The film’s final scenes show the newly empowered Peter sitting on a throne, surrounded by cultists who have finally achieved their ultimate goal. Kind of a bummer, to be honest.
As a side note, the film’s title, “Hereditary,” refers to the idea that the Graham family has inherited not just a history of mental illness and trauma, but also the demonic legacy of Paimon. By the movie’s end, the Grahams have effectively “inherited” Paimon’s powers, solidifying the film’s exploration of the effects of generational trauma and the legacy of a family’s dark past.