‘Hereditary’ Questions and Theories (Warning: Spoilers)
You’ve been warned.
At the beginning of the movie, Annie (Toni Collete) gives a eulogy for her late mother describing her as strange and off-putting. When Annie confronts her daughter, Charlie (Milly Shapiro), after the funeral to see how she’s coping, Charlie is as unbothered as the rest of the family. She comments that her grandmother always wanted her to be a boy. Because it’s in the beginning of the movie, we take this information for granted and just brush it off as weird, irrelevant backstory. Wrong. There is no such thing as irrelevant backstory in this movie. We learn this the hard way when the horror starts.
Hereditary’s horror seems random and senseless in the first half, leaving us to speculate on the hauntings until things are made clearer in the second half. After a while, Annie starts to suspect the brutal death of Charlie and the trauma her family is going through is somehow tied back to her mother. It’s only until she goes through an old storage box that has all the secrets we realize the source of it all: some Goetic demon-king named Paimon. In the final scene, Paimon possesses Peter (Alex Wolff), and they all bow down to him. This answers a lot of the questions—some obvious and some not—we asked during the movie and leaves some unanswered. Here are my answers:
1. Why was Annie’s mother obsessed with Charlie?
The only thing that’s made obvious from the start is that Charlie is severely disturbed, we just don’t find out until later that it’s because thanks to grandma, King Paimon’s spirit was inside her all along. This explains why Annie’s mother was so unhealthily attached to her; she was worshiping her and nurturing her ever since she was a baby.
2. What’s the deal with Annie’s late brother and Joan’s late son?
King Paimon needs—or at least ultimately prefers—a male body, so he chooses Peter. This possibly explains why Joan’s son dies at the young age of seven and why Annie’s schizophrenic brother hangs himself after writing it’s because their mother tried to “put people in his head”. I think that both mothers tried to give their sons’ bodies for King Paimon to use, but things went wrong. This could also possibly explain why Annie’s severely depressed father starves himself, but I think this demonic worship thing is maternal. Either way, the men in this movie are doomed.
Left to right, Annie (Toni Collette) and Joan (Ann Dowd). A24
3. Who were those other worshippers in the final scene?
From what I could tell, Annie, Charlie, the dad (Gabriel Byrne), Joan, and the grandmother are all in that tree house kneeling before Peter. There are definitely some others there I can’t name; however, I’m fairly certain one of them is the guy who smiles at Charlie when she looks at her grandmother in the casket. I knew something was off with that guy from the get-go. I still have no idea who the others were, so that remains a mystery.
4. What’s up with the words scratched into the walls?
Throughout the movie, foreign words are etched into the walls. I’ve only seen the movie once, but I thought they happened after each haunting. When I read pandemonium scratched into a wall, I gathered that all of the words were Latin. Now I don’t go around summoning demons or anything, but from the movies I’ve seen, it’s pretty standard to recite Latin before a séance.
5. What happened to Peter during class? Why would he bash his head?
With a 20/20 hindsight, I think this is nothing more than foreshadowing, or King Paimon just screwing with him. In the final scene, there’s a makeshift King Paimon figure with Charlie’s head posed in the exact same awkward position Peter’s in before he bashes his head on the desk.
Poor Pete. A24
6. What’s with the decapitation motif?
Oddly enough, most of the dead bodies in this movie are decapitated. First with the poor bird Charlie summoned, and lastly with Annie decapitating herself when she was going after Peter. Again, I’ve only seen the movie once so I might be wrong, but when Annie looks at the book of spirits and sees a drawing of King Paimon, I thought I saw him holding a few skulls. If I did see correctly, it could easily just bee a symbol for death; I think it means something, just not quite sure what exactly. I think this is also why Peter bashes his head on his desk, Annie bashes her head on the attic door trying to get to him, and why she seems to be trying to pull his head off when she sleepwalks.
7. Why did Annie try to kill Peter and Charlie in her sleep?
When Annie casually mentioned to Joan her son holds a grudge against her because she tried to light him and his sister up, at least twelve alarms sounded in my head telling me she was going to get possessed real soon. As twisted as it is, I think this subconscious murder attempt and her miscarriage attempt were to spare her children of ever becoming King Paimon. Clearly, she ultimately failed because both kids were possessed. I think she subconsciously knew that her mother would try to use their bodies, just like she did with her deceased brother.
Right or wrong, I am definitely seeing this movie again. What are your theories? Let me know in the comments down below!
Nothing but love.