The Scariest Thing In Hereditary Wasn’t What You Think


Writer-director Ari Aster’s 2018 debut feature
film Hereditary is the horror movie equivalent of a haymaker punch to the gut. Hereditary tells the story of a family plagued
by generational curses as well as a demon cult, but, believe it or not, that really
freaky cult isn’t the scariest part of the movie. Be warned, however: major spoilers ahead. One of the most memorable scenes in Hereditary
is the closing scene in the treehouse, in which Peter, now housing the demonic Paimon’s
soul, is crowned the King of Hell on Earth. For the kinds of viewers who didn’t care for
the movie, this ending came out of nowhere. But to viewers who paid close attention, who
read the literal writing on the walls, this scene was the culmination of every single
frame of the film up to that point. The closing scene is a testament to the secret
machinations of the cult of Paimon. Throughout the whole film, the cult manipulates
nearly every event: from the funeral, to Charlie’s death, to Annie’s desperate spiral into spiritualism,
to Peter’s utter mental and physical collapse. We even learn that the cult stretches back
generations before the events of the film, leading to the deaths of Annie’s father and
brother and even the births of her children. From the shadows, they manipulate everything
that befalls the Graham family until all that’s left is Peter’s broken shell with a demon
filling. But why should we be afraid, apart from the
film’s shocking imagery? What’s to fear? Demons aren’t real, right? Wait… is Paimon real? Well, Paimon is as real as any demon is real,
which depends on your personal worldview. But he’s as real as any of those demons that
were famously tamed by King Solomon. Paimon appears in the 16th-century grimoire
known as The Lesser Key of Solomon, arguably the most influential work of demonology of
all time. According to The Lesser Key, Paimon is a King
of Hell who wears a crown and rides a camel, preceded by the sound of trumpets. If you invoke him, he can grant you knowledge
of all arts and sciences and secret knowledge of the Earth, wind, and waters. Furthermore, he can grant you good familiars
and dignities and lordships, as well as revealing hidden treasures. Writer-director Ari Aster goes to some pains
to be accurate in his depiction of Paimon, though he embellishes in a few places. For example, the idea that Paimon requires
a male host seems to be an original idea, though Paimon is sometimes described as having
a woman’s face, so gender issues are not out of nowhere. But is Paimon himself out of nowhere in the
movie? What are signs of his presence? One of the biggest clues to Paimon’s presence
is his symbol which can be found lurking in many crucial scenes. Annie and her mother are both seen wearing
necklaces with the seal of Paimon at the first funeral. Once Joan is revealed as a cult member, you
can see Paimon’s seal on her wall. Most significantly, though, you can see Paimon’s
seal carved on the utility pole where Charlie will later be decapitated, which reveals how
even that shocking event was orchestrated by the cult of Paimon. The most literal sign of Paimon’s presence,
however, is the glimmering blue light that indicates he is manipulating events: Besides
the obvious moments of possession, close viewing will catch this light knocking over Annie’s
paint bottle and popping up during key events at Peter and Charlie’s school. Besides Paimon, there’s one character in Hereditary
whose presence is the most pervasive in the film despite being literally defined by her
absence: Ellen, Annie’s mother and Peter and Charlie’s grandmother. Ellen is the catalyst for everything in the
movie, from any angle. As a leader in the cult of Paimon, her desire
to provide a host for her demon king is the driving force behind the shadow conspiracy
that wrecks the Graham family. Likewise, her death and the complicated feelings
this stirs up in Annie lead to a lot of the emotional conflict in the film. But going back even further, it was her treatment
of Annie as a child that teaches Annie how to deal with her own children, a lineage of
abuse and poor communication that culminates with Annie’s explosion at the dinner table. “And I know you’re in pain and I wish I could
take that away for you. I wish I could shield you from the knowledge
that you did what you did, but your sister is dead.” More than any demon or cultist, it’s Ellen’s
toxic presence that leads to the ruin of three generations of a family. Her lifetime of machinations lead to the film’s
most tragic events in a practical sense, but it’s her emotional abuse of her family that
creates the environment that makes the family’s total dissolution possible. But what is it that makes a crappy grandma
a scarier proposition than a King of Hell? If a scene takes place in a classroom, you
should pay attention to the lecture. That’s because there’s a good chance the teacher
will say something thematically relevant. Peter sits in on three classes where the movie’s
theme is, in some cases, literally written on a chalkboard. The final classroom scene has only a snippet
of discussion of Aeschylus’ Oresteia, a trilogy of plays about the cycle of intergenerational
violence, with the words “Punishment brings wisdom” somewhat ominously written on the
board. Meanwhile, a history class discusses the Great
Depression, which is reflective of the, well, great depression Peter suffers after Charlie’s
accident. Sometimes things are just that straightforward. However, the first scene is the most telling. Peter’s English teacher is discussing Sophocles’
tragedy Trachiniae while Peter texts his friend. The discussion centers on how the tragedy
of the play is heightened by Heracles’ futile attempts to escape his unconditional fate
and how his attempt to control his destiny is an arrogance that is his fatal flaw. Unfortunately, this was an English class Peter
and his mom probably should have paid attention to. It’s tragic. As Peter’s classmate would say: “I think it’s more tragic because if it’s
all just inevitable than that means that the characters have no hope.” One of the most striking elements of the movie
is Annie’s miniatures. As the film goes on, it becomes clear that
these miniatures are representations of emotional and even traumatic moments in Annie’s life
that she uses to try to process her feelings toward these moments: her mother’s funeral,
her mother’s bizarre behavior in her final days, Charlie’s death, and so on. In one of the movie’s blackest, most absurdly
comic moments, Annie defends her choice to make a miniature of Charlie’s death scene
to her husband Stephen. “It’s not about him!” “Oh no?” “No! It’s a neutral view of the accident!” Clearly creating an objective third-person
view of these terrible moments is Annie’s attempt at exerting some control over these
things that made her feel powerless. By stripping the scenes of subtext, she can
hope to finally understand the text of them. But as director Ari Aster tells Variety, this
is at best an illusion of control. The constant framing of the Graham house in
such a way that it often becomes impossible to distinguish real house from miniature house
is no coincidence. The Grahams themselves are merely dolls living
in a dollhouse, puppets whose strings are held by Ellen, by Paimon, by the cult, by
fate itself. This, or at least Peter’s classmates would
assert, makes the fall of the house of Graham all the more tragic. Aster described the story of Hereditary to
Variety in a surprisingly succinct elevator pitch: “It’s a story about a long-lived possession
ritual told from the perspective of the sacrificial lamb.” From the very first frame of this movie, Peter
is manipulated by others toward his fate, by his grandmother’s manipulations, by his
mother’s emotional abuse, and even by a literal demon. He’s led like an unwitting lamb to slaughter,
until he is physically and emotionally broken down enough to be receptive to Paimon’s possession. Hereditary is Lovecraftian in the sense that
it examines regular people who find themselves confronted with forces so beyond their everyday
comprehension that facing it head on destroys their sanity and ultimately their lives. Paimon’s logic is not human logic, and any
attempts to impose such logic on the tragedies befalling the Grahams has disastrous consequences. And while Peter is Paimon’s main focus, no
one suffers the consequences of trying to control fate more than Annie. The obvious question to ask over the course
of the movie is, “Has Annie lost her mind?” Her psychiatrist husband seems to think so,
as we even see him drafting an email to a colleague about Annie’s possible breakdown. Mental illness, we hear, runs in her family:
her mother suffered dissociative identity disorder, her father starved himself to death,
and her brother committed suicide in an apparent schizophrenic episode. But within the literal reality of the movie,
it’s possible most of these diagnoses were misunderstandings of demonic activity. Annie’s brother, the original Charlie, was
at least telling the truth. His mother really was trying to put someone
inside him. “My older brother had schizophrenia, and when
he was sixteen he hanged himself in my mother’s bedroom, and of course his suicide note blamed
her, accusing her of putting people inside him.” Annie isn’t suffering a breakdown, she’s reacting
to literal reality around her. In fact, the least rational thing she tries
to do is impose logic on an illogical world. Her attempts to impose order and save her
family only make things worse. She tries to contact Charlie to soothe that
pain and summons Paimon’s loose spirit into their home. The worst example of this, however, comes
when Annie tries to have a grand redemptive moment by sacrificing herself for her family
by throwing the notebook into the fire, expecting it to consume her. Of course, her husband is burned to death
instead. And why wouldn’t he be? Why should Annie catch fire this time just
because she did before? Paimon’s logic is not human logic. But while the presence of mental illness within
the literal reality of Hereditary is ambiguous at best, it is impossible to deny the looming
shadow it casts over the film on a metaphorical level. The mental illness passed down from Ellen
to Annie and her brother and then to Peter and Charlie is merely one element that moves
from generation to generation. Ellen’s emotional abuse is passed on from
mother to daughter, despite Annie’s best attempts to remove herself from it. The keeping of secrets and issues with communicating
also cross generational lines. Ultimately Peter bears the brunt of all this
pain in the way that mental illness, abuse, and intergenerational trauma ate his family
from the inside. Aster sums it up when he told Vox that the
movie is ultimately: “… About how trauma can utterly transform
a person, and not necessarily for the better.” “You can choose your friends, but you can’t
choose your family,” or so the saying goes. You might not believe in fate, and you might
not believe in demon cults manipulating your life. You might fully believe in the pure existence
of free will and that we as humans choose our own destinies. But there are some forces that determine facts
about us completely outside our capacity to choose: our DNA and the traits we derive from
it, the traumas we inherit from our families, the scars they put in us. Even if you fully abandon your family, cutting
them off entirely, you still carry them with you, both in your genes and in your neuroses. More than the idea of being responsible for
the death of a loved one, more than the fear of ghosts lurking in the corner, more than
multiple decapitations, the scary thing about Hereditary is that there are things in our
lives that we absolutely cannot control. Our loved ones will change. Our loved ones will die. We are destined, in one way or another, to
become our parents. It is impossible for any of us to ever truly
know someone. And all these things are terrifying. Check out one of our newest videos right here! Plus, even more Grunge videos about movies
and demon-kings are coming soon. Subscribe to our YouTube channel and hit the
bell so you don’t miss a single one.

100 thoughts on “The Scariest Thing In Hereditary Wasn’t What You Think

  1. I am trying to figure out what I missed cause based on these comments I expected to be spooked. Instead I was put to sleep

  2. I could be wrong about this, but I don’t think I am. I’m pretty sure Peter died when he flung himself from the attic window. When we see a bird’s-eye view of his body on the ground, his spirit is seen leaving his body and is then replaced by Charlie’s spirit, which explains why he clucks his tongue when he stands up. Joan even calls him Charlie when he enters the treehouse. So, I don’t think Peter’s body has yet to host the demon at the closing of the film. Not yet, anyway. But we know it’s coming at that point.

  3. The scariest thing is that someone made a video about the actual explanation of the movie, but saying "wasn't what you think" like if nobody would be capable to understand the movie by himself.

  4. Is no one going to talk about how that dude pretty much killed his sister while driving stoned? It was pretty hard to feel bad for that character after that. Also the part about Charlie mentioning that her grandmother wanted her to be a son that’s pretty the depression egg is pretty literal not at all a surprise. I liked the movie but it really wasn’t that scary I’m more terrified of Misommar honestly.

  5. What is the scariest thing exactly? This video just seems to be a list of obvious stuff we learn throughout the movie.

  6. The most intense part for me was the nightmare where Peter is sobbing asking “Why are you trying to kill me?!” There were a lot of meltdowns but this one felt the most genuine to me.

  7. Man, this movie just solidified the fact that, not only do I hate kids, but I don't ever want them because I'll just pass down mental illness (mine) and addiction (not mine) to any kid I ever had.

    My family (on both sides) are addicts and alcoholics, and all with bouts of depression or extreme aggression. So it's probably for the best that I don't reproduce.

  8. honestly i feel insanely stupid right now. my sister told me that charlie died because there were magic mushrooms in the cake and i didn't even realize it was because of the peanuts

  9. The background music is distracting, I couldn't watch past the 5th minute. Please turn it down, and make it less upbeat, especially for topics like this one.

  10. So every movie review/explanation that I've watched recently says everything is Lovecraftian and I don't quite understand why. In this movie, you find out exactly what is behind all this activity that's going on. If you know what the cause is doesn't that take away from the Lovecraftian horror? If this isn't the case then all horror involved with paranormal would basically be Lovecraftian right?

  11. I wish I could watch this but that background music is too distracting and annoying. Could you possibly post a version without the music?

  12. You have an amazing contents man, some of your videos are brilliant. But you need to work more on the music choices and the thumbnails. I wish you good luck..

  13. The scariest part for me is when the mom goes to the lady who was in the cult with the grandma and you figure out she knows the family and is in the cult and has pictures of peter

  14. This isn't scary at all🤬👎 why do people go on bout this film so much? Get Out n IT are much better films 🤙👍😋

  15. this movie was so overhyped. I kept waiting for it to get scary or interesting and it just didn't happen. Gave it several chances and I just kept falling asleep.

  16. Hereditary is scary in a very real way, I cannot stop thinking about it. It is a true horror film, disturbing, mysterious and scary.

  17. I like that this video have me new ways to look at the film but I still dont think it's as amazing as I've been told it is. It's ok.

  18. Crazy movie, seen this last weekend.
    The part where she's floating in the air in the Attic and trying to cut her head off, that's what got me.

  19. for me the scariest scene in the movie was Charlie's severed head on the road, following Annie's psychotic screams. there's a story to that though: i started to watch the movie late at night and fell asleep in the beginning. when i woke up it was Charlie's smashed, ant-covered head staring at me who still wasn't even fully woke up. i thought i never fear a horror movie but this one was so twisted that i actually was little bit nervous to watch the movie the next day=D

  20. I hate that every video now needs some unrelated musical distraction in the background. So counterproductive.

  21. A generational curse is one of the most debilitating issues to deal with for any person, irrespective of your mental and physical toughness you will often find the challenges you face inexplicably difficult. It's as if there is a ceiling on your potential. A large bulk of which goes unrealised and in some cases this can be the cause of much frustration. It's like you willing and able, however you seem to face insurmountable odds at the delivery which results in failure. Now string together all the little failure and you get an idea of why this can lead to suicide, manic depression, etc. I never believed in it until things just started happening to me which I couldn't for the life of me explain.

  22. I think Hereditary is probably too scary for me. I rented Us, and that was scary enough as well as artistically interesting. I will never see The Exorcist, Halloween and its ilk, Poltergeist, The Amityville Horror, and so on. After being unable to sleep after seeing The Omen, The Sixth Sense was as scary as I will go.

  23. Hmm. This movie isn’t scary at all. My friends and I were laughing at the last scene when the decapitated body of the mother was floating hahaha. It was so funny and we think it’s corny 😂

  24. The entire movie was amazing and stands alone in the horror/thriller genre. It is like no other one that I have seen and I am a HORROR fanatic. Most would probably pick the decapitation scene as the most disturbing; while being a very sudden and jump scare kind of scene, I felt that the scene where Peter raises his hand in class and seemingly is having a stroke was the the one that made my stomach drop. Easily my favorite movie of 2018.

  25. The fact that some crazy ass cults exists, makes this film even scarier. I mean shit this could be happening somewhere, right now!

  26. The movie had a bunch of terrifying moments, but the progression seemed to flounder. We don't really realize why everything is happening until the end. It's like at that point you kind of need to re-watch the whole movie to understand what was happening the whole time. It could have benefitted from a bit more structure. Narrations, flashbacks, and lengthy expositions from one character to another can certainly be overused. But sometimes you have to do something to provide navigational signs for the viewers. Otherwise we just feel like we're wandering aimlessly through a house of horrors.

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