11 Horrifying Clues And Hidden Meanings In 'Hereditary' That You 100% Missed

19 June 2018, 17:53

Hereditary screaming Toni Collette Alex Wolff
Picture: via A24
Nicky Idika

By Nicky Idika

The most horrifying film of the year so far has A LOT of levels to it.

Hereditary tells the dark tale of a family with horrific secrets and truly terrifying connections to the occult. Director Ari Aster took care to make the film a cinematic experience that is both compelling and haunting. If you've seen the film, you'll know there were some parts that definitely needed further explanation.

The movie did its best to wrap things up fairly neatly, but just in case things were't crystal clear, here are some of the questions we know you had while watching the movie.

Spoilers beyond this point, obviously.

1) Who is Paimon? Why is he significant?

Hereditary film poster
Picture: via A24

At the end of Hereditary, it is revealed that the spirit of Paimon now lives inside of Peter (Alex Wolff). thanks to a bloody and gruesome ritual. According to director Ari Aster, Charlie (Milly Shapiro) has always been Paimon.

"From the moment she’s born," a demon known as Paimon occupies the body of the youngest member of the family. When Charlie is killed, Joan (Ann Dowd) sets into motion a plan to force Peter's spirit to vacate his body and allow Paimon to have a new male host.

In mythology Paimon is a Goetic demon, often described as a king or high ranking entity from hell. In The Lesser Key of Soloman, Paimon is described as "[appearing] in the form of a Man sitting upon a Dromedary with a Crown most glorious upon his head." Though high ranking, himself, Paimon is understood to be very loyal to the head honcho, Satan.

In a Reddit AMA Ari addressed the the choice of Paimon as the occult figure in the film, saying "the devil has been done to death. Paimon was my favorite option that came up in my research."

2) Why does Charlie click her tongue?

Hereditary Charlie Cllick
Picture: A24

Ari Aster describes Charlie's signature sound "a necessary device". The clucking has certainly become "a thing" since Milly Shapiro mastered the tick unique to her character.

There are a couple of explanations here. One is that audiences are meant to understand that there is something unusual and unsettling about Charlie. The second is that the tick is actually the demon Paimon's tick. That is why, at the end of the film, Peter makes the clucking noise as well.

3) Was Annie (Toni Collette) actually evil?

via A24

By the end of the movie, considering the amount of chaos and trauma that has ensued, it's easy to get turned around when it comes to keeping track of who is really evil.

So, let's settle this once and for all. Is Annie really evil in Hereditary?

According to Ari Aster, Annie is a victim in this situation and her sleepwalking gives us an interesting understanding of this.

In the Reddit AMA, Aster writes "Annie knows on some buried, suppressed level that her life is not her own, and she is the victim of unthinkable, Machiavellian scheming by her mother. But she cannot look directly that [sic] this (let alone inquire about it). It would destroy too much of her inner structure. So, she lives in a kind of denial. But in her sleep, this part of her is acting out. She tried to set fire to her children to prevent the "resurrection of Paimon," as you say. She even says, in the dream sequence, 'I wasn't trying to kill you, I was trying to save you.'"

4) What does the symbol on the necklace mean?

Hereditary necklace
Picture: A24
Hereditary necklace
Picture: A24

You'll notice that, throughout the film, a particular symbol keeps popping up. Both Annie and her mother, Ellen are seen wearing this symbol around their necks.

That symbol is also on the pole that kills Charlie. So, what does it mean? That is Paimon's actual sigil from mythology. There isn't a great deal of Paimon lore incorporated into the film (I suspect this is to avoid getting into the mythological weeds) but the symbol seen throughout the film is the real deal.

5) Was Charlie's death really an accident?

Charlie death
Picture: A24

Simply put, no!

By the end of the film, it's pretty clear that Charlie's death was orchestrated, right down to the telephone pole with Paimon's sigil on it.

Remember, Charlie has always been Paimon and Paimon was always meant to be a boy (hence Charlie's boyish sounding name). Charlie's death was merely a necessary step to resurrecting the demon and placing him into a male host.

6) Why were Peter's eyes crossed out in the drawings?

Alex Wolff hereditary
Picture: A24

Twitter user @cheracuse offers up an interesting theory. "I think it’s interesting how Peter’s eyes are poked out in photos and crossed out in Charlie’s drawings. Eyes usually symbolize the soul and the fact that they’re poked/crossed out foreshadows the expelling of his soul."

Reddit user lionknightcid offers up a slightly different theory. "I was expecting at any point for his eyes to be destroyed by some invisible force or something, slowly and noisily, or for him to do it to himself, Oedipus style."

Many have theorised that there might be an alternate cut of the film which features an ending where Peter claws out his eyes. If this is the case, we can see why the ending was changed. The painstaking effort to secure a suitable male host for Paimon would have been made moot if Peter had damaged his own body to that extent. We're thinking soul symbolism makes the most sense here.

Hereditary ending: Explained

The final act of Hereditary descends into a really unique type of chaos. Considering the fact that Hereditary was originally supposed to be three hours long, it's easy to feel like you didn't quite catch everything the movie was throwing at you.

7) Who put the body in the Attic?

When granny's headless body turns up in the attic, audiences could be forgiven for believing Annie is the culprit. Ari Aster cleared that bit up, saying "the cult of "Paimonists" dug her up and put her there (as per grandma's instructions)."

Put away your grand theories about Annie.

8) Why did Annie cut her own head off?

Annie decapitating herself was actually one of the first scenes Ari Aster conceptualized for the film. The gruesome scene has to do with "the concept of a mother so destroyed by what happened to her child that she has to do it to herself."


9) Why did Annie's headless body float?

One reddit user theorizes that this has to do with Paimon's powers in lore. One of his abilities includes the power to reanimate the dead.

Once her head is removed, it appears that she is no longer in control of her body, but rather Paimon is.


10) Why did Paimon possess Peter?

The cult had actually been trying to find a suitable male host for the demon Paimon for many years. In the beginning when Annie is talking about how her brother committed suicide after believing their mother tried to put "people" inside him, we later understand that this was likely an early attempt to house Paimon's spirit.

Annie's mother essentially sacrificed her entire family to resurrect Paimon. Everyone, including Charlie, Peter, Annie and Steve was simply a pawn.


11) How does Peter die?

Peter is ambushed by members of the cult and falls out of the attic window and onto the ground. His soul leaves his body and Paimon's spirit enters.