Hereditary (2018): Was Charlie’s Death Planned?

This post includes a plot description and a detailed explanation about the ending of the film Hereditary. Beware of spoilers.

hereditary ending explained

Here’s the thing, I don’t usually go out of my way to write about films that I did not like. However, today I’m going to open an exception for Hereditary. What was that ending? What the hell just happened? I’m so confused… Was Charlie’s death an accident? By the way, who was really Charlie? You see, there are still have tons of questions inside my head. Therefore, I’m writing this post to clarify my own thoughts about the film.

Before we jump on to the real discussion about the ending, let me give you a brief plot description about what happened. You know, just to refresh your memory in case you need it.

Hereditary – Plot Description

The film starts with Ellen Leigh’s funeral. Who is she? Ellen Leigh is the mother of Annie Graham, who’s married to Steve Graham. Together they have two kids: Charlie Graham and Peter Graham.

At her mother’s funeral, Annie encounters a lot of unknown faces. From her eulogy, one can tell that these two did not have an easy relationship.

The Graham family doesn’t get to have a break from Ellen’s death. Steve receives a call from the cemetery: Ellen’s grave was desecrated. However, Steve knows that Annie is still very sensitive about the matter. Therefore, he decides not to tell her.

While Annie goes through her mother’s stuff, she encounters a small note talking about making sacrifices and how these are going to pay off at the end. That note leaves Annie extremely upset. She shoves everything back to the box and then suddenly, she sees her mother in the shadows! That episode prompts her to seek help from a support group. By the way, she often lies to Steve about going to group therapy. During these sessions, Annie opens up a little bit more about her past. Apparently, there is a history of mental illness running in the family. For instance, her mother had dementia during her last years and her father starved himself to death (due to depression). In addition, her older brother was schizophrenic, he killed himself and blamed it on Ellen for trying to “put people inside of him”.

The Car Scene

hereditary car scene

As the story unravels, we learn that Annie and her son aren’t in the best terms. There’s some tension going on. One day, Peter asks his mother’s permission to drive her car to attend a private party. However, like every other teenager he lies about it. He tells Annie that it’s just a school party. But Annie doesn’t buy it, so he forces Peter to take Charlie with him. He complies and takes his sister with him.

During the party, Peter leaves Charlie for a moment. That unsupervised minute led Charlie to inadvertently consume chocolate cake with nuts, which sends her to an anaphylactic shock. Peter rushes out of the party to take Charlie to a hospital.

While Peter is driving at a high speed, Charlie sticks her head out of the window in order to grasp for some air. However, a dead deer in the middle of the road causes Peter to swerve. The next thing he hears? The sound of Charlie’s head hitting a telephone pole. Instant decapitation.

Peter doesn’t call for help, he drives back to his parents house. However, Charlie’s body is still in the back. Peter steps outside of the car and heads towards his own bedroom. He leaves his sister’s body to be discovered by his mother in the next morning. Annie is horrified and cannot stop screaming at the sight of Charlie’s decapitated body.

After Charlie’s funeral, Annie grows more distant of her son and husband. As time goes by, Peter’s mental health deteriorates and he starts to have hallucinations regarding his dead sister.

The Conjuring Scene

After Charlie’s death, Annie ponders whether she should continue or not attending the support group. During that moment of indecision, she meets Joan, a fellow member of the support group. They bond rather quickly and Annie reveals that she used to sleepwalk. Later on, we learn that she once tried to burn her children alive while she was sleepwalking. That’s when Joan tries to convince Annie to conjure Charlie’s spirit. At first, Annie is extremely sceptical but then, she decides to give it a try.

Peter is not the only one “seeing things”, Annie is having hallucinations too. As a result, Annie decides to summon Charlie’s spirit (together with Steve and Peter). The conjuring session does not go well. Peter is now petrified because of what he saw and Steve is furious at Annie. At this point, Annie is pretty much convinced that Charlie’s spirit has become malevolent. Therefore, she tries to destroy Charlie’s sketchbook (the object used for the conjuring). However, she failed miserably, as her sleeve caught on fire the moment she tried to burn the sketchbook.

Annie doesn’t know what do about it. Therefore, she heads to Joan’s apartment for some answers. She couldn’t find Joan, but she started to notice how similar Joan’s welcome mat looks to hers. It’s almost identical to the ones that Ellen has made for Annie.

The Photo Album Scene

hereditary photo album

Annie has now become suspicious of Joan. Once again, she goes through her mother’s stuff and finds a photo album. Inside of it, there are tons of photos of Joan and her mother Ellen, but Joan never mentioned about knowing her mother. Up until this moment, Annie had no clue about her mother being involved in a cult. Meanwhile, she finds another book about a demon named King Paimon.

This demon is very peculiar regarding his hosts. He prefers male bodies over female bodies. Although King Paimon can come back as female, he will always reject that form. In addition, he might become extremely vengeful and angry about it.

The Scene In The Attic

hereditary attic scene

Annie heads to the attic to find some more evidence. However, she’s about to have another nasty surprise: she finds Ellen’s decapitated body in a corner with strange symbols written on the wall. She tries to alert Steve about the situation and begs him to burn the sketchbook. It’s helpless. Steve refuses to do it. At this point, he is convinced that Annie has “lost it”. Desperate to save her son’s life, Annie throws the book into the fireplace, but Steve is the one that bursts into flames.

When Peter wakes up from an apparent psychotic episode, that’s when things start go down south really fast. First, it’s more than evident that something supernatural is going on. For instance, Annie is hanging at the ceiling waiting for Peter to make a move. Then, she’s chasing him around the house. Without too many options, Peter runs to the attic. However, Annie is relentless: she’s banging her head non-stop into the attic’s door!

Soon, Peter finds out that he’s not alone. Annie is levitating from the ceiling! In addition, she does the unthinkable in front of Peter: she starts to decapitate herself with a string around her neck! Meanwhile, there are also other members of the cult in the attic smiling and waving at Peter. They are all naked and pale. So once again, Peter runs! Unfortunately, he didn’t have many options, which forced him to jump out of a window… He survives though.

The Scene At The Tree House

hereditary treehouse scene

Peter survives the fall, but what about his sanity? After the fall, the level of craziness rises up a notch. Suddenly, we see Annie’s decapitated body flying into the tree house. Peter follows and finds the cult waiting for him. The family is all reunited, there’s a dummy with Charlie’s head (literally), his grandmother and mother are there too (all in a bowing position). Joan is there, ready with a crown for Peter to whom she addresses as Charlie. The cult yells “Hail Paimon!” and the film ends.

Everything Wrong With The Characters In Hereditary

hereditary family portrait

Why did Annie send Charlie to the party?

What kind of mother sends her underage daughter to a party full of strangers? Did it ever occur to her that there might be alcohol and drugs at that party? I get that she was trying to call Peter’s bluff but… did she really need to use Charlie to prove a point?

Why did Peter leave Charlie’s body in the car?

Can we talk about that car scene? I don’t think I will forget it that soon. By the way, it’s memorable not because of how gory it is but how mentally disturbing it is. There wasn’t much blood shown in the scene. However, we all know what happened and what’s in the back seat: Charlie’s decapitated body. What I cannot understand is this: why did Peter leave Charlie’s body in the car? What was his plan? He refused to sleep all night just to hear his mother scream over his sister’s dead body. What’s the point?

Why was Steve so indifferent to everything?

Perhaps, I’m being unfair but I can’t understand why was Steve so indifferent to his daughter’s death and his wife’s meltdown. I get that everyone grieves in a different way. However, I felt zero emotions coming from Steve. That might explain my indifference towards his death. At some point, I even thought Steve was in cahoots with the cult! Turns out, he was innocent.

Hereditary – Ending Explained

Let’s get down to business. This is what you came for: the ending. What the hell happened in the end? Let’s start with the scene where Annie pleads Steve to burn Charlie’s notebook. At this point, Annie realizes the terrible mistake that she has made. Remember those conjuring sessions where she was trying to communicate with Charlie? You see, Joan tricked Annie. She didn’t gave Annie the instructions to summon Charlie spirit. When Annie was reading those words out loud, she was actually evoking the spirit of King Paimon, a demon.

By the way, this demon isn’t your average demon. Paimon is tricky. When Annie throws the sketchbook to the fireplace, she doesn’t erupt into flames, Steve does! What was her reaction to this? First, she freezes. Then, she smiles. What does it mean? That’s a good question, I was wondering the same thing. Well, I believe something else has taken over Annie’s body and spirit. You see, the demon is pulling strings to get what he wants: Peter. That’s the only way I can explain why Annie had levitating powers at the end.

Who Was Ellen Leigh?

Joan and the people that Annie did not recognize at her mother’s funeral are all in cahoots, they are all part of the same demon worshipping cult. Everything that has happened so far, Charlie’s death, Ellen’s desecrated grave, Peter’s nightmares are all part of a bigger plan.

The demon needs a male body to return. However, it can’t be from any male. It needs to be a male descendant from Ellen’s lineage, hence the name of the film: Hereditary. You see, Annie’s brother wasn’t schizophrenic. Ellen tried the ritual before with her son, but it didn’t work because he killed himself. He wasn’t delirious when he was accusing his own mother of trying to “put people inside of him”. She was indeed trying to do that! In addition, Ellen wasn’t just a fanatic member of the cult, she was the ring leader! Having said that, the grave desecration and Charlie’s death are all part of the big plan — the return of King Paimon.

Who Was Charlie? Was Charlie’s Death Planned?

King Paimon is Charlie and vice-versa. Confusing? I thought so too. Turns out, Ellen has been trying to bring Paimon back for years and years. First, she tried with her first born, it didn’t work out because he killed himself. Then, she tried with Annie’s first born Peter. However, at the time Annie and Ellen weren’t in good terms. Therefore, she was not able to use Peter’s body as a host for King Paimon. The opportunity came when Charlie was born. There was less tension between them. Ellen become so close to Charlie that she even got to breastfeed her. I don’t know how, but she did. Having said that, I don’t think Charlie’s soul ever got to inhabit her own body. My personal guess? Ellen expelled it in order to make “some room” for Paimon.

Let me remind you that Paimon doesn’t like female hosts. However, in order to transfer Paimon into another host, they had to kill the current host first — Charlie. Therefore, her death was not an accident. Remember that scene where Joan was saying “I expel you” to Peter? That witch was literally trying to get Peter’s soul out of his own body!

At the end, everything comes full circle. Peter’s soul is finally out of his body, hence his new habit of making tongue clicking sounds. Everyone in the family is dead, I guess they were the sacrifices that Ellen was talking about.

Final Thoughts On Hereditary

This might be an unpopular opinion but… Hereditary was not great. However, I’m not saying that because of the crazy ending. Personally, I believe it would’ve made more sense if they took out the supernatural aspect of it. It was just too much. As a viewer, I would be much happier if Annie or Peter were just hallucinating/experiencing a deep psychosis because of Charlie’s death. That would’ve made more sense to me.

So, if I had to compare Hereditary to a three course meal, I would say that the dessert (the ending) was the most disappointing part. To be more accurate, I don’t dislike Hereditary, I liked the film up until that awful ending. By the way, I might not have enjoyed the whole film, but Toni Collette is amazing in Hereditary. That woman deserves all the awards in the world for that sublime performance!

Finally, is Hereditary one the scariest films of all time? Not even close, all hype. Wanna watch something scary? Try “A Tale of Two Sisters“, “The Visit” or “The Autopsy Of Jane Doe“. Actually, none of them are super scary. However, all of the three are still scarier than Hereditary.