This post includes a plot summary and an explanation about the ending of the film Hereditary (2018). Beware of spoilers.
Directed by Ari Aster, the 2018 horror drama stars Toni Colette as Annie Graham, Alex Wolff as Peter Graham, Milly Shapiro as Charlie Graham and Gabriel Byrne as Steve Graham.
The film “Hereditary” is about a family that goes through a series of misfortunes after the death of their eccentric matriarch (Ellen). At her mother’s funeral, Annie sees a lot of unfamiliar faces. In order to cope with grief, Annie starts seeing a support group. There, she reveals her difficult past with Ellen.
What Happens in Hereditary? (Plot Explained)
While still grieving, Annie experiences another loss. Her daughter, Charlie, died in a gruesome manner after attending a party with her brother, Peter. On the fateful night, Charlie accidentally ate a cake with nuts, which caused her to have an allergic reaction.
On their way to the hospital, Charlie opened the window to get some air. In the process, she died from decapitation after Peter swerved to avoid an animal. Unable to look at her sister’s lifeless body, Peter continues driving and heads back home. The next morning, Annie finds a headless Charlie, and she screams in horror.
After her child’s funeral, Annie starts attending a support group for bereaved parents. There she meets a woman named Joan, who apparently, lost her son and grandson. The two share their stories, and later on, Joan reveals her encounter with a medium.
Joan summons her late grandson, which overwhelms Annie. At home, the latter tries to do the same with Charlie. While applying the ritual, Annie summons a malevolent force. The experience makes Steve doubt his wife’s sanity and worsens Peter’s mental health.
Plot Twist: Ellen was actually part of a cult that worshipped Paimon, one of the kings of Hell. The demon needs a male host to manifest its powers. Years ago, Ellen tried to offer her son to Paimon, to no avail, because he killed himself as a teenager. Now, the cult is after Peter.
Annie tries to warn her husband of their family’s imminent danger, but he doesn’t believe her. Out of despair, Annie sets fire to Charlie’s sketchbook, thinking it will end it all. However, Steve is the one who ends up bursting into flames.
Meanwhile, Peter goes looking for his parents. First, he finds his father in the living room. Shortly after, Peter finds Annie levitating and cutting her own head with a wire. The presence of other cult members scares Peter, and he jumps out the window. Then a light entered his body.
The Ending of “Hereditary” Explained
The ending of “Hereditary” shows Peter walking towards the tree house, where he finds the decapitated bodies of his grandmother and his mother. Also, Charlie’s head is hanging on a mannequin. The cult members bow down to Peter, and Joan salutes him as King Paimon.
Who is Paimon?
Paimon is a powerful demon king who rules over numerous dark forces. Literature often depicts Paimon as an entity who wears a big crown and rides a dromedary. However, in the human realm, the demon king needs a male body to manifest his true powers. In Hereditary, the cult summons Paimon through human sacrifice.
So, it seems that the cult has been plotting against Annie and her family for a while. Initially, Ellen tried to offer her son, Annie’s brother, to serve as a male host for Paimon. I didn’t work because Ellen’s son killed himself before they could complete the ritual. Then she went after Peter when he was just a newborn.
At the time, Ellen did not succeed in grooming Peter for Paimon because her relationship with Annie wasn’t the best. Mother and daughter weren’t always on good terms. Nonetheless, things got better when Annie had Charlie.
The film hints that Charlie and Ellen had a pretty good relationship. Although that alone sounds wholesome, it actually points to something more sinister. Out of the two siblings, Charlie is definitely the “weird one”, and there is a reason for it. She was Paimon’s host up until her death.
Nevertheless, Paimon can only truly manifest himself when he is in a male body. The ending of “Hereditary” means that Annie’s family never had a chance at escaping the cult’s sinister plans for them. In the end, Ellen’s cult managed to expel Peter’s soul from his body so Paimon could inhabit it.
In hindsight, maybe Annie’s brother wasn’t mentally ill. He probably went through the same nightmare as Peter did. The main difference between Annie’s brother and Peter is that the former killed himself before the cult could get their hands on him.
Was Charlie’s Death Planned?
It seems that Charlie’s death was planned. Since Paimon doesn’t like female hosts, the cult had to “switch” him to a new body, this time a male host. However, in order to transfer Paimon to another host, they had to kill the current host first, Charlie.
Having said that, Charlie’s 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. In the end, evil triumphs. Everyone in the family is dead, and I guess they were the sacrifices that Ellen was talking about.
What are my thoughts on the film? I believe that Hereditary could’ve been a great film if it weren’t for its awful ending. Now, I’m going to say something even crazier: it could’ve been a masterpiece if it weren’t for that crazy ending.
The main reason why I didn’t like the ending of “Hereditary” is very simple: it was too much. There is “crazy good” and then there is “crazy bad”. In my opinion, the ending of “Hereditary” was just crazy, but in a bad way.
As I see it, the whole plot would have made more sense if the film had taken out its supernatural element. If Annie or Peter were just hallucinating or experiencing a deep psychosis because of Charlie’s death, that would actually make more sense to me.
Despite disliking the ending of Hereditary, I think the film has an interesting story about complex family dynamics. Not only that, I also believe that Toni Collette’s acting was sublime. That woman deserves all the awards in the world for her spectacular performance.
Last but not least, is Hereditary a scary film? No. There was a lot of hype around its release. The industry was trying to sell “Hereditary” as one of the scariest films of all time. The truth? Not even close.