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The Ending Of Hereditary EXPLAINED

VO: Ashley Bowman WRITTEN BY: Nick Spake
Hereditary is taking the horror movie scene up by the storm! For this video, we’re taking a look at the themes, symbolism, and theories surrounding “Hereditary,” all of which tie into that wicked twist of an ending. Needless to say, but spoilers lie ahead.
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The Ending of Hereditary EXPLAINED


It’s the horror movie audiences are losing their heads over. Welcome to WatchMojo.com and today we’ll be explaining the ending of “Hereditary.”

For this video, we’re taking a look at the themes, symbolism, and theories surrounding “Hereditary,” all of which tie into that wicked twist of an ending. Needless to say, but spoilers lie ahead.

“Hereditary” follows the Graham family, who all appear distant from each other and display little sorrow when grandmother Ellen passes away. Father Steve is easily the most levelheaded member of the family while teenage son Peter is more concerned with smoking pot and getting laid. While mother Annie does attend a grief support group, she’s mostly unfazed over her mother’s death due to their strained relationship. Oddly, the only one who truly seems affected by this loss is arguably the most troubled family member, 13-year-old daughter Charlie.

Charlie’s interests include constructing homemade toys, cutting the heads off dead pigeons, and making a bone-chilling clinking sound with her tongue. Although she suffers from creepy kid syndrome, Charlie shared a close rapport with her grandmother. Now that she’s gone, Charlie feels more isolated than ever, convinced that nobody will be able to take care of her. Speaking of bad caretakers, Charlie experiences an allergic reaction at a party after consuming nuts and a stoned Peter rushes her to the hospital. As Charlie sticks her head out the window to get some air, Peter swerves off the road to avoid an animal carcass and accidentally decapitates his sister with a telephone pole. Well… that was unexpected.

Overcome with guilt and grief, Peter is sent into a mostly zombified state for the remainder of the movie. After spiraling the entire family into a psychotic frenzy through numerous blowups, mother Annie becomes convinced that she can communicate with Charlie from beyond the grave upon meeting a woman named Joan. Annie seemingly makes contact with Charlie through a séance, but quickly comes to believe that her daughter’s spirit is evil.

While much of the film blurs the lines between reality and insanity, things start to become clearer when Annie uncovers an old photo album. It’s revealed that the secretive Ellen not only knew Joan, but both were part of a cult that worshipped the demon Paimon, whose powers include manifesting visions and conjuring spirits, according to the Book of Abramelin. Matters only become weirder when Annie is drawn to the attic where she finds the decapitated corpse of her mother, whose grave had been dug up earlier. This isn’t merely a product of Annie’s warped mind, as Steve is able to see the body too. Then just to clarify something supernatural is definitely going on, Steve is burned to a crisp when Annie throws Charlie’s sketchbook into the fireplace. Well… that was unexpected.

This builds to the pulse-pounding climax as Peter stumbles upon his father’s burnt corpse and Annie’s body is apparently taken over by Paimon. Annie begins to decapitate herself with a wire garrote, and then, with echoes of “Rosemary’s Baby,” Peter is also surrounded by nude members of Ellen’s cult. With nowhere to run or hide, Peter jumps out the attic window. While it’s ambiguous if he fell to his death or is simply rendered unconscious, the same bright light seen before ventures into Peter.

Clicking his tongue and wearing a familiar dazed expression, he appears to have been taken over by Charlie. As his mother’s corpse levitates into a chilly treehouse where Charlie often slept, the possessed Peter wanders inside where Joan and several other cult members await him. They bow before a mannequin resembling one of Charlie’s makeshift toys with Charlie’s crowned head placed on top. Joan reveals that Charlie and Paimon are one in the same. Now that Charlie, who previously identified as a tomboy, has been transferred to a male host, she is able to be crowned as a king of Hell. Well… THAT was unexpected!

While some may argue that this ending comes completely out of left field, the first two acts were plentiful with foreshadowing. For starters, many of the cult members were present at Ellen’s funeral with Annie being surprised by the large turnout. Annie also mentions that her brother committed suicide after their mother tried to “put people in him.” This means that the cult likely tried and failed to use him as a male host for Paimon, which motivated Ellen to convince Annie to have children that could serve as hosts. Perhaps the biggest clue was Paimon’s symbol, which can be found hidden throughout the film. The symbol is even present on the pole that decapitated Charlie, suggesting that her death wasn’t an accident.

It’s widely believed that the cult orchestrated Charlie’s death, planting the animal’s corpse on the road so Peter would swerve towards the telephone pole. Perhaps Ellen somehow contributed to her granddaughter’s nut allergy, which is why she was obsessed with feeding her as a baby. In that sense, the Graham family are like playthings being controlled by the cult, which gives greater significance to the dollhouse depicted in the film. The family’s rooms were even constructed on a stage with removable walls, giving the sets the sensation of a giant diorama full of living toys.

Perhaps the biggest question revolving around the ending is if it’s supposed to be taken literally. According to writer/director Ari Aster, the ending is not a metaphor for deteriorating mental health, confirming that Charlie is indeed Paimon. As Aster put it in a GameSpot interview, “Nobody likes the ‘It was all a dream’ thing.” What’s interesting is that the title ultimately works on both levels. Whether you choose to interpret it as mental illness being passed down or pure evil being passed down, it’s all hereditary. So either way, we can all be grateful that we’re not part of the Graham family’s gene pool.
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