WTF: Hereditary (2018)

Hereditary 73 WTF Watch The Film Saint Pauly

Hereditary 01 poster WTF Watch The Film Saint Pauly

Spoiler Alert:

I shall be unearthing Hereditary‘s roots, analysing its makeup and digging into it’s origins to determine if it’s a brainchild or spoiled. So read on only if you’ve already seen Hereditary, or don’t plan to.


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Charlie’s got a good head on her shoulders…for now

The good news is, Hereditary is an A24 film, so it’s great by definition. Swiss Army Man and American Honey have been my absolute favourite films in recent years, so I went in to this film with expectations higher than Snoop Dogg at Burning Man.

0:00:43 An obituary appears on the screen concerning a woman called Ellen Taper Leigh who was 78. I just hope her life was more exciting than her obit.

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The Last Word

[N.B. In an interview with Newsweek, director Ari Aster states that the obit wasn’t in the script, but an idea he came up with in the editing room. He chose to lead with this because the film deals with death, loss and grief.]

0:01:13 We are looking through a house window at a tree-house, which is meant for people in high places.

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Tree houses are for the birds

[N.B. Bill, one of my readers, shared an interesting insight, based on the ‘Y’-like symbol seen on the side of the tree house. He says “ᛉ On the outside of the treehouse / Paimon’s temple the structure clearly gives the shape of the rune Algiz. Given the symbolism in the film I highly doubt that’s a coincidence. That particular Algiz was used to symbolize a birth in the German neopagan revival that was roughly coterminous with the 3rd Reich. The same shape inverted was used to symbolize death.” Thank you for you contribution, Bill!]

0:02:49 Inside the room is what seems to be a dollhouse, and the camera zooms in on a bedroom, which magically becomes full-sized. I’d love to do this trick on my flat and make it a real, human-sized apartment.

0:03:46 While his wife (Toni Collette as Annie) waits in the car, the father (Gabriel Byrne as Steve) must rouse his children to take them to the funeral for Ellen, the star of the obituary. His daughter (Milly Shapiro as Charlie) sneaked out of her room to sleep in the tree house. She must like being high.

[N.B. This isn’t random on Charlie’s part. The tree house is a temple to Paimon, the demon inhabiting the film, and Charlie is sleeping here because she’s possessed by him. In fact, she has been possessed by him since birth [as confirmed by Aster in this interview with Variety]. That she is possessed also explains why she doesn’t feel the cold of the space.]

Hereditary 04 Easter Egg WTF Watch The Film Saint Pauly

[🐣 Exclusive Easter egg: Note that along the wall is a rudimentary altar to Paimon built atop two crates marked ‘Hercules Powder’. Hercules was a Roman god whose fatal flaw was ignoring the signs around him. Direct reference is made to his Greek counterpart Heracles at 15:16. Both the altar and the boxes make the father’s comment all the more ironic.]

0:04:21 In her eulogy of her mother, Annie remarks upon how many strangers are in attendance. Her mother had a secret circle of friends, and a lot of other secret shapes, as well.

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Annie is pretty symbol minded

[N.B. We will eventually learn this is the symbol of Paimon.]


My mother was a very secretive and private woman. She had private rituals, private friends, private anxieties.

Witch one?

0:05:12 Ellen liked the pendant so much that she would be caught dead in it.

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Chain of command

[N.B. The symbol is known as the ‘Seal of Paimon’ and comes from the grimoire The Lesser Key of Solomon.]

Hereditary 07 'Seal of Paimon' from the real-life 'spell book' The Lesser Key of Solomon WTF Watch The Film Saint Pauly


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The light of his life

[🐣 Note that the smiling man at the wake will reappear to Peter later (at 1:53:12). Also note the blue light at the edge of the photo. This is an extension of Paimon and is seen throughout the film, usually guiding the characters.]

0:05:39 While her mother eulogises her grandmother, Charlie makes a clucking sound with her tongue against the roof of her mouth and draws a sketch of her mother at the podium. With her pencil, she makes her mother seem out of line.

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Annie looks sketchy

[N.B. Charlie isn’t making the clucking noise, the spirit inhabiting her body is. The noise is used to indicate Paimon’s presence.]

0:05:57 One of the occult mourners discreetly rubs some sort of oil on the dead woman’s lips. You wouldn’t want the heat in Hell to chap your lips, would you?

0:06:12 Charlie watches on while eating a chocolate bar. Both parents confirm there are no nuts in the treat because evidently Charlie is highly allergic. Thus, she’s the least nutty of the family.


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[🐣 It’s difficult to see from this distance, but the miniature home in the foyer is in fact a ‘model prison’, meaning that it has barred windows and a safe for a door to symbolise how the family is trapped inside of it. Toronto Life takes an interactive, in-depth look at all of the miniatures and how they were made. Here’s a close-up from their article. Click on the photo to read the article.]

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0:07:11 We learn that Annie’s career is to construct miniatures as art for galleries. Welcome to the small time.

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It is a small world, after all

[N.B. In an interview with Vulture, Aster states, “The models serve as something of a metaphor for the family’s situation. They ultimately have no agency and they’re revealed to be like dolls in a dollhouse, being manipulated by outside forces.” I also suspect that Annie is the one who makes the miniatures because she feels helpless in her life, and this activity gives her the impression she has some control over her surroundings.]


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Charlie’s life is in pieces

[N.B. Aster states that the desktop is a shrine to Paimon that Charlie is making, which is a little WTF-y if you ask me, because Charlie is Paimon, which means Paimon is constructing a shrine to himself. God complex much?]

0:09:06 At bedtime, Annie consoles Charlie over Ellen’s death.

Annie: You know you were her favourite, right? Even when you were a little baby, she wouldn’t let me feed you because she needed to feed you. Drove me crazy.
Charlie: She wanted me to be a boy.

That would be a trans formation.

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Don’t be sour

[N.B. Note that when Annie says ‘she needed to feed’ you, she means this quite literally according to the diorama. This entire dialogue is key because it hints that 1) Ellen took care of Charlie from birth because Ellen somehow placed Paimon in Charlie (this is confirmed later in the same conversation when Annie tells Charlie, “You never cried as a baby. Not even when you were born,”) and 2) that Paimon can only permanently inhabit a male, which is why Ellen wished Charlie were born a boy. As it is, Charlie is simply a rental while Paimon looks for something more permanent.

Annie also mentions in this conversation with Charlie that she was a tomboy as a child. At first I was thinking, ‘Why is she going into so much detail about her youth?’ Then I read a comment by user Doulor76 on the official Reddit discussion page who theorises that, originally, Ellen used her daughter Annie as a host. This would explain the remark of Annie’s, “You know, I was a tomboy when I was growing up. I hated dresses and dolls and pink.” Ellen placed Paimon in her son, who rejected it (see 19:41), so Ellen used Annie, who learned to make miniatures just as Charlie likes to make miniatures. Ellen then moved Paimon to Charlie when Peter was unavailable due to Annie’s protection of him.]


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The writing’s on the wall

[N.B. On the wall over Charlie’s bed, the word ‘Satony’ is scrawled in pen. In his Reddit AMA, Ari Aster states, “[The words on the wall] are isolated pieces of an invocation spell that is suggested to be written all over the house. We only see three of these in the film, but there are many more (probably written behind furniture or otherwise hidden).” ‘Satony’ is one of these words, and also is Spoken during the spells incanted later in the film.]

0:11:58 At the bottom of a cardboard box of her mother’s belongings, Annie finds a book entitled Notes on Spiritualism. Inside the cover is a note left her from her mother.

My darling, dear, beautiful Annie,
Forgive me for all the things I could not tell you. Please don’t hate me and try not to despair your losses. You will see in the end they were worth it.
Our sacrifice will pale next to the rewards.
Love, Mommy

File this in the Dead Letter office.

0:12:26 As she’s leaving the room, Annie spots her mother’s ghost. Ghosts are so superficial, you can see right through them.

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The chance of a ghost

0:14:31 Charlie is meant to betaking a quiz in class (but is, in fact, trying to fit a head atop a toy robot). At this moment, a pigeon flies into the window of her classroom and dies. School is not for bird brains.

0:15:16 Charlie’s older brother, Peter (Alex Wolff, real-life younger brother of Nat Wolff who starred in one of the worst films I’ve ever seen), texts a friend in class about ‘waxing his D’ and smoking a bowl. What he misses is this:

Teacher (Morgan Lund as Mr. Davis): What is Heracles’ flaw?
Student (Mallory Bechtel as Bridget): Arrogance.
Mr. Davis: OK, why?
Bridget: Because he literally refuses to look at all the signs that are literally being handed to him throughout the entire play.

Kind of like Peter is doing at that exact same moment… Hmm, something literally smells symbolic in here.

[🐣 On the blackboard at the front of the class, the teacher has written ‘THEMES, Escaping fate’, in case you missed the reference above.]


If it’s all just inevitable, then that means the characters have no hope. They never had hope because they’re all just, like, hopeless. They’re all like pawns in this horrible, hopeless machine.

The class goes on to discuss how Heracles (just like the Grahams) had no choice in the outcome of his destiny. This is a part you should pay more attention to than Peter did.


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That bird lost her head

During recess, Charlie clips the head off the pigeon who died hitting the window, using shears she pilfered from the classroom. This is how one gets a head in life.

[N.B. This is symbolic because 1) Charlie enjoys tinkering with inanimate creations (remember her fitting a head on a robot in class at 14:31) and now that her grandmother has passed, she’s ready to graduate to the next step: animal Legos, 2) this is foreshadowing, which we’ll see shortly and 3) beheading is a family tradition with the Grahams.]

0:16:33 Ellen’s ghost (or, possibly, one of the members of the cult) appears to Charlie from afar. If it is gran, she’s like homemade jam: well preserved.

0:16:52 Remember Ellen’s ghost at 11:58? Annie does because she researches “Norms on Discerning Presumed Apparitions” online.

0:17:38 The door to Ellen’s room opens mysteriously and Annie isn’t the only thing that’s floored.

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A gift for a witch? Try angles!

[N.B. Triangles are big witch symbols.]


What does that mean, ‘desecrated’?

Steve on the phone with the cemetery


Dude, buy a dictionary.

[N.B. In fact, we’ll later learn that Ellen’s body was removed from the grave by the cult of Paimon. Paimon, according to the website NME, “is usually referred to as a high-level entity in hell’s social strata, usually a king or a duke … According to lore, Paimon would come to our world wearing a crown and bearing gifts for followers, so there’s your motive for bringing him here.”]

0:19:41 Annie lies to Steven and says she’s going to the movies but goes to a grief recovery meeting instead. Tbh, I believe they’re the same thing.

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Lost a loved one? Look in the cemetery…

My older brother had schizophrenia, and when he was 16 he hanged himself in my mother’s bedroom and of course his suicide note blamed her, accusing her of putting people inside him. […] I didn’t let her anywhere near me when I had my first, my son. Which is why I gave her my daughter, who she immediately stabbed her hooks into.

Annie during the meeting

[N.B. This is a critical scene in the film as it gives us a huge chunk of exposition. First, we learn that Ellen tried to use her own son as a body for Paimon, but this didn’t work as her son wasn’t prepared, though he did kill himself because he felt he was being dispossessed. Ideally, Ellen would’ve wanted to use her grandson, Peter (Annie’s son), as a permanent host for Paimon, but here we learn Annie wouldn’t let her mother near the boy. So Ellen had to use the next best thing, which was Charlie, who Annie gave to her mother gladly, and who Ellen immediately used as a vessel for Paimon.]

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Not a wallflower, but she is a plant

[N.B. Note that Joan is already present in this first meeting. She’s the leader of the Cult of Paimon now that Ellen has passed and her presence at these meetings is not a coincidence.]


[Note that when Peter blows smoke from his bong hit out of his bedroom window, he doesn’t notice a cult member in the tree house blowing smoke, as well. In the Vulture interview, Aster states, “You are supposed to feel through the film that there are people on the periphery that are watching this family and are hovering just outside.”]

0:23:52 God but I love tilt-shift.

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Model home

0:24:22 What appears to be a trick of the light is, in fact, an externalisation of Paimon’s force, like a flashing road sign to draw Paimon / Charlie’s attention to the tree house. This device will be used for Peter and Annie, as well.

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A trick of the light

0:25:22 Charlie’s motivation behind the pigeon head is linked to the shrine she made for Paimon (see 8:35) and is a metaphor for what Paimon is doing to this family, i.e. cutting off their heads and reassembling them with different entities. They can’t keep their own parts so they must Lego.

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Charlie’s got her head in her hands

0:27:04 Charlie has a seventh sense, she sees weird people

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Smoking grass

0:28:26 Annie forces Peter to take Charlie with him to a party. He promises he won’t drink but so did you when you were his age and look what happened.

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Its bite is worse than its bark

[N.B. On his way to the party, the kids pass a telephone pole with strange markings on it. Notice the design is the symbol of Paimon, the same as the pendant on Ellen’s necklace in the coffin.]

0:28:56 Young high-school girls are baking a cake in the middle of a party. I find this much more difficult to believe than witchcraft.

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They’re cooking nuts

[Exclusive Easter Egg🐣 The three young women are reminiscent of the three hags in Shakespeare’s Macbeth so… who knows? Maybe they’re witches after all.]

[N.B. The song playing in the party when Peter and Charlie arrive is “Sledge Hammer” by No Genre. It’s included on the playlist found at the bottom of this post.]

0:31:07 Peter and Bridget go off into a room to smoke weed, so he tells Charlie to get some of that witch cake and leave him alone. Oh, she’ll leave him alone all right.

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She must not believe in the cake because she finds it hard to swallow


Charlie: I think my throat’s getting bigger.

Charlie interrupts Peter mid-bowl to tell him she’s having an allergic reaction (to the nuts at 28:56). Is she going to live? Don’t hold your breath!

0:33:39 While Peter rushes her to the emergency room, Charlie puts her head out of the window to get fresh air, but then she loses it.

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Charlie loses her mind…amongst other things

0:34:20 Help! As Peter sits in the car, trying to process what’s just happened, his eyes are drawn to a strange object at the roadside. I’m not able to determine what this is, but as you are all far more intelligent than I, perhaps you can see something here that I cannot? What is this thing beside the road after Charlie dies!? [Click on the shots to see the full size]

[N.B. My friend JJ mentioned in the comments that it might be a sort of jeep. I, myself, had my suspicions along these lines but dismissed them because the angle and depth perception made me think the object was to small to be a vehicle. However, JJ’s bravery in taking a stand has convinced me to state that the thing is indeed a vehicle, driven by one or more cult members who have parked there to ensure that Charlie has eaten her just desserts. This is now my official position until I hear from Ari Aster himself that it’s something different. Thank you, JJ!]

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Hereditary 29b Help WTF Watch The Film Saint Pauly

Hereditary 29c Help WTF Watch The Film Saint Pauly

0:37:02 In total shock, Peter drives straight home with the corpse in the back seat and calls neither his family, nor the police, nor the ambulance. He’s burying his head in the sand, and should have done the same with Charlie. 

0:37:36 We see Peter’s blank face while we hear Annie leaving to go to the shop, and then her screams when she finds her daughter’s headless corpse in the car. That was thoughtless of Peter, but Charlie is even more thoughtless right now.


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Charlie headed off

0:38:54 Toni Collette’s portrayal of mourning merits an Academy Award, for crying out loud!

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Good grief!


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My favourite Led Zeppelin album

[🐣The word ‘Zazas’ is written in pen on the wall over Annie and Steve’s bed. According to an article in NME, “‘Zasas’ is a word used by famed British occultist Aleister Crowley when summoning a demon called Choronzon.”]

0:41:48 Annie has taken to sleeping in the tree house / temple. She needs a lot of space heaters because her heart is in it but the devil isn’t.

0:47:28 Before Annie can drive away from a grief recovery group (see 19:41), she’s stopped by Joan (Anne Dowd) who explains she lost her son and 7-year-old grandson in a drowning. She gives her number to Annie and says to call if she wants to talk but, like her son and grandson, I think her story is all wet.

[N.B. Joan is, in fact, the new High Priestess of the cult and she’s been stalking Annie in order to trick her into participating in a demon ritual.]

0:49:36 Peter hears Charlie’s ghost while he’s in bed and it scares the cluck out of him.

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It’s high time…

0:49:47 Someone is trying to tell them something. (Hint: It’s Joan.)

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Messages from the other side…of the door

0:50:01 When recreating a miniature version of Charlie’s room, Annie remembers to include the ‘satony’ scrawled on the wall (see 10:47). Watch out for the small print!

0:50:18 Annie is finishing up for the day when a ghost knocks over her paint jar to draw attention to the number Joan left. Apparently ghosts use paint for their signs.

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Knock off early

[🐣Exclusive Easter Egg Pay close attention to the GIF: Paimon arrives as a light in the top, right corner of the image and spills the paint; Annie doesn’t touch it.]

0:51:47 When she goes to meet Joan at Joan’s flat, Annie recognises the welcome mat as one her mother made. Joan laughs it off as a coincidence, but I suspect there’s more to the story than meets the feet.


Annie (describing finding Charlie dead): And the body, covered in black blood, like tar.

Bloody Hell!

[N.B. Black blood is a trait shared by all of those who Paimon possesses. The same thick, dark blood will be discovered on Ellen’s exhumed body (see 1:37:25).]

0:52:56 Annie finds a strange herb in the tea Joan has prepared, and not the sort which is now legal in Canada.

[N.B. According to the Ari Aster AMA on Reddit, this is the same herb that Helen used when feeding Charlie to “prime her for the ritual that allows Paimon to possess her body.”]

0:54:18 Annie tells the story of a few years ago when she was sleepwalking and doused the kids in paint thinner and woke up as she was striking a match. Peter holds this against her like an angry erection when you’re wrestling with porn addiction.

0:56:23 Annie is recreating the scene in which Charlie dies, bringing her grief down to size.

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Pea brained

0:58:32 Peter and Annie get in an argument at dinner.

Annie: All I get back is that fucking face on your face.

At least he’s not losing face.

1:01:47 Annie has a ‘chance’ meeting with Joan in a car park, where Joan tells Annie she attended an open séance (see 49:47) and met a medium rare enough that she came back to Joan’s flat to conjure up her son and grandson. Talk about a happy medium!

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Joan wants to play board games

[N.B. Note that Joan has recently purchased blackboards in the rear of her vehicle. I surmise this is because she’s just bought them for the séance trick she’s going to play on Annie (see 1:07:41).]

1:06:12 Joan convinces Annie to return with her to her apartment where Joan summons the spirit of her dead grandson. With all of those spirits, it’s a good thing they have a glass!

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The ghost has a thirst for life


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Spelling is the real phantom menace

1:07:48 Joan gives Annie a copy of the ‘incantation’ to bring back the ghost of Charlie at home. Complete with instructions.

Joan: First, light the candle, then choose an item that belonged to your daughter…. Then, when you’re ready, read this out loud, every syllable, very carefully…. It’s to make things start. But remember, your whole family, every member, needs to be in the house. Your son, everyone. Very important.

Plus, Annie should do this in the ‘after-living’ room.

[N.B. In fact, Joan is tricking Annie, saying that it’s a spell to raise Charlie, when it’s actually a spell to facilitate the transition of Paimon into Peter, hence the insistence that everyone be present (see 1:18:12).]

1:08:53 After Joan tells Annie that Charlie isn’t dead, Annie drives home and hears the Charlie / Paimon noise coming from the back seat. Annie may not give a cluck, but Paimon does.

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When you dump someone and realise you left your phone at their place


The real Ant-Man

1:13:12 Annie has a dream within a dream in which she tells Peter her mother pressured her into having Peter, while she did everything she could to have a miscarriage.

[N.B. Ellen wanted her daughter to give birth to a male receptacle for Paimon.]

At the end of the nightmare, Annie lights herself and Peter on fire. This is hotter than any of my dreams.

1:13:18 Annie can be heard practising the spell in the bathroom in the middle of the night, and the word ‘Paimon’ can be heard distinctly more than once. That, or she’s run out of toilet paper and is saying ‘Hey, man’, hoping someone will notice. That, or she’s dealing drugs out of her toilet and is saying ‘Pay, man’. That, or she’s started her period and is saying ‘Pain, god!’

1:14:12 The second miniature house beside the stairway can be seen clearly (see 7:08). It’s for getting back to one’s roots.

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Click on photo for source page

1:18:28 Annie forces her family to do a séance. Unfortunately, she thinks she’s called up Charlie but she’s actually called up an evil entity. The real, dispossessed Charlie speaks through Annie. It’s a very spirited discussion.

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One hell of a flame

[N.B. In Variety, Ari Aster explains that Joan tricked Annie with the fake ‘séance’ at 1:06:12. “It plays as a séance scene but really it’s a much darker conjuring and they need Annie to take part in it in order to bring it in the house and in order to further this ritual along. When she invites it in, she escalates things.”]


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Write there!

[N.B. See note at 10:47 for Aster’s explanation concerning the words on the wall. As for these words specifically, in the same AMA he adds, “Liftoach Pandemonium” has a special significance. It translates as “Open Up Chaos (or Hell).”]

1:21:34 While following the blue light around the classroom with his eyes, Peter catches a glimpse of his own reflection in the glass door of a cabinet…smiling at him. Freaking out, he stands and runs out of the classroom, telling his teacher he needs to go to the bathroom. Frankly, I think he already has.

[N.B. The blue light is Paimon, getting Peter ready before moving in.]

1:24:37 Annie destroys all of her work. Like her workshop, she’s a nervous wreck. 

[N.B. Actually, she’s admitting defeat and realising she’s lost total control of what’s happening in her house.]

1:27:36 After Annie watches pictures doodle themselves in Charlie’s notebook, Peter dreams that Charlie is in his room. When she begins to nod, her head falls off and turns into a basketball when it hits the floor. Charlie is bouncing back. 

1:28:28 Peter wakes up screaming, accusing his mum, who is in the room with him, of trying to pull off his head (the same way Charlie died and mirroring the miniature of Pete in bed in Annie’s studio). I can relate to Pete, as my parents frequently bit my head off.

[Note that Annie isn’t sleepwalking now. This is to demonstrate that, while she was ignorant of the situation in the past (sleepwalking through life), now she’s lucid and knows exactly what’s going on (she’s woke).]

1:29:17 Charlie sketches Peter with his eyes crossed out. The crossed out eyes are a reference to the fact that the ‘real’ Peter will be forced out of the body to be replaced by Paimon. The eyes are windows to the soul, but these windows are about to be broken.

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Charlie doesn’t have a good image of her brother

[N.B. Though I haven’t been able to find confirmation, there is speculation online that, at one point in the film, Peter was originally meant to lose his eyes. I haven’t been able to obtain a copy of the script, but I doubt this is true.]

1:30:27 When Annie tries to burn Charlie’s sketch book in the fireplace, her own clothes catch at the exact same moment. When she stamps out the flames on the pad, her clothes are doused as well. Which is nice, as no one wants to be fired.

1:31:49 Annie rushes over to Joan’s flat but Joan’s not in. What is in, however, is a triangle carved into her table, with a photo of Pete inside. We also see Charlie’s inventions / persons, and the Paimon symbol hanging on the wall. This is Joan’s altar ego.

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Love triangle

1:32:34 Joan shows up at Peter’s school.

Peter! I expel you! Satony! Dagdany! Aparagon!

It’s OK, I’m sure he’s been expelled before.

[N.B. In fact, she’s preparing to remove Peter from his own body so that it might be occupied by the Paimon. 🐣 Also, note the use of the word ‘Satony’, from 10:47.]

1:33:53 Back at the house, Annie digs through her mother’s books to locate a text stating that King Paimon will possess the most vulnerable host when invoked [Charlie] but will be locked into his ordained host [Peter] when the ritual is complete. Like me, Paimon prefers a male body (and that’s why Charlie is only a temporary home). Also like me, this film has too many possessions.

Hereditary 47 Collage A textbook case of possession WTF Watch The Film Saint Pauly
A textbook case of possession

[🐣 When looking through the box, Annie discovers mats very similar to the one Joan had in front of her apartment (see 51:47). Charlie’s is embroidered with the symbol of Paimon, because he’s been inhabiting her since she was born.]

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Oh boy!

1:34:55 Looking through her mother’s photo album, Annie sees pictures of her mum with Joan, her mum preparing to marry a demon and her family in a photo on an altar. To hell with the lot of them!

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Are we sure she should be wearing white?

1:35:57 Steven reads an email detailing the disinterment of his step-mum. He can’t believe the hole thing.

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Don’t bury me there, it’s a hole!

[1:37:13 Peter is in class learning about Iphigenia, daughter of Agamemnon who had to sacrifice her to facilitate the war on Troy. This is a reference to the sacrifice of Charlie.]

1:37:25 Annie goes into the attic where she discovers her dead mum under a blanket and under a lot of flies. The Paimon symbol is painted on the wall. This is going to haunt Annie forever… No, wait, it already does.

Hereditary 51 SC Once you go black, you never go back WTF Watch The Film Saint Pauly
Once you turn black, you never go back

[N.B. If you ask me (and why wouldn’t you?), Helen married / joined Paimon in a ritual (it probably took place before Charlie was born), as seen by the photos in the photo album. The Cult of Paimon then dug up her corpse (see 1:35:57) and brought it back here for the ritual in which Paimon inhabits Peter. The corpse is headless because, evidently, decapitation is a key part of the ritual. Also note the dress is embroidered with the Paimon symbol.]

1:38:48 In class, Peter hears the clucking sound and turns around looking for Charlie because he doesn’t realise the sound is Paimon, not his sister, and she only made it because she was possessed by Paimon. Paimon possesses Peter, in turn, and forces him to bash his face into his own desk while the entire class watches on. Everyone is sufficiently freaked out, as no one knows what got into him.

Hereditary 52 GIF Such a headbanger WTF Watch The Film Saint Pauly
Such a head banger


Hereditary 53 Cinematography Rain for when you don't want to wet yourself WTF Watch The Film Saint Pauly
Rain: For when you don’t want to wet yourself


Annie: They put a curse on us when we brought Charlie back. We made a pact with something, something that is in this house. I don’t know what it is, but it is after Peter.

Annie catches us up on the plot by explaining that the coven (Joan, Helen and the rest) tricked her into doing a ceremony to revive Charlie (see 1:18:28) when in fact they summoned a demon that is now after Peter. Peter should do some soul searching… just to be sure he still has one.

1:46:25 Annie pleads with Steve to throw the sketch book in the fire. She’s afraid to, as the last time she did, she caught on fire (see 1:30:27), so she fully expects to go up in flames this time as well. She’s sacrificing herself to save Peter. At least that’s the way it looks on (very flammable) paper.

1:46:54 Steven refuses so Annie snatches the book from him and throws it in the fire herself. But she doesn’t go up in a ball of flashes, Steven does, the roast turkey.

Hereditary 54 GIF He's fired up WTF Watch The Film Saint Pauly
He’s fired up

[N.B. Steven is expendable for Paimon because, in order to be a host for the demon, one must be a blood descendant of Helen (the film is called Hereditary, after all), and Steven is just an in-law. Peter, however, is a different story. Also, in his Variety interview, Aster says that the reason Steven burns rather than Annie is exactly because she thinks she’s the one who’s going to die–but the forces in the house are unpredictable and neither Annie nor anyone else in the family has any control over what happens. “Ultimately, it’s not her choice to make. She thinks there’s a design here and she can end things if she sacrifices herself. But there’s no design and there are no rules.” Also linked to Steven’s death is the idea that Paimon is said to be the God of Mischief, and here he’s mucking about with Annie (see 1:33:53).]

1:47:05 Annie is in shock as she watches Steven burn, until the light / Paimon washes over her and she becomes instantly calm.

Hereditary 55 GIF Blue light special WTF Watch The Film Saint Pauly
Blue light special

Hereditary 56 Meme Y'all got any more of that WTF Watch The Film Saint Pauly

1:47:10 There’s a meeting at the tree house and all the witches show up nude. The dress code is easy to decipher.

Hereditary 57 SC Naked truth WTF Watch The Film Saint Pauly
The naked truth

1:52:18 Peter wakes up alone in the dark house and notices that there is light in the tree house. Leaving his room, he descends to the ground floor of the home and discovers his father’s charred remains. And he thought he was the burnout of the family!


Hereditary 58 SC Annie is hanging around WTF Watch The Film Saint Pauly
Annie is hanging around

1:53:12 Peter’s house is very dark.

Hereditary 59 SC No skeletons in his closet but there is one bone WTF Watch The Film Saint Pauly
No skeletons, but there is a bone in his closet

[🐣 The smiling, naked man in the closet is the same smiling man from the wake (see 5:14).]

Hereditary 60 Collage Blondie WTF Watch The Film Saint Pauly

1:53:24 In an effective jump scare, Annie leaps out of hiding to chase Peter around the house. He takes refuge in the attic because he’s never seen a horror film in his life.

Hereditary 61 GIF When your mum is after you to clean your room WTF Watch The Film Saint Pauly
When your mum’s after you to clean your room


Hereditary 62 GIF I drive her up the walls WTF Watch The Film Saint Pauly
I drive her up the walls

1:55:06 Looking around the attic, Peter becomes afraid because he sees a photo of himself with the eyes removed (see 1:29:17). Even worse, there are loads of candles and flies… and his parents aren’t even hippies. 

Hereditary 63 SC Hole-y shit WTF Watch The Film Saint Pauly
Hole-y shit

1:56:12 He hears a strange, wet sound and looks up to see his mum hanging from the ceiling, sawing through her own neck with a wire. That wire sure is making an impression!

Hereditary 64 GIF She's losing her head WTF Watch The Film Saint Pauly
She’s losing her head


Hereditary 65 SC So that's where I put the naked oldies WTF Watch The Film Saint Pauly
“So that’s where I left the oldies!”

[N.B. The people are members of the Paimon cult who were performing a ceremony in the attic.]

[🐣 Exclusive Easter egg: Note how the name Life is blanked out in the game.]

1:56:42 Peter panics and jumps through the attic window and lands in the flower bed below. He’s so down to earth.

[N.B. Peter jumps out of the window after his sister, father and now mother all die. These deaths were necessary as he had to be made vulnerable for Paimon to enter his body. Remember the explanation in the text at 1:33:53?]

1:57:11 A shadow passes over him and then a light enters into him. The dark shadow is his mother’s headless corpse passing over him, out of the attic, and the light is the demon Paimon moving into his body like some distant relative with marital problems.

[N.B. Peter dies from the fall and this makes room for Paimon to enter the now-vacant body. Special thanks to Devante in the comments who corrected me when I’d originally thought the shadow was Peter’s spirit leaving his body. Thanks, Devante!]


Hereditary 66 GIF How you guess you got home when you were drunk WTF Watch The Film Saint Pauly
How you guess you got home when you were drunk

[N.B. The headless body is Annie’s. We heard it fall to the ground as we watched Peter lying amongst the flowers (see 1:56:42).]

1:58:01 As soon as Peter stands, he makes the clucking sound with his tongue, which means Paimon is now in him after being in his sister. #Pervmon

1:58:12 We see that someone (Paimon perhaps, but most likely the cult) has killed the family dog because it didn’t like the evil infesting the house. The demons had some hair of the dog.

1:58:27 As Peter / Paimon makes his way to the tree house, he walks past many unclad witches who don’t know the meaning of the word ‘exercise’.  The difference between a black magic ritual and an orgy is that with black magic there’s hell to pay, but I have to pay for my own orgies.


Hereditary 67 Cinematography That tree house is lit WTF Watch The Film Saint Pauly
That house is lit

1:59:58 In the tree house / temple, the (followers) kneel as Paimon enters the room and espies an idol made of a life-sized artist mannequin emblazoned with the Paimon symbol and wearing Charlie’s head. So it has a not-so-good head on its wooden shoulders. (See 8:35 and 16:18)

Hereditary 68 SC OMG WTF Watch The Film Saint Pauly

[N.B. I have the absolute best readers! Brooke mentioned in the comments section that the shape of the hand atop the staff the icon is holding looks eerily similar to the way Peter held his hand when he raised it in class, before banging his face on the desk (see 1:38:48). I think she’s got a god point, what about you? Staying with the theme of ‘the best readers ever’, Bill comments below that the music playing in this scene is called ‘Reborn’.]

Hereditary 80 Collage Hand WTF Watch The Film Saint Pauly

2:00:18 Prostrated at the foot of the idol are the kneeling, headless corpses of Helen and Annie. Does this mean fanatics are brainless?

2:01:27 Joan removes the crown from the idol and places it on Peter. Give him an inch and he thinks he’s a ruler.


Hereditary 69 SC Devils are nosy WTF Watch The Film Saint Pauly
The devil is nosy

Joan: Hey, it’s all right. Charlie… You’re all right, now. You are Paimon, one of the eight kings of Hell.

Jesus, 8 leaders? That does sound like Hell!

[N.B. Joan addresses the entity as ‘Charlie’, because that’s how the entity was referred to for several years.]


Hereditary 70 SC The little people WTF Watch The Film Saint Pauly
The little people

[N.B. Note that the final shot is meant to resemble a miniature (thus closing the loop with the miniature that begins the film 😉) nativity scene. Also note, Aster has admitted this shot was inspired by The Night of the Hunter.]

Hereditary 71 Night of the Hunter WTF Watch The Film Saint Pauly

2:03:16 The song at the end is Judy Collins covering Joni Mitchell’s, ‘Both Sides Now’. [It’s on the playlist at the bottom of this synopsis, along with the soundtrack and the other songs from the film.] Aster says he chose it because “It’s like the anthem for disenchantment, and I thought it was a nice understatement after watching a family be totally and utterly obliterated.”

2:03:51 Remark that during the end credits, letters are passed down from one name to the name below it… like hereditary.

Hereditary 72 SC Hand me downs WTF Watch The Film Saint Pauly
Hand me downs

Tally Ho’

  • WTF!?’s: 2 inherent ones
  • When to Follow: When you’re willing to sit down and give this beautiful film the attention it deserves.
  • Where’s This Found: Hereditary is not simply one of the best horror films of the year, it is one of the best films this year and one of the best horror films ever. It’s not simply scary, it’s scary intelligent. Out of a possible 10, I have 8 F’s to give

  • What To Feedback: I need your help identifying the mystery object at 34:20 (see screenshots at 34:20). Also, if any one reading this has a digital copy of the script, please leave a comment… I have so many questions! Also, what’s your favourite A24 film?

All GIFs used in this review were created with the Imgflip online meme generator

[N.B. I used the very informative
Reddit: Ari Aster AMA
Reddit: Official Discussion
Pop Buzz
Digital Spy
as research tools for this review]

Left Over WTF (Way Too Funny) Photos

Prints suitable for reposting!

Hereditary 75 Meme It's high time WTF Watch The Film Saint Pauly

Hereditary 76 Meme The Real Ant-Man WTF Watch The Film Saint Pauly

Hereditary 79 Meme Grief recovery WTF Watch The Film Saint Pauly

Hereditary 78 Meme Once you turn black WTF Watch The Film Saint Pauly

What to Follow Up

WTF Review

123WTF review of A24’s The VVitch
123WTF review of mother!

My reviews of other A24 films:
Under the Skin
Life After Beth
Green Room
Ex Machina
Swiss Army Man
The Killing of a Sacred Deer

Bar None Review

Bar None review of another A24 film

366 Weird Movies

366 Weird Movies look at Hereditary

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WTF!? on Instagram


20 thoughts on “WTF: Hereditary (2018)

  1. Dude, the level of information and examination here is worthy of a University lecture or thesis. Amazing stuff! Also, funny, but that’s par for the course around here.

    I really found myself loving this movie, or at least appreciating it as a work of horror fiction of the highest calibre. Have to say, I was thinking about that ending for a while afterwards.


    1. Hallo Rodney!

      How kind of you to say! There are so many levels to this film and, I have to say, I enjoyed peeling back each one. I agree that it’s a first rate horror film, and I’d even go so far as to add it’s good enough to surpass the genre. Top rate filmmaking we’ve come to expect from A24. Thanks again for the kind words!

      WTF Rodney (Watch The Film),

      Saint Pauly


  2. It’s really complicated for me because I’m a fan of how you write your reviews, I’m reading about this scary movie but laughting of your comments, justa amazing. The thing is that i’m always saying that i’s a awesome review and this time is not different. I’m not a fan of terror, woundn’t watch this movie but I love the review and now knowing what’s up to I will watch with less fear.
    I’m also excited to see if you going to give us a review of halloween 2, I would love it!


    1. Hallo Camila!
      What a lovely comment! I’m so glad you’re a fan of my reviews, and if I can help make your life a little easier by taking away the fear from a horror film, then I’m glad to help. Thank you for your support and I do hope to see you around here again!

      WTF Camila (Watch The Film),

      Saint Pauly


  3. I’ve been very indifferent with the ending, but love the fil as a whole. The scene at 34:20 looks to be a small pick up (which explains how the dear got there) truck. Maybe one of the followers of the cult. Also, I see the blue light of Paimon in one of the zoom-ins. It’s very subtle and discreet but it seems like the M O for the film.


    1. Hallo Benny,

      Thank you for the comment! It makes a lot of sense to me, but I’m having a difficult time seeing it to be honest. The proportions of the truck would seem to make the object too small to be a full-sized pick up, and, try as I might, I was unable to see the Paimon light. I’m tempted to agree with you, however, that the cult members used this contraption to kill the deer that caused Peter to swerve; I’m just having a difficult time seeing a truck…

      I do appreciate your help!

      WTF Benny D (Watch The Film),

      Saint Pauly


      1. Hi there – seems like it could possibly be be a jeep (top down?) parked at an angle, so foreshortening makes it a little harder to read. I really can’t tell either, but there do seem to be headlights visible.


        1. Hallo JJ,

          Thanks for stopping by and leaving a comment! I obviously thought it might be a vehicle, but the depth perception made it look to small… But then I read your comment and decided you must be right. So, I’m calling it! It’s officially a vehicle of some sort driven by one of the cult to ensure that Charlie gets what’s coming to her. I’m putting it in the article and crediting your genius!

          WTF JJ (Watch The Film),

          Saint Pauly


    1. Hallo MaryChris!

      Thank you so much for the kind words! I’m glad you enjoyed both the film and the post (and the part maybe a little bit more 😉).

      WTF Marychris ! (Watch The Film)

      Saint Pauly


  4. Hey, just saw the movie and found this really great in-depth look at it.

    I notice you said that the herb in tea is the same one that the grandmother used to prepare Charlie for possession, but then go on to say that Charlie was possessed from birth (and I believe the director said the same thing).

    Also, I think the thud we hear when Peter is on the ground in the flower bed is just the mom’s head finally getting cut all the way off and falling to the floor of the attic. The dark shadow is the mom’s headless body flying out of the window and over his body toward the treehouse.


    1. Hallo Devante!

      Thank you for having such a brilliant name and for leaving this comment! 😉 I received my information about the tea from the Reddit AMA Aster did (it’s linked several times in the article). This exchange takes place at one point:

      Hi Ari!
      I just wanted to say how much I loved Hereditary, I have seen it twice and I can’t stop thinking about it! The acting, story, and cinematography were amazing!
      I was wondering, was there a significance to Annie taking a sip of tea at Joan’s house and pulling something out of her mouth? I didn’t catch what it was!
      Thanks for doing this AMA!

      There is a significance to that. 😉
      And thank you!

      81 points
      I believe the significance is:
      The herb is the same herb that the grandma (and the cult) used on Charlie to prime her for the ritual that allows Paimon to posses her body.

      where in the movie is this suggested? I noticed it was some sort of tea leave she pulled from her mouth, but I can’t make the connection.

      It’s clearer in the screenplay.. one of the photos in Annie’s mother’s photo album is Annie’s mom feeding baby Charlie with a bottle, and the milk is “polluted with black herbs”. It’s definitely related to their Paimon cult.

      Yes, Charlie was possessed ‘at birth’, but not before. Meaning, she wasn’t possessed when she was in her mother’s womb. She became possessed as a newborn, and that was thanks to her Grandmother.

      As for your other note, I gave the scene a thorough rewatch and have come to the conclusion that you are indeed right and that I’m mistaken. Thank you for the correction, I shall be including it in the review and crediting you!

      WTF Devante (Watch The Film),

      Saint Pauly

      Liked by 1 person

  5. I just watched the movie and found your excellent recap. I thoroughly enjoyed both.
    Maybe I imagined this, but when Peter’s hand shot up in class (right before he starts slamming his face on his desk), it was in a distorted, almost palsied position. In the final scene, the Charlie-head idol of Paimon is holding a staff topped by a hand, which looks to be in the same position. Do you see it, or am I trying too hard?


    1. Hallo Brooke!

      My word but you are astute, dear lady! I went back and checked out the scenes you referenced and damned if I don’t see what you’re talking about! I’ve now included a collage of the two shots in the body of the article and have, of course, credited you with the find!

      Thank you so much for paying so close attention and especially for sharing it with us!

      WTF Brook (Watch The Film),

      Saint Pauly



    On the outside of the treehouse/Paimon’s temple the structure clearly gives the shape of the rune Algiz. Given the symbolism in the film I highly doubt that’s a coincidence.

    That particular Algiz was used to symbolize a birth in the German neopagan revival that was roughly coterminous with the 3rd Reich. The same shape inverted was used to symbolize death.

    The song playing in during Peter/Paimon’s coronation is “Reborn”. This occurs inside the treehouse.

    (As an aside I believe that the symbols on the “Joanie” welcome mat will reveal other coded messages, but I’ll leave that to someone else for now.)

    Occult doesn’t strictly mean magical, but actually hidden. Many of the early spymasters, John Dee, were themselves occultists who used hidden messages so encoded and set up their own cults largely as fronts for covert action. While there is clearly a supernatural aspect to the film decoding the occult symbols, words, and rituals will likely reveal deeper insights into the plot.


    1. Hallo Bill!

      Thank you so much for your comment. I vaguely recall becoming intrigued with the symbol while writing my synopsis but not able to find any clear explanations, so thank you again for you contribution! I’ve included it, and the reference to the song, in the article, giving you full credit, of course!

      Thanks again for choosing us to share your insights with!

      WTF Bill (Watch The Film),

      Saint Pauly


  7. Fantastic analysis of a really good film – I’m not normally a horror fan, but glad I made the exception in this case. One thing I was hoping to get some clarification on is the ant dream scene: you’ve got the photo at 1:11:16, but no notes! I just didn’t understand what the insects signified – I guess there was a parallel to the flies around Charlie’s head at the side of the road, but that doesn’t really work when everything else seems so logical and meaningful. Any ideas?
    Thanks again for the analysis.


    1. Hallo Nearvana!

      Sorry it took me so long to get back to you! (I thought I’d already answered it, but turns out I’d only done it in my head!) To answer your question, you were right! They do stem from his guilt over Charlie. If you remember, the screenshot at 37:52 shows Charlie’s head covered in ants and when we see Peter, it’s only his head that’s covered with ants. This is to show how guilty he feels after what happened to his sister while he was driving the car.

      Thank you for your visit and for the nice things you said about my post!

      WTF Nearvana (Watch The Film),

      Saint Pauly


  8. First of all I would like to say I absolutely love this movie & your review on it! Secondly, I have a theory on the screenshot. I also have been trying to figure this out & tho it is Very difficult to see I can only partly Kind of make it out? But Right before Peter notices whatever that is, while he is slowly looking to the rear view, the sign or reflector thing on the pole to the left seems to face him. I cannot see if it says anything or if it was just something to distract him. But as he quickly looks to it, it just as quickly seems to face to the right of the pole (facing whatever is in the field). And lastly all I can make of what is actually in the field (in the screen shot) is what appears to me something like a horse or a donkey? (To the right side of the 2 glowing) I have no idea what the association would be but that’s what it looks like to me when zoomed. It looks like 2 ears, front legs. The glowing looks where it’s nose would be. I could be very wrong but that’s just what I see. But I have a question about the scene where Charlie’s head is shown in the daytime & there is a car passing in the background. What was behind the car? Is there any significance to it?


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