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Film / Hereditary

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Charlie: Who's gonna take care of me?
Annie: Um, excuse me, you don't think I'm gonna take care of you?
Charlie: But when you die.

Hereditary is a 2018 Dark Fantasy horror drama tragedy film written and directed by Ari Aster, starring Toni Collette, Gabriel Byrne, Ann Dowd, Milly Shapiro, and Alex Wolff.

When the Graham family's secretive grandmother and matriarch, Ellen Graham, passes away, the family — miniaturist and mother Annie (Collette), her husband Steve (Byrne), her daughter Charlie (Shapiro), and her son Peter (Wolff) — begins to unravel cryptic and increasingly terrifying secrets about their ancestry. The more they discover, the more they find themselves trying to outrun the sinister fate they seem to have inherited.

The film has been described by Aster as "a family drama that curdles into a nightmare" — and by "nightmare", we mean it's been hailed as one of the scariest films of the 21st century. What exactly this entails is contained in many major twists and surprises, so if you have any interest in seeing this film and have not yet done so, it is strongly advised that you do not read any further.


Hereditary contains examples of:

  • Abusive Parents:
    • Ellen is suggested to have been the manipulative and controlling kind to Annie and her late brother Charles, leaving Annie with mixed feelings about her mother's death.
    • Annie herself lapses into emotional abuse and negligence towards Peter, though she later tries to make up for it.
  • Adult Fear:
    • Annie happening across her daughter's decapitated body in the car. Her absolutely heart-wrenching screams of grief and agony make the whole scene incredibly upsetting.
    • Annie herself could count. The later reveal about the incident with almost burning herself and her children alive while sleepwalking is horrifying, and her callous treatment and harsh words to Peter in some scenes can be hard to stomach as what not to say to one's emotionally fragile teenage son, especially when one is angry or trying to cope with their own issues. His reactions make these moments double as a Tearjerker.
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  • Advertised Extra: The marketing placed a lot of emphasis on Annie being apprehensive about Charlie, with Charlie's abnormal appearance and behavior along with the name of the film implying it is about Charlie going crazy. In the film proper, whilst Charlie is an important character, her role plays out much different than what audiences are initially led to believe, in which she is killed in a freak accident towards the end of the first act of the film. She does show up later throughout the film, haunting Peter's dreams, seemingly possessing Annie during the seance scene and ultimately possessing Peter's body where it is revealed she is Paimon. However, the bulk of the film focuses more on Annie's devastated relationship with Peter in the aftermath of Charlie's tragic, brutal death, which Annie and Peter are both responsible for.
  • Advertising by Association: The trailer advertises the film as being "From the producer of The VVitch".
  • Animal Motifs: Charlie is heavily associated with birds. Her facial features appear somewhat birdlike, she has a habit of making a weird clucking noise, some of the creepy sculptures she makes have bird parts in them, and she cuts the head off a dying pigeon with scissors. In the finale, there's a bird in a cage hung up in the treehouse next to her severed head on the mannequin.
  • Archnemesis Mom: Annie unwillingly becomes one, but Ellen is a much clearer example.
  • Armor-Piercing Question: Peter softly asks Annie one, after she blows up at him.
    Peter: What about you, Mom? [Charlie] didn't want to go to the party. Why was she there?
  • The Bad Guy Wins: The cult successfully transfers Paimon's spirit into Peter's body.
  • Bad People Abuse Animals: Or rather, demonically-possessed children mutilate pigeons with scissors.
  • Big Bad: Nearly every horrific event in the movie may be linked to Paimon, the demon worshipped by Ellen and Joan.
  • Black Magic: Essentially the premise of the film.
  • Body Horror:
    • A subtle example, but the skin on Charlie's face is bizarrely droopy and wrinkled-looking, in a way that makes her look like an old woman wearing a mask.
    • Also when Charlie is brutally decapitated during a freak incident with her head later being shown rotting and covered in ants. Later, her decomposed head is part of a grotesque statue of Paimon.
    • When Annie finds her mother's corpse in the attic of the family home, blackened, rotting, and distended.
    • Annie using piano wire to slowly slice her own head off.
      • And just before this, we hear pounding on the trapdoor to the attic. Turns out that Annie is rapidly slamming her head into the door!
  • Body Motifs: Weirdly enough, there's a lot of emphasis on decapitation.
    • There is also a lot of camera focus on eyes, and lights reflected in eyes.
  • Bookends: The movie begins with a shot of the tree-house before zooming out and then in on a miniature model of the Graham household which eventually morphs into the actual house. It ends with the camera zooming out of the tree-house with Paimon being summoned, making the tree-house appear like a miniature model.
  • Break the Cutie: Poor, poor Peter. He goes from your typical moody, awkward teenager, to a guilt-ridden kid who is partly responsible for his little sister's gruesome death and had to drive her body home in a daze, to an orphan and sobbing mess of raw fear begging "Mommy" not to hurt him after she loses her mind and becomes possessed. It's incredibly painful to watch.
  • Broken Bird: Annie, in contrast to Joan's Plucky Girl. Annie is loving towards her husband and kids and puts on a strong front, pretending she's going to the movies when in reality she's attending secret support groups. She's reluctant to be vulnerable or talk about her darker issues, but when pushed she reveals a broken down and struggling individual.
  • Broken Tears: Peter upon hearing that Annie hadn't wanted him and had tried to miscarry with him in any way that she could, though this luckily turns out to be All Just a Dream. He breaks them out for real when hiding from his possessed mother in the attic after coming across his father's burned corpse.
  • Cain and Abel: Charlie is suggested to have some animosity towards Peter and possibly trying to kill him for accidentally causing her death. She ultimately possesses his body and an incantation he hears earlier suggests his spirit has been forced out entirely in death. Subverted in that Charlie's spirit doesn't seem hostile to him in their previous encounter and it turns out the threat to Peter is something else entirely.
    • Somewhat subverted during the seance to contact Charlie, it appears that the real Charlie makes contact through Annie's body. During this, she cries for Peter to help her and comfort her, showing the real Charlie loved her older brother. It was most likely Paimon who harbored animosity towards Peter, probably out of jealousy as he was stuck in Charlie's female body and coveted Peter's male body.
  • Ceiling Cling: When Peter discovers his father's charred corpse, we see a possessed Annie fixed on the ceiling behind him. Doubly creepy is how Annie instantaneously disappears once he turns around.
    • This happens a scene prior, as well, as Annie can be seen over his right shoulder as he's waking up from bed, clinging to and swiftly moving along the wall.
  • Character Blog: Charlie has an Etsy page for the freaky animal dolls she makes.
  • Chekhov's Armoury: The huge pile of photo albums and books that Annie inherits from Ellen? They fill in the entire plot, especially Joan's secret friendship with Ellen.
  • Color Motif: Several of the characters are seen primarily wearing certain colors (blue and white for Annie, green for Peter, orange for Charlie, and red for Joan).
  • Creepy Child: There's something wrong with Charlie. For instance, she decapitates a pigeon with scissors.
  • Creepy Doll: As if the regular kind weren't unsettling enough, Charlie has a whole collection of these made out of dead animal parts.
  • Creepy Dollhouse: Annie builds miniatures. The main way we learn this is through the opening shot, that depicts the unoccupied dollhouse she's building, before zooming in and revealing it to be identical to her son, Peter's, bedroom.
  • Dead Guy Junior: Charlie is presumably named for her late uncle, Charles. Fitting, since it's implied Ellen had tried to have both possessed by Paimon, making Charlie a Replacement Goldfish for Charles. Maybe Ellen suggested the name.
  • Death Glare: Annie shoots Peter a brief one after he calls her out on her part in Charlie's death. At the same time, there are clearly a lot more emotions than just anger at play.
  • Decapitation Presentation: The cult collects Charlie's severed head and mounts it on a mannequin, complete with a crown. Also inverted with Ellen and Annie; the cult poses their decapitated bodies to Peter in a grotesque "prayer" pose, but their heads are presumably discarded.
  • Decoy Protagonist: All of the promotional material for the movie sets up Charlie as a major character and presumably the cause of all the suffering and supernatural stuff that the Graham family is going to experience. She gets decapitated by a light pole about 30 minutes into the movie, and the rest of the story is about her family dealing with their grief over it. So in a way, she is the cause of all their suffering, but it's perhaps not quite the way a viewer expects.
  • Demonic Possession: Every member of Annie's family falls victim to this at some point, save Steve. Interestingly, Annie's possession is noticeably different from Charlie's and Peter's. She completely loses her personality; crawls on the walls; and attacks like a mindless beast without speaking, before levitating and killing herself. Her headless corpse then floats to the treehouse, to witness the coronation of Paimon. Meanwhile, Charlie—implied to have been possessed from infancy, by the supposedly wrathful Paimon—had showed no signs of anger or any other emotion; and was not shown or indicated to be violent towards other people. She had simply behaved like a quiet, odd girl with morbid interests, who needed help with an Ambiguous Disorder. Peter is supposed to be possessed by Charlie and Paimon, but he is also seemingly non-malevolent for having a demon king inside him: showing Charlie's Verbal Tic and quietness; but also seeming to still show fear or uncertainty, instead of the wicked Slasher Smile he once sees in his reflection.
  • Department of Redundancy Department: When Annie explodes at Peter at the dinner table, she voices her disdain for her hard work looking after him being met with "that fucking face on your face". Given how flustered she is, the word repetition is justified, and it's been commonly praised as one of the most authentically written lines in the film.
  • Destination Defenestration: Peter's last act, following him witnessing both Annie sawing her head off and several naked cultists in the dark, is to throw himself out of the nearest window.
  • Devil, but No God: A gruesome fate befalls every single member of the Graham family. If demon king Paimon and his cult are responsible for this, then the divine power is clearly absent.
  • Diabolus ex Machina: At the end, Annie decides to burn Charlie's sketchbook, thinking it will excise her from the house. Based on what happened last time she tried, she is sure she will be incinerated along with it, but doesn't care as long as it saves Peter. So she throws the book into the fireplace. And then Steve is immolated, with no explanation as to why, and Annie is possessed by something. It only goes downhill from there.
  • Downer Ending: The Leigh-Graham family is butchered by Paimon, who forces Peter to watch his own mother saw her head off. He desperately tries to escape, but is captured by Paimon's worshippers and given up to be possessed.
  • Driven to Suicide: Annie's brother Charles as a teenager, which she believes was due to mental illness. She herself is forced to violently cut her own head off while possessed, and Peter also ultimately jumps out a window in terror to escape the sight of his mother sawing her own head off and menacing strangers appearing in his house.
  • Drone of Dread: The majority of the film's soundtrack, composed by Colin Stetson.
  • Drugs Are Bad: Subtle, but present - Peter leaving his sister unsupervised so he can smoke weed turns out to have negative consequences spanning the length of the film.
  • Dying Declaration of Love: Annie gives one to Steve before he is to discard of Charlie's sketchbook in a fire, purportedly making Annie burn to death as well.
  • Dysfunction Junction: The only person in the movie who doesn't have problems is Steve. Annie is a psychological wreck thanks to her mother and tried but failed to abort Peter by doing everything she was told not to do when she was pregnant with him, Charlie comes off as distant towards others and has a nasty nut allergy that partially leads to her death, Peter is just a mess after feeling he was responsible for Charlie's death and that's not even getting into Ellen, who's revealed to be a cult leader trying to bring a demon king into our world...
  • Even Evil Has Loved Ones: Before she died, Ellen left her daughter a note apologizing to her for what she's arranged to have happen and hoping Annie won't hate her for it, promising that they will be rewarded in the end. However, this is left ambiguous, as it's not clear how genuinely Ellen means this, or for that matter in what way.
  • Evil All Along: Joan, seemingly sympathetic to Annie and her family, is a demon-worshiper trying to orchestrate Peter's possession.
  • Evil Matriarch: Ellen was both very controlling and apparently sinister. After the former's death, Annie shows her conflicted feelings at a group therapy session on grief, admitting that her mother had had a very hard life but also showing anger at her for her manipulative ways and lack of remorse.
  • Evil Old Folks: Paimon's worshipers.
  • Familial Body Snatcher: Charlie briefly possesses her mother Annie and then possesses Peter for an apparently much longer time.
  • Fan Disservice: All of the members of the cult are nude, but given the fact they're old and evil, it doesn't exactly make for the most pretty sights for the audience.
  • Fate Worse than Death: Quite possibly what happens to Annie and Ellen, and potentially Charlie as well. Their decapitated bodies of the former two bow before Paimon and turn around to face him on their own. Even in physical death, their souls are bound to and servants of Paimon. Peter is also a more literal version - he commits suicide but it doesn't take, and Paimon possesses him.
  • Faux Affably Evil: Joan doesn't lose any cheeriness in the ending, where she has overseen the destruction of an entire family to summon a demon. The cult in general is also very upbeat, if the grinning pictures are any indication.
  • The Fourth Wall Will Not Protect You: A24 promoted the film by giving examples of Charlie's creepy little dolls as "gifts" to people who attended screenings. And by giving them as "gifts", we mean leaving them outside people's doorsteps.
  • Gainax Ending: As if there wasn't enough Mind Screw, naked cultists appear out of nowhere, Annie's decapitation turns out to be real, the headless body floats into the tree house, which is all set up for a ritual, and Peter now being inhabited by Paimon is sorta played as a triumphant moment.
  • Gender-Restricted Ability: Only a male can successfully be a vessel for the demon king, Paimon. It appears that when he inhabits a female's body, that the female he's inhabiting deteriorates mentally and physically before going full blown demonic. In a 'blink and you'll miss it' moment, Annie reads a passage from a book about Paimon that mentions he becomes "livid and vengeful" when offered a female host and mentions that the most successful incantations of Paimon have been with males. It's possible that the reason for the destruction wrought on the Graham family was due to Paimon's anger of being given Charlie as a host initially.
  • Genre Mashup: Marries domestic family melodrama and horror of both psychological and occult varieties.
  • Gory Discretion Shot:
    • We see fragments of Peter's bloodied face when he smashes his head on his desk.
    • Also horribly, horribly subverted with Charlie's death. The camera cuts away right as it happens, and we just get a very long shot of Peter realizing (or rather struggling to realize) what just happened before he drives home and climbs into bed. All this time we don't see Charlie's body. But right after we hear Annie find the body offscreen and scream in anguish, it smash cuts to Charlie's head on the side of the road being eaten by ants.
    • Played with during and after Annie's death. We see her bloodily slicing through her neck with wire, but as the camera follows Peter as he jumps out the window, we hear a thump. We then later see Annie's headless body float away.
  • Gross-Up Close-Up: Have fun with the close-up shot of a child's severed head being eaten away by ants!
  • Head Desk: Played for Horror when Peter gets possessed in class and smashes his face into his desk twice with enough force to break his nose.
  • Heel–Face Door-Slam: Annie is clearly undergoing Sanity Slippage, and is antagonistic with Peter before she starts uncovering the cult's plans for her children and attempts for a Heroic Sacrifice to save her only remaining child. Instead, her husband is incinerated before her very eyes as she screams in grief and horror, and next we see her she is transformed into an unspeaking monster terrorizing Peter and helping the cult, thanks to Demonic Possession.
  • Hell Is That Noise:
    • The trailer features a soundtrack of almost nothing but "Psycho" Strings and Charlie making a clicking noise with her tongue.
    • The second trailer features a very psychotic "cuckoo" sound made by somebody (possibly Charlie) that sounds like the cuckoo clock from Hell.
    • Annie's agonized screams when she finds Charlie's decapitated body.
  • Heroic Sacrifice: Attempted and subverted. Annie had resented her son for much of the movie (and to a degree, even before that due to her own mother pressuring her to have children she didn't want) and been focused on contacting her dead daughter without much regard for his mental state; believing Charlie's sketchbook has been cursed and something horrible will happen to Peter unless she does something, Annie tries to destroy the sketchbook to save Peter knowing it will burn her to death. Her husband burns instead and she becomes possessed, forced to assist in Peter's murder and possession.
  • Hollywood Law: Peter doesn't face any legal consequences for the accident that kills Charlie, and no one outside the family even knows what really happened to her. Of course, as a well-to-do couple who don't want to lose their remaining child, it's reasonable to assume that Annie and Steve might have talked the authorities into looking the other way.
  • I Cannot Self-Terminate: Annie begs Steve to burn the sketchbook, which will immolate her with it, because she wants to save their son but is too afraid to do it herself. When Steve refuses, Annie runs and throws it into the fireplace in a fit of desperation - only for Steve to die instead in front of her.
  • Insistent Terminology: Meta, downplayed; Ari Aster's routinely summarized the film as "a family drama that curdles into a nightmare" rather than an outright horror film, seeing the drama and horror as two inseparable halves. He took great inspiration from domestic dramas while writing the film, pitched it as a family tragedy, and screened far more domestic dramas than horror films for his crew before production began. He's explained that he strove for the film's foundation to be its family dynamics, from which bleak, dark emotions arise that can be audience-alienating in a straightforward drama but audience-attracting when turned into horror set-pieces.
  • In Spite of a Nail: When Annie thinks that destroying Charlie's sketchbook is the key to freeing the Grahams. It isn't; all this succeeds in accomplishing is burning Steve alive, which implication suggests Paimon could've done at any given point. There's more than one Meaningful Background Event demonstrating that Paimon's cult tried in many ways to reel Annie in before actually succeeding; this is just the way that happened to work out.
  • Kick the Dog: Charlie cements her Creepy Child cred early on by beheading a dying bird with a pair of scissors.
  • Kill It with Fire:
    • Subverted. At some point in the past, a sleepwalking Annie attempted to do a Murder-Suicide with her children, dousing all three of them in paint thinner before planning on dropping a lit match. However, she woke up just as the match was lit and was able to stop herself.
    • Double subverted. At one point, Annie attempting to burn the sketchbook resulted in her arm catching fire. She later begs Steve to finish the job, believing that she will fully go up in flames. However, he resists; she takes the book from him and throws it in, causing him to spontaneously combust.
  • Leave the Camera Running:
    • Right after Charlie is decapitated, there is an uncomfortably long shot of Peter's face as he enters a deep shock. The audience is generally just as shocked as he is, making it very effective.
    • The shot of Peter wandering through the garden and back into the treehouse after throwing himself out of the window is also uncomfortably long until it culminates in the ending.
  • Logo Joke: In the trailer, the A24 logo appears as the camera pans under the ground at Charlie's funeral.
  • The Man Behind the Man: Paimon to the cult and their machinations, and Joan to Ellen's cult.
  • Male Gaze: We're introduced to Bridget, Peter's love interest, by him staring at her butt in class.
  • Manly Tears: With Charlie dead and Peter and Annie seemingly going insane with grief and guilt, reserved Steve, who has been quiet and focused on supporting his family, has a moment where he bursts into tears at a stoplight while no one's around to see it.
  • Match Cut: Multiple of such cuts transitioning from day to night (or vice versa) appear throughout. Notable examples include a cut between a shellshocked Peter sitting at the foot of his bed to him sitting in class with the same expression, as well as one between a daytime exterior of the Graham house and a nighttime exterior where naked cultists surround the house.
  • Mercy Kill: The Ambiguous Ending coupled with a chant directed at Peter earlier suggests that he dies from the jump out the window and Charlie-Paimon's spirit possesses his corpse with his own spirit leaving. Awful, yes, but at least the poor kid wouldn't be present and Forced to Watch his body being possessed, with his suffering presumably over - although the ending also suggests that his grandmother and mother are forced to serve Paimon even in death.
  • Mind Screw: The entire movie feels like this, especially when the horror elements seem to occur.
  • Mother Nature, Father Science: Joan and Ellen are both "Mother Nature" (to a horrific supernatural extent) and Annie eventually comes to accept this, while Steve is "Father Science".
  • Murder-Suicide: Almost happened with sleepwalking Annie to her sleeping kids in backstory, drenching them all with paint thinner and waking up with a lit match in her hand.
  • Never Trust a Trailer: An instance where usage of this trope isn't necessarily a bad thing, as most of the film's twists stay hidden.
    • The trailer gives the impression that Annie spends the film struggling with her grief over her mother's death, and Charlie is some kind of unstable Creepy Child responsible for everything that goes wrong in the movie. Charlie dies in a horrible accident early in the film, and grief over her death is the one that the family spends so much of the film struggling with, rather than Ellen's.
    • The trailer also makes makes no mention of the Goetic demons or the fact that the film is basically one big Summoning Ritual.
  • Nice Gal: Joan, a cheerful and friendly woman who goes out of her way to reach out to Annie in her grief and try to help her. Too bad she's actually a Bitch in Sheep's Clothing.
  • Nightmare Face:
    • All of Annie's expressions of complete horror, grief and agony, as seen here, here, and here.
    • Promptly before slamming his head into his class desk, Peter's face becomes distinctly and horrifically disfigured.
  • Nothing Is Scarier:
    • One scene has Annie see her mother’s ghost in the corner of the room. The apparition does nothing but stand there and disappears when the lights turn on.
    • After Charlie’s decapitation, the film spends a good few minutes focused on Peter’s face, not even showing the body...until the next morning.
  • Off with His Head!: A pigeon, Charlie, and ultimately Annie are all decapitated. Ellen's body is also found without its head, which suggests that this is something of a tradition for the Graham family women.
  • Offing the Offspring:
    • Annie almost committed a Murder-Suicide with her children while sleepwalking, though she was horrified when she woke up and stopped it. She later has a nightmare in which she goes through with it this time to kill herself and Peter.
    • Ellen willingly sacrifices her children and her children's children out of greed, being implied to have driven her own son to suicide when trying to turn him into a host for Paimon. She succeeds in turning her granddaughter into a host, but because Paimon is dissatisfied with a female host, instructs her followers to kill her granddaughter and turn her grandson into the new host, which is implied to require killing him to eject his spirit from his body. Her plan also results in her daughter, suggested to be someone she did care for, to lose herself and die gruesomely.
  • One-Word Title: Hereditary.
  • Only Sane Man: Steve is the sanest person in the house and tries to keep Charlie and Peter safe and Annie sane. He gets immolated for his efforts.
  • Outliving One's Offspring: Joan's 7-year-old grandchild died and caused her to seek out group therapy, though later revelations about Joan imply that that was a lie to get Annie's sympathy. It was horribly used earlier when Charlie is beheaded in a freak accident.
  • Papa Wolf: Steve. He's protective of Charlie at the start of the movie and when things start souring between Peter and Annie, he stands up to his wife to defend his son. Unfortunately he's also a Supernatural-Proof Father who doesn't realize the very real threat facing the family, and it's hinted by the movie that You Can't Fight Fate so he wouldn't have been able to stop it anyway had he known earlier; ultimately he just had the bad luck of marrying into a doomed family.
  • Parents as People: Annie and Steve love Charlie and Peter, and try to protect them and help them. Unfortunately Annie comes from a traumatic background and is a Broken Bird and resenter with deep, unresolved psychological issues, which occasionally causes her be impatient with Charlie or lash out at Peter. When it comes down to it though, she is willing to do whatever it takes to save them. Steve appears far better adjusted than his wife and is somewhat stern but protective, patient, and understanding. That still doesn't mean he is any more capable than Annie of protecting his family from everything.
  • Pet the Dog: Albeit a very dark example, Annie constantly sobs that she loves Peter even when she is trying to describe why she attempted to abort him many years before.
  • Plot Allergy: Charlie is allergic to nuts. Unknowingly eating walnut-laden cake at a party is what sets off the chain of events that leads to her untimely death.
  • Plucky Girl: Joan is an older example than most but still comes across as one with her warm personality, given the losses of her son and grandchild she describes with sorrow before offering a helping hand to Annie.
  • Psychotic Smirk: Peter gets one from his own reflection while he's at school.
  • The Quiet One: Charlie, who is intensely introverted. She doesn't exactly hide in a corner at the party her brother brings her to, but she refuses to speak to anyone but him and doesn't want him to go into another room without her.
  • Red Herring: It is hinted that Charlie's spirit is trying to kill Peter in revenge for his hand in her death, with the appearance of a Charlie apparition, her sketchbook filling with images of Peter's face with crossed-out eyes, and Peter believing he felt someone trying to pull his head off. However, Charlie's spirit is not responsible for the supernatural activity and the real culprits are the cult, trying to make Peter possessed by Charlie - or rather, the demon king, Paimon, who had been possessing Charlie.
  • Religion of Evil: Almost all the wrongdoings throughout the film are caused by a cult devoted to the worship of the demon Paimon.
  • The Resenter:
    • Annie towards both her late, controlling mother and the children her mother pressured her into having, when she didn't even want to be a mother herself. She has largely overcome or repressed these feelings, particularly towards her children whom she does genuinely love, by the start of the movie but it comes out more and more as she undergoes her Trauma Conga Line.
    • Likewise, Peter is claimed later on to be this to Annie, stemming from an incident where he woke up as she was about to light him, Charlie, and herself on fire as they slept and she sleepwalked. She insists she didn't mean it but that Peter didn't believe her - though Peter never brings this up himself and Annie is edging into paranoia, leaving room for her as an Unreliable Narrator. He does accuse her of having also been partially responsible for Charlie's death, though only after she blames him first in a heated and emotional clash.
  • Room Full of Crazy: When Annie goes to confront Joan, her once-neat and homely apartment is shown to be a mess, with the central living space completely taken over by an altar featuring Charlie's handmade statues and a photo of Peter.
    • Also, the cultists turn the attic into this at the ending, in preparation for Paimon's return.
  • Realistic Diction Is Unrealistic: Notably averted with the "that fucking face on your face" line, which, while a bit silly, sounds exactly like what someone in the middle of an anger and grief-filled rant might say.
  • Sacrificial Lamb: Charlie is set up to be a major character along with her parents and brother, but dies early on to show this movie's not pulling any punches.
  • Sanity Slippage: Annie becomes increasingly obsessed and frenzied in her grief. Peter slides into this too albeit more subtly.
  • Single Tear: A shellshocked Peter sheds one after Charlie's death.
  • Soundtrack Dissonance:
    • This "triumphant" piece plays during the "birth" of Paimon and him assimilating into Peter's body.
    • Also extending to the end credits, which follows the above sequence with the cheery music choice of "Both Sides Now" by Judy Collins.
  • Spiritual Successor: One could think of this movie as The VVitch but set in the 21st century. It shares a same producer, distributor, and has a similar ending. Both movies begin with a family in grief. Both movies have a scene where the older sibling contributes a horrific fate to their younger sibling. Both movies are about a witch-like supernatural entity haunting the household, and end with the surviving member getting possessed by a demon in a similar environment. And both families have a dog.
  • Spooky Séance: Joan conducts a two-person version. It works, but it's left ambiguous as to whether or not she is actually summoning the spirit of her dead grandson. Either way, the whole thing is a scam in order to convince Annie to perform an incantation in her own home, which sets the overtly supernatural events of the movie in motion.
  • Stunned Silence: Peter's reaction to Charlie being decapitated by a telephone pole.
  • Supernatural-Proof Father: Steve believes that Annie was the one who dug up her mother's body and put her in the attic and that her rantings of cults and demonic possession are really just the result of a mental breakdown.
  • Sympathetic Magic: Burning Charlie's sketchbook causes her father to be immolated.
  • There Are No Therapists: Averted, as Annie attends group therapy for dealing with grief over the death of her mother. Played straight in that no one even suggests that the Grahams see a family therapist to deal with the immense trauma of Charlie's horrific death, for which Peter was partly to blame and for which Annie resents him.
    • Word of God states that Steve was actually once Annie's therapist before the two got married and had children.
  • Til Murder Do Us Part: Possibly; it's not explicitly stated, but in retrospect while Annie thought her father starved to death because of mental illness, more likely Ellen had a hand in her husband's death because it served her purpose.
  • Tomboyish Name: Charlie is a girl. It's unclear if "Charlie" is a nickname for "Charlotte" or another feminine variation of "Charles." She definitely doesn't act how most teenage girls do.
    • Since Paimon dislikes and rejects female hosts, perhaps this androgynous name was an attempt to placate Paimon.
  • Trauma Conga Line: The entire film is this for Peter. 'Justified' in-universe as it is necessary for the summoning ritual to work properly, as the host has to be psychically unstable beforehand. Annie is also subject to the same Trauma, and her backstory shows this goes back to way before the film's narrative. Arguably this in service of Peter's further trauma. It's also in action for Annie.
  • Treehouse of Fun: Charlie loves her treehouse, where she sleeps and spends most of her time. Becomes a much darker example when it turns out to be Paimon's lair, where he returns at the end of the movie.
  • Verbal Tic: Charlie's characteristic click of the tongue. This video suggests it's actually Paimon's name, which is why Annie and Peter start hearing it when being influenced by Paimon and why Peter makes the click himself upon becoming possessed.
  • Villainous Lineage: The title Hereditary, likely referring either to Ellen's bloodline being the only suitable hosts for Paimon or Annie tragically becoming a figure of fear and abuse to Peter as her own mother had been to her.
  • Wham Line:
    Annie (in Charlie's voice): Hello?
    • During Annie's nightmare, she goes into Peter's room to see him and inadvertently admits:
      Annie: I never wanted to be your mother.
  • Wham Shot: In the seance scene, the glass moving on its own is the viewer's first explicit indication that something legitimately supernatural is in fact going on.
  • Would Hurt a Child: Seeing as the cultists are implied to have set up 13-year-old Charlie's decapitation...yeah.
  • You Can't Fight Fate: Discussed in one of Peter's classes as an instrument of tragedies. It turns out depressingly applicable to the Grahams, with Charlie a pawn and Sacrificial Lamb in the cult's plans, Annie mentally destroyed and forced against her will to serve Paimon like her mother, and Peter forced to become a host to Paimon as his grandmother had long promised Paimon a male host and plotted for years to use a member of her own family. Steve was the only member of the family who didn't already have a role in the Evil Plan but he was equally helpless to save his family.


Video Example(s):


Hereditary - Annie Sees Her Mother's Ghost

Annie sees an apparition of her mother lurking in the darkness, but it disappears instantly when she turns the lights back on.

How well does it match the trope?

5 (11 votes)

Example of:

Main / NothingIsScarier

Media sources:

Main / NothingIsScarier