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Headscratchers / Hereditary

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  • Why did Annie try to burn herself, Peter, and Charlie alive years before? I didn't see how that was relevant to the rest of the story—Paimon wouldn't want his vessels destroyed, so he wouldn't have made her do it. It could have just been some psychotic break, mental illness did run in her family, but it seemed that Ellen and Charles, at least, weren't mentally ill at all.
    • Even if Ellen and Charles weren't actually mentally ill, Annie's childhood was emotionally abusive and that undoubtedly had an effect on her. Combine that with Ellen pushing her to have children against her will, and it's understandable—if not justifiable—that she might snap even subconsciously.
    • Word of God suggests that she always knew subconsciously that her life is not her own and that she's a victim of her mother's machinations, but she's unable to face this reality consciously and instead lashes out in her sleep to try to save her and her children from their fates. Though Aster also gives the possibility that it was a manifestation of her subconscious desire to be rid of her children, as she never wanted to be a mother.
      • Truth in Television: there are people who kill while sleepwalking or having a night terror (like someone with PTSD who wakes up to find themselves strangling or shooting the person who tried to snap them out of the nightmare) [1], while being decidely non-violent during their waking hours. It's usually related to being already stressed and though extremely rare, has held up in court if it's proven by pathologists that the killer is a somnambulist and didn't have a motive. in Hereditary it's probably a combination of genuine Homicidal Sleepwalking AND how stressed Annie was because of her mother's manipulations AND unconsciously knowing there's something evil haunting them.
  • Why does Peter/Paimon hear an echo of Annie saying "Charlie... Hey, it's okay." when he looks at her decapitated body? Was there any significance to it, or was it just "well, we've come this far, let's see how much creepier we can make this film!"
    • Because someone in the room is saying it! But that isn't Annie's voice, it's Joan, talking to Charlie/Paimon's soul in Peter's body. Annie's body is just prostrating itself in reverence to her new king.
      • OP here. On a second viewing, you're right. It is Joan. I guess the creepy echo on "Hey..." freaked me out and it sounded enough like Annie I didn't question things. Not to mention on your first viewing you're basically recovering from being smacked in the face with a brick so you have no idea what's happening.
  • Why did burning the book burn Annie at first, but later on it burns Stephen?
    • I would guess supernatural meddling. When she first tries to burn the book, Paimon still has use for her of being from the bloodline as a temporary host, and/or needed her to wear down Peter's psyche. Given the extent the movie planned everything out, I find it unlikely the cult and Paimon would leave things to chance, possibly manipulating the fall of the book or something so only her clothes would start to catch fire, and would be enough to scare her from ever trying to burn the book again. The second time, Paimon needed her as a host. As far as Stephan burning goes as opposed to no one burning at all, it could be for the same reason everything else in this movie happens: to mentally wear down and scar Paimon's next host so he doesn't put up a fight. I'm not entirely certain, but I don't think Ann was fully possessed by Paimon at that point. Watching her husband burn quite graphically may have been all to have Paimon take *her* as a host.
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    • Word of God confirms that there were never any rules to burning the book — it burned whoever Paimon wanted to burn. To trick Annie into killing her burning her husband alive was just one of his cruel games.
  • Was Paimon aware of the plan?
    • There's no clear rules regarding how Paimon's will is exerted, but I assumed all the physically supernatural events (i.e. The writing on the chalkboard, the moving glasses, Steven's immolation) were all caused by Paimon, with direction from the cultists.
    • Typically in Goetic magic, you're not working with a demon, you're trying to trap it. It can be reasonably assumed that Paimon has no clue what in the home is going on.
    • If that really was Paimon in Peter's body during the end, the guy seemed quite confused about what was going on, and it is telling that Joan is actually explaining the situation to him. Perhaps being a King of Hell means is quite a busy deal, and he can't keep up with absolutely everything his followers are doing.
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  • Was Charlie aware of the plan? We're led to believe she's been groomed by her much-loved grandmother, and it would explain some of her creepiness, especially towards Annie and Peter. Did she have any agency in the decision?
  • Why was Steve still skeptical after the seance? He saw the glass move by itself, heard the glass behind them break, and saw the candle relight itself in a pillar of flame. After witnessing 3 clearly supernatural things, he should probably be a bit less dismissive when Annie asks him to burn the sketchbook.
    • I would chalk it up to a combination of Weirdness Censor; and of his tendency to avoid processing the conflicts in his family, to try to remain their Only Sane Man.
  • There are clear references to mental illness throughout the film, the Grahams even have a history of mental illness, so it makes wonder: is the entire movie an allegory to mental illness? Or is it there just to set up some psychological horror? Or were the “mental illness” in the family just a manifestation of Paimon in previous generations?
    • We literally see supernatural stuff happening all over the place with the family, it is pretty clear that there were supernatural shenanigans happening to the family. However, that doesn't have to exclude mental illness from the situation.
  • Since Peter was born first, and since Paimon prefers a male host body why did they use Charlie to begin with?

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