Hereditary - Endless Interpretations
Updated: Jul 8, 2021
Oh, Hereditary. I was so excited for this movie, and subsequently pissed when my local theatre only showed it for a week and I had to go to Toronto to see it.
Bonus: I got to see a late show at Scotiabank after a few drinks.
Disclaimer: I had a few drinks before seeing this movie.
Also spoilers ahead.
It’s taken me longer to write this out than I thought it would. I had to do A LOT of ruminating on it, which is something I feel like I haven’t done with a single film in a long time. After the movie ended, the group of awesome ladies I was with sat in the theatre for a good twenty minutes discussing what the fuck we just watched.
Hereditary surprised me. The trailer kept the actual movie concept vague enough that I wasn’t entirely sure what I was getting into.
Suffice it to say that I was NOT expecting where this movie was going to go, especially the major twist we get about half an hour in when Charlie (or the demon host called Charlie, if that’s how you swing) is brutally, BRUTALLY killed.
As opposed to a full review on this one, I’m going to highlight some elements I really loved, because I could probably write essays upon essays about this film.
1. The Dollhouse Frame
Annie is an artist who creates realistic dollhouse pieces. Throughout the film, she is seen suffering from the stress of a deadline. After the compounding stress of the death of her mother, and then her daughter, Annie stops working on her art, and instead begins to re-create the traumatic scenes that we’ve seen or heard about in the film, including Charlie’s death, and Annie’s mother literally breastfeeding Charlie as a baby.
This framing highlights the concepts of manipulation and control, both in the immediate sphere of Annie trying to manipulate her art to get through her trauma, and the manipulation of her mother as she worked to create a demonic cult and ultimately manifest a demon.
2. Grief and Depression vs. Demonic Activity
Most of the movie felt like an “Is it or isn’t it” Annie going insane, and I was really impressed when, at the end of the movie, everything that seemed paranormal turned out to be “real,” because I was worried it was going to go the other way.
There was a moment where Annie and her son Peter are fighting, when Annie snaps at him, mentioning how she’d thought about aborting him when she was first pregnant, then catching herself with this sardonic laugh that felt so visceral to me, so raw. A lot of the dialog and relationships within the movie were extremely well done, and interesting to examine even outside of a horror context.
3. Annie’s Secrets and Foreshadowing
Annie starts going to a grief support group, and this is where a lot of the exposition of the story is let out in (in my opinion), a fantastic way. In her introduction, Annie lets out a lot of horrific details about her life as though they’re simply normal family dramas, such as her brother committing suicide because he thought their mother was trying to put other people inside him. This is an excellent foreshadow that doesn’t seem obvious when it’s said, but when reflecting at the end of the movie, it lets us know how much Ellen had been doing in the past to try to get the demon into a host body.
This small detail has such large implications, and it’s a really genius way to show the viewer what has happened in the past without hammering it in.
There’s also a lot of good ole fashioned foreshadowing and hook-rewards, like Charlie’s affinity for decapitating animals and creating little effigies when she becomes one in the end of the movie.
4. The Buildup
Hereditary’s pace isn’t what I’m usually looking for, but in this movie, it really worked for me. The slow-burn combined with a massive twist in the first act, then the absolute heavy horror of the last fifteen minutes was exhilarating.
5. The Scares
Everyone in the theatre screamed at one part in the movie, that scene where Annie is in Peter’s room in the corner, and that is probably the best “jump” scare I’ve seen…ever. I was legitimately horrified, and it was so subtle, so well done.
I also really loved the séance scene. I thought it was old-school but still clever and creepy, and the entire character of Joan was just perfect. I was screaming “AUNT LYDIA” in my head basically the entire time, but she’s a fabulous actress, and the way she grabs on to and manipulates Annie was brilliant.
5. The Ending
I mean, what do I even say about that ending? It was intense. What I loved most about it was the ambiguity, and how there are so many ways to look at the film and what it meant. Was it literal, was it figurative? What did it mean to you?
I think the ending really turned a mirror to the audience. The way you interpret the movie has a lot to do with how you see the world itself. I’ve heard some great and very different analyses from different people, and each one has been valid and relatable and brilliant.
I’m going to leave my thoughts at that, but I’m sure upon subsequent viewings, I’ll have more to go on, but I highly recommend watching this film (multiple times), and check out reviews and analyses. One of my fave takes so far has been by Nyx Fears HERE.
This movie hit me in its subject because I’m adopted, so the concept of inheriting unwanted demons has been a big part of my life. I’ll leave it at that, but I want to hear your thoughts. What did you think of the movie, of the ending?