This post contains spoilers about Hereditary.
The ending of Hereditary is a journey. At the start of the film, were introduced to Annie (Toni Collette), an artist who seems to have a fairly put together life. Shes married with two kids, Charlie (Milly Shapiro) and Peter (Alex Wolff), and busies herself with work. But then, as is the case in every horror movie, weird shit starts happening. One by one, everyone in the family starts dying violent, brutal deaths. By the end, its revealed that Annies mother was the leader of a demonic cult that stoked up drama from the afterlife so that the rest of her family can join her. Why? So they could offer her grandson Peter up as a vessel for Paimon, a demon who is one of the kings of hell.
Who exactly is Paimon? According to demon lore, Paimon is a master of the arts and familiars (spirits that often manifest as animals) who will bless his followers with wealth. Hes been referenced in classic occult texts, like the The Lesser Key of Solomon, for hundreds of years. Throughout the film, his symbol—which looks like a series of interlocking figures facing west—pops up several times; its on a pendant that Annies mother wears on her deathbed, it appears in the house, and it appears on the telephone pole that Charlie fatally snaps her head on (one of the more gruesome cinematic deaths in recent memory). It faces west because thats the direction one must face if they want to give him offerings. The hints are sprinkled throughout the film, but writer-director Ari Aster pulls viewers far enough away from the trail so the ending still comes as shock.
Paimon is mentioned very briefly in Hereditary, first in a scene where Annie rifles through one of her mothers books on spirituality. Its almost a throwaway scene, because, up until that point, the movie only barely hints that Annies mom is a believer in the occult. The best clue is during Annies eulogy at her mothers funeral, when she notes that her mother was secretive and had her own little rituals. The film also doesnt really spend a lot of time explaining why Paimon in particular is important, but it becomes a lot clearer in the end when cult member Joan (the inimitable Ann Dowd) places a crown on Peters head and delivers a monologue explaining that the cult had long been trying to find the right vessel for Paimon (she also alludes to the fact that Charlie might have been the initial offering, but wasnt a fit because Paimon wanted a male body). These revelations connect back to Annies monologue earlier on in the film, explaining her mothers disturbing behavior toward the end of her life and her obsession with Charlie (perhaps grooming her for Paimon?). Annie also reveals that her mother had dissociative identity disorder, and that her brother had committed suicide, hinting at the darkness that had long surrounded her family. The scene will certainly trigger your exposition sensors in the moment, but without it, the ending would make very little sense!
In an interview with Vulture, Aster explained that he picked Paimon because there are plenty of movies about the Devil and he wanted to try something different. “Paimon just struck me as the right guy,” he said. “There was research involved and ultimately I sort of landed on him being the best candidate. But it was really as simple as me just not wanting to do the Devil again.” And thats how we ended up with one of the most shocking plot twists of the year.
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