SPOILERS for Hereditary ahead.
Have any burning questions after seeing Hereditary last weekend? Director Ari Aster answered some of the bigger questions that have left audiences scratching their heads, after watching the film.
Hereditary opened in theaters last Friday after what seemed like an unstoppable hype train leading up to the release day. Critics cited it as one of the scariest movies in some time, praising not only the direction and cinematography, but also Toni Collette's performance as a woman going through unspeakable trauma. For those that saw the film, it was without a doubt a deeply upsetting venture that took some dark and shocking turns. But there are some larger questions about Hereditary's ending, as well as other elements sprinkled throughout, which have left some audiences speculating as to what really happened in those final, shocking moments.
Aster sat down with Variety to discuss some of the bigger plot elements of Hereditary, while also confirming what we could only theorize about before. We can start with perhaps the biggest question of all: was there ever really a Charlie or was it Paimon, one of the eight kings of Hell, the whole time? According to Aster:
"From the moment she’s born. I mean, there’s a girl that was displaced, but she was displaced from the very beginning."
This explains some of her odd behavior, including the beheading of that pigeon (a motif that is horrifically repeated throughout the story). Some might remember that Charlie was creating a diorama of her own, like her mother's, which Aster says she has been building as a shrine for Paimon, though it's also a moment of foreshadowing to that bonkers finale in the treehouse:
"If you look at the diorama you’ll see they’re headless figurines bowing to a pigeon-headed creature with a crown on its head, which is not far away from what we’re left with in the last scene of the film."
One of the more interesting things about this interview is the confirmation this whole scenario was orchestrated from the beginning. Early on, Annie (Collette) sees an apparition of her dead mother and begins to believe that she's some sort of medium that can commune with the dead. After Charlie is shockingly and brutally killed in the first half hour, Annie is desperate to talk to her daughter again. Aster pursues this plot thread even further as Annie's new friend Joan shows her how to conduct a séance, but Aster confirms that this whole scene was a devious red-herring:
"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."
Hereditary might be one of the scariest films in modern times (depending on who you ask), but not because of how often something jumps out of the shadows. This is a film that dwells in the shadows of relationships, watching as grief literally tears a family apart. Even if you didn't find the film particularly horrifying, it was incredibly bold for setting up a conclusion like this and absolutely knocking it out of the park. Not to mention that Annie's entire family is killed, often in horribly vile ways. It will likely be a good long while before someone gives us a conclusion that can match the darkness and complexity that Aster wrote in Hereditary. Until then, we'll probably still be sleeping with the lights on.