“Heredity” is a 2018 supernatural horror film directed by Ari Aster, marking his feature directorial debut. The film is centered around the Graham family as they navigate the aftermath of their secretive and controlling matriarch’s death, uncovering horrifying secrets about their ancestry. While the surface narrative delves into themes of grief, mental illness, and familial dysfunction, a deeper, hidden storyline emerges, revealing a meticulously crafted tale of fate, cults, and the inescapable nature of heredity. This article explores the intricate hidden storyline within “Hereditary,” unearthing the layers of symbolism, foreshadowing, and thematic exploration that make the film a modern horror masterpiece.

At first glance, “Hereditary” presents itself as a family drama wrapped in a horror narrative. The film follows Annie Graham (played by Toni Collette), an artist who specialises in miniatures, as she grapples with the death of her estranged mother, Ellen. The family’s grief is compounded when Charlie, Annie’s daughter, dies in a tragic accident, leading to a series of supernatural occurrences and the gradual unraveling of Annie’s sanity.

Beneath the surface narrative of grief and loss lies the film’s true horror: the influence of a demonic cult dedicated to the worship of Paimon, one of the kings of Hell. Ellen, the Graham family matriarch, was a leader of this cult, which aims to find a male body for Paimon to inhabit. The cult’s manipulations are subtle and pervasive, influencing the family’s history and leading to the film’s tragic events.

Aster weaves a complex web of symbolism and foreshadowing throughout “Hereditary” to hint at the hidden storyline. For instance, the symbol of Paimon appears in various forms throughout the film, including on a necklace worn by Ellen and Annie, and etched into the family’s home. The decapitations that occur in the film also serve as a disturbing motif, reflecting Paimon’s traditional depiction carrying his head under his arm. These elements, while seemingly part of the film’s horror aesthetics, are crucial clues to understanding the cult’s influence and the inevitability of its plan.

Central to the hidden storyline is the theme of fate and the inescapability of one’s heritage. Despite the family’s efforts to fight against the supernatural forces encroaching on their lives, their fates are sealed by their bloodline and Ellen’s machinations. This theme is mirrored in Annie’s miniatures, which depict scenes from her life with meticulous detail, suggesting a lack of control over one’s destiny.

The film’s climax reveals the horrifying extent of the cult’s plan, with Peter, Annie’s son, becoming the new host for Paimon. The final scenes, set in the treehouse adorned with the cult’s symbols and the decapitated bodies of his family, signify the completion of the ritual. Peter’s transformation into Paimon’s vessel marks the tragic culmination of the hidden storyline, with the cult’s goals achieved at the expense of the Graham family.

“Heredetary” is a masterclass in horror filmmaking, blending a gripping surface narrative with a deeply layered, hidden storyline. Ari Aster’s debut is not just a tale of supernatural horror but a complex examination of fate, family, and the horrors inherited from our ancestors. Through its intricate plotting, symbolism, and thematic depth, “Hereditary” invites viewers to peel back its layers, uncovering a story that is as meticulously crafted as it is horrifying. The film’s legacy, much like the fate of its characters, is indelibly marked by the dark secrets that lurk beneath its surface, making it a landmark film in the horror genre.