Cookies help us deliver our Services. By using our Services, you agree to our use of cookies. Learn More.

The Hereditary Cult Theory That Has Horror Fans Scratching Their Heads

Director Ari Aster has an undeniable flair for crafting horrific tales that feature complex layers and details that can be interpreted in countless ways. His most recent offering, 2019's Midsommar, features plenty of moments that foreshadow the ending of the film as well as terrifying visual symmetry woven throughout the story. But Aster's 2018 film, Hereditary, is possibly an even richer story for those who like their horror movies with substantial subtext.

Toni Collette stars as Annie Graham, who's grieving the death of her mother, Ellen, and the film examines how her family slowly unravels as they're attacked by a nefarious force. Aster isn't afraid to shock the audience while the family is tormented with even more tragedies as Ellen's involvement with a terrifying cult comes to light. It all culminates in a gruesome crescendo that sees the demon Paimon possess the only surviving member of the family, Peter, played by Alex Wolff.

But as hinted at throughout the film, the cult of Paimon has manipulated the Graham family into killing themselves in order to bring the demon king to Earth in Peter's body. However, a new theory suggests that their manipulation of the Grahams goes much further than audiences originally thought.

A cult member might've been one of Peter's classmates

Hereditary doesn't confine its scares to the dark of night, with Peter's time at school proving to be quite traumatic for the teenager. He involuntarily slams his horrifically contorted face into his desk repeatedly after seeing an inexplicable flash of light and one of the cult members watching him outside. But a theory on Reddit posits that the cult was preying on Peter through his peers, too.

A screenshot from Hereditary's ending, where the cult bows to Peter, who has now become King Paimon, shows a male cult member with long black hair half tied up in a knot. One of Peter's friends at school has a similar hairstyle and build (pictured above, far left). Comments on the post also suggest that the weed Peter is given shortly before Charlie's brutal decapitation is a way of preparing him for the ritual of becoming Paimon. One Redditor notes that it's similar to another scene involving his mother, saying, "And maybe the weed that made him choke was a similar herb to the one Joan puts in Annie's tea! Prepping them for the upcoming ritual."

Hereditary is a complex ride, but the intricately detailed history of the Graham family and the cult of Paimon gives the film endless depth and tension. It's not exactly a happy ending (quite the opposite), but it's very rewarding, especially after multiple watches. Hopefully, Ari Aster's next film, which will star Joaquin Phoenix, will feature an equally rich and horrifying tale. We would expect no less.