In a spoiler-heavy reddit AMA, “Hereditary” director Ari Aster went in depth about his acclaimed new horror film starring Toni Collette. Her character’s actions at the end of the movie have raised questions among fans, and the writer/director offered a peek behind the curtain — as well as a preview of “Midsommer,” his upcoming sophomore feature.
After admitting he “likes the idea of divine intervention” in response to a question about Annie’s sleepwalking having greater meaning behind it, Aster offers his own take: Collette’s character “knows on some buried, suppressed level that her life is not her own, and she is the victim of unthinkable, Machiavellian scheming by her mother. But she cannot look directly that this (let alone inquire about it). It would destroy too much of her inner structure.
“So, she lives in a kind of denial. But in her sleep, this part of her is acting out. She tried to set fire to her children to prevent the ‘resurrection of Paimon,’ as you say. She even says, in the dream sequence, ‘I wasn’t trying to kill you, I was trying to save you.’ That said, it could also be read as Annie’s buried desire to kill her children taking hold. After all, she never wanted to be a mother. All her life she has simply being doing ‘the done thing.’ The role of a mother is never one she felt comfortable playing.”
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He also reveals the meaning behind the (literal) writing on the wall: “Those are isolated pieces of an invocation spell that is suggested to be written all over the house. We only see three of these in the film, but there are many more (probably written behind furniture or otherwise hidden). ‘Liftoach Pandemonium’ has a special significance. It translates as ‘Open Up Chaos (or Hell).'” Wholesome!
As for his inspirations, Aster mentions “Don’t Look Now,” “In the Bedroom,” “Rosemary’s Baby,” “The Ice Storm,” plus Peter Greenaway and Powell and Pressburger.
Aster’s next film is “Midsommer,” and he revealed some of its influences: the aesthetics of “Black Narcissus,” “Hard to Be a God,” and two Roman Polanski films (“Macbeth” and “Tess”) in addition to the thematic underpinnings of “Apocalypse Now,” “The Wicker Man,” and “Modern Romance.”