If you haven’t seen Hereditary yet, put it on your list. Toni Collette is amazing. She gives us what is arguably the best performance ever in a horror film. Hereditary was filmed in my home state of Utah and that got my interest when I blogged about upcoming horror back in February. By the time the movie was released, Hereditary had gotten so much media attention as audiences protested the trailer and walked out of the film that I couldn’t wait to find out what all the hype was about.
To be fair, there are disturbing scenes in Hereditary. Just like there are disturbing scenes in a lot of horror movies. It’s part of what makes the genre and everyone’s threshold is different. Like I found Mother! so disturbing that I did not write about it and I feel it is my duty to warn anyone who hasn’t seen it that there are some things you simply cannot unsee. Not much gets to me but Mother! did. I saw no media objection directed towards that film with its star-studded cast that included Jennifer Lawrence, Michelle Pfieffer and Ed Harris. Hereditary did not come close to the shit I saw in Mother!
Not that I think you should bring the kids to see Hereditary. It earned its rating and at the heart of the film is a demon conjuring cult sort of theme. No spoilers here because if you don’t know that by now, you should just in case you were planning to save the babysitter fee and bring your young’ns for a glimpse of the Utah backdrop. Don’t.
There are few things I love more than screening a new horror film with a group of friends, then debriefing over food and drink. So on this occasion while my fellow horror movie buff and I were talking about the qualities of the demon in this film, our new-to-the-genre and not-really-a-scary-movie-guy-but-smartest-person-I-know friend asks a simple question. "Why would anybody would want to summon a demon?”
Silence as my brain goes, “Duh.” I mean, “What?!?"
Then a couple of weeks later I asked my daughter (raised on horror movies) what she thought about the film and she said the exact same thing. Word for word. What’s going on here? Summoning demons is basic. Isn’t it obvious why people do it?
Well it turns out, not so much.
And it turns out that not everyone levitated their friend during a sleepover in junior high or hypnotized their other friend during an assembly in high school, or held séances and played with Ouija boards as a teenager. When I saw the movie The Craft I totally related because I remember doing that. Well, not all of that. Like nobody died or ended up in a padded cell as far as I know. But this supernatural stuff I learned in school; I just didn’t get any class credits for it.
So, for my friends and family who were deprived of such experiences in their youth, I spent a lot of time researching the summoning and conjuring of demons – when it started, how it started, why people do it, what are the results – stuff like that. I fell into giant black holes of etymology, history, religion, politics, ancient ritual, and philosophy. I had a blast. But there was so much out there that I would need to set up a database just to organize my thoughts. Add to that the fact that this topic crosses some very sensitive boundaries and I am willing to admit that maybe – just maybe – the obvious why of summoning a demon is perhaps not so obvious.
Nor is it necessarily evil. In fact, the original sense of a demon was a benevolent being derived from the ancient Greek term for a spirit, a supernatural power, even a god. It is in modern English where demons are associated with malevolence and generally synonymous with Satan or the “devil” or some disciple of evil.
And, according to lore, demons have powers that can be used or given if they walk the earth - and to do that, they have to be summoned. What powers? Well, that depends on the demon. So back to the movie.
King Paimon is the demon featured in Hereditary. He is the 9th of 72 demons you will find listed in “The Lesser Key of Solomon,” a 17th century spell book on demonology. If you’re into that sort of thing. Paimon has a command of the arts and sciences, he is gifted in necromancy, and he has the ability to control people as well as produce money and material wealth.
So there you have it. Knowledge, money, and power granted by this demon to his followers if allowed to walk the earth. So, the real question is . . . Why wouldn’t anyone want to summon a demon?
I loved this film. The story line was original and socially relevant without being exploitative. It was just scary enough and just disturbing enough without going too far, though some of you will challenge this. Sure, there is room for criticism, but Collette's performance is so good that you will forgive the little things you would have done differently. All in all, a great modern horror movie.
Oh, and as to the question, “Why wouldn’t anyone want to summon a demon?” Because demon favors come at a cost, like your soul. Everybody knows this. Just like everybody knows why they would want to summon a demon. Oh, wait …