Warning: This post contains major spoilers for Hereditary! Read at your own risk.
After months of hype and teasing, we're finally laying our eyes on Hereditary, the 2018 horror movie that's scaring the ever-loving sh*t out of everyone who sees it. We've already taken a dive into how scary the movie is (and whether you can handle it), but now it's time to dig into the darkest (and most spoilery) parts of the film. Specifically, we want to zoom in on the mysterious figure that lurks in the shadows until the final, truly insane sequence. That's right, we're talking about King Paimon.
As a very brief recap, King Paimon is the demon who hangs around the Graham family throughout the film. In earlier parts of Hereditary, we witness paranormal occurrences — they're supposed "hauntings" in the homes of Joan (Ann Dowd) and Annie (Toni Collette) — and believe that they are the spirits of these mothers' dead children. Joan is the one behind all of this: she gives Annie an incantation and ritual that will supposedly allow her to commune with her daughter, Charlie. But as it's revealed later, Annie isn't actually communing with Charlie; the ritual is instead a way of welcoming a demon named Paimon into their home and giving him permission to enter a mortal vessel.
That's basically the bottom line of Hereditary. The dead matriarch of the Grahams, Annie's mother, seems to be involved in some kind of satanic, occultist, possibly Wiccan group that worships King Paimon. Their goal is simple: to find a human host whose body this demon can inhabit. At the end of the film, we learn that this group has been grooming Peter, Annie's son, to be this host.
So, what's the deal with King Paimon? There's a pretty good description of him in a book called The Lesser Key of Solomon, written by Joseph Peterson. The book is a collection of information from original manuscripts and fragments in the British Museum Library. A website called the Grimoire Encyclopedia has excerpted the book, which describes Paimon as a "Great King" who is "very obedient unto Lucifer." The passage describes in great length what Paimon is capable of:
"He hath a great Voice, and roareth at his first coming, and his speech is such that the Magician cannot well understand it unless he can compel him. This Spirit can teach all Arts and Science, and other secret things. He can discover unto thee what the Earth is, and what holdeth it up in the Waters; and what Mind is, and where it is; or any other thing thou may est desire to know. He giveth Dignity, and confirmeth the same. He bindeth or maketh any man subject to the Magician if he so desire it. He giveth good Familiars, and such as can teach all Arts. He is to be observed towards the West.
In this context, the "magician" is the person who invokes Paimon's spirit. The passage is enough to communicate why the individuals in Hereditary wanted to call upon him and worship him in the first place. He seems to hold great knowledge and wisdom, and can imbue his subject with great power. Other sources online, which may or may not be accurate (take them with a grain of salt), describe King Paimon as very friendly and willing to help those who win his respect. That's another reason why he may be the object of desire in Hereditary — he is supposedly benevolent, wise, and willing to help.
By the horrific end of the film, we know that King Paimon has been successfully summoned and that he is inhabiting Peter's body. We have to wonder, though: were all the terrors and horrible sacrifices worth it? I guess it depends on who you ask.