This post includes a character analysis of Annie Graham, the protagonist of Hereditary (2018). Beware of spoilers.
Directed by Ari Aster, the 2018 supernatural horror film stars Toni Colette as Annie Graham.
In “Hereditary”, Annie Graham is a miniaturist and mother of two teenagers (Charlie and Peter). After the death of her mother, Annie witnesses a series of disturbing occurrences. It seems that Annie’s mother has a couple of dark secrets of her own.
Annie’s life takes a tragic turn when her daughter Charlie dies in a horrific accident. Peter blames himself for what happened while Steve (Annie’s husband) watches his family fall apart. Haunted by Charlie’s loss, Annie attends a support group, where she meets Joan. Later on, the latter teaches Annie how to summon a spirit.
At first, Annie is ecstatic about being able to communicate with Charlie’s spirit. However, talking to the dead also brought about other terrifying supernatural events. As Annie delves deeper into her family’s past, she uncovers their sinister secrets about her mother. Apparently, she belonged to a cult that worships Paimon, a demon seeking a male host.
Unfortunately for Annie, things in “Hereditary” end tragically for her. First, Paimon possesses her and makes her decapitate her own head. Then the demon went after Peter. After the young man jumps out of the window, the spirit of Paimon enters Peter’s body. The cult members are waiting for him and hailing Peter as their king.
Note: For those who are interested, here is another article discussing the meaning behind the ending of “Hereditary”.
Annie Graham Character Analysis in “Hereditary”
The film “Hereditary” presents Annie Graham as a middle-aged woman with a keen eye for detail. Through her profession as a miniature artist, Annie expresses her troubled past. The woman has a complex family history with her mother, who has recently passed away. Annie is often seen in casual and comfortable clothes.
In terms of personality, Annie is a deeply troubled individual. She grapples with grief and guilt, which often manifest as anger and frustration. Her mental health struggles are evident in her erratic behaviour and emotional outbursts. Despite this, she shows a strong desire to protect her family.
As mentioned before, Annie Graham has a complicated family history. Her relationship with her mother wasn’t the best, and her brother killed himself. During her support group sessions, Annie hints that her brother had severe mental health issues (schizophrenia).
It seems that Annie and her mother, Ellen, didn’t get along very well. Her mother was a very secretive and private woman. This put a lot of strain on their relationship. Everything felt estranged and distant. Also, there was a misunderstanding between the two.
When Annie learned the truth about her mother, it was already too late. In the beginning, she was having a hard time coping with Ellen’s death. Nonetheless, things really went downhill for Annie after Charlie’s death.
Although she didn’t know it at the time, her brother’s death would eventually become a mirror of Peter’s sinister fate. Annie’s brother took his own life, claiming that their mother was trying to kill him. And he was right. The cult technically “killed” Peter so Paimon could get into his body.
The film suggests that Annie’s mental health struggles may be inherited, a legacy passed down by her mother. All the previous deaths in her family (brother and mother) cast a shadow on Annie’s life. But Charlie’s death was the trigger that sent Annie into a spiral of depression and fits of rage.
Annie manifests her grief in increasingly disturbing ways. Her mental state deteriorates quickly, leading to maniac episodes. She even inadvertently torments her son Peter to the point where he too is on the brink of psychosis. This, of course, causes Annie’s husband to emotionally distance himself from her.
Annie Graham’s Character Development
The main character in “Hereditary” undergoes a dramatic evolution throughout the film. Initially, she is portrayed as a woman grappling with her mother’s death and her complex family history. Then, as the film progresses, Annie becomes increasingly desperate.
At first, Annie was a grieving mother obsessed with getting closure regarding her daughter’s death. Then, the moment she realized her only living child (Peter) was in danger, she also tried her best to save him. Sadly, her efforts were in vain. The cult managed to infiltrate itself into the Grahams to the point that the latter couldn’t escape their tragic fates.
The Symbolism Behind the Death of Annie Graham
Annie Graham’s death in “Hereditary” marks the triumph of the cult over her family members. The protagonist’s death is a powerful symbol that reflects the themes of trauma and the inevitability of fate. Annie’s self-decapitation, influenced by Paimon, represents the climax of the inherited curse. In the end, Annie Graham had no option but to surrender to forces beyond her control.
The physical act of decapitation is a metaphor for one’s detachment from familial ties and individual identity. After losing her head (identity) Annie becomes just another one of Paimon’s followers. She is no longer Steve’s husband or Peter’s mother. This also highlights the manipulation and control carried out by external forces.
Another way to interpret Annie’s death is her irreversible descent into madness. If one decides to take the supernatural horror aspect out of the picture, “Hereditary” becomes a psychological drama about loss and grief. Blurring the lines between supernatural and psychological adds another layer of complexity to the story.
In many ways, Annie Graham’s death serves as a chilling reminder of the dark side of mental illness and “family curses”. The inability to escape fate in “Hereditary” is due to the strong manipulation exerted by outer agents.
In conclusion, Annie Graham’s character is quite complex and tragic. She is someone who has had a lot of tragedies unfold in her life. Just like her brother, Annie also had to deal with mental health issues that were aggravated by her child’s death.
Annie’s struggles with guilt and grief intensify throughout “Hereditary” which disturbs the already unbalanced family dynamics within the Grahams. In the end, both Peter and Steve lose trust in Annie, as they deem her mentally unstable.
Overall, Annie Graham is a very interesting character to watch. Although she is not a perfect mother, Annie does act like one when she desperately tries to save Peter. Even though she fails, Annie’s character sort of finds some redemption in the end.