Sommerleigh Pollonais, Horror Head Writer
Sometimes all you need a simple, straightforward story and that’s basically Umma in a nutshell.
Sandra Oh (Grey’s Anatomy, Killing Eve, The Chair) stars as Amanda, a woman who lives a secluded but happy life with her daughter Chris (Fivel Stewart of Atypical, T@gged). On the surface all seems well except for the fact that Amanda has an intense fear of electricity (electrophobia) caused by childhood trauma inflicted on her by her Umma (Korean word for mother). When her mother’s ashes and cherished personal items are delivered to her by her uncle, Amanda’s nightmares become reality.
There are a lot of shows and movies that makes fun of the fear some women have of becoming their mothers and while my Mom (and I’m sure yours as well) are basically superheroes and goddesses, there are those that sadly are not. Umma, written and directed by Iris K. Shim, utilises horror to explore these toxic relationships and how trauma left untreated tends to be passed on to the ones we love. Umma may not be what most would consider a hardcore horror movie; in fact you could argue it’s more of a thriller with horrific elements. But Sandra Oh’s performance, as well as her natural and believable maternal chemistry with Fivel Stewart, goes a long way in keeping you invested in these characters.
MeeWha Alana Lee as Umma doesn’t have a lot of screen time in the normal sense as she’s more malevolent entity than anything else, but she’s also a very strong presence here being genuinely creepy and terrifying when need be. The special effects aren’t spectacular but they get the job done. And the film works best when Umma’s presence is subtle. There’s an early scene of her sitting in a room that gave me chills, as well as a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it one that took me back to The Exorcist, which says a lot.
So while I think marketing Umma as a straight-up horror does more harm to this movie than good, as most genre fans are probably expecting more, I found it enjoyable. And I felt like it delivered a well thought out and uncomplicated narrative, the kind you don’t need to dissect. But at the same time it is trying to explore and maybe even exorcise a very specific kind of pain some viewers can personally relate to.
Sommer’s Score: 6 out of 10
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Sommerleigh of the House Pollonais. First of Her Name. Sushi Lover, Queen of Horror Movies, Comic Books and Binge Watching Netflix. Mother of two beautiful black cats named Vader and Kylo. I think eating Popcorn at the movies should be mandatory, PS4 makes the best games ever, and I’ll be talking about movies until the zombie apocalypse comes.
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