Produced by Sam Raimi and starring Sandra Oh, Umma (the Korean word for mother) is a horror movie that deals with generational trauma and mother-daughter relationships. After a run of watching some truly awful horror movies recently, I went into this one really hoping for a change in my luck…
An ambiguous opening sequence leads us to believe that a girl is being abused by her mother and that electricity is involved. We then see Amanda (Sandra Oh) taking an electric lamp down into the basement of her home where a large number of other electrical appliances are being kept. We also hear the cries of a baby upstairs and in the next scene, that baby, her daughter Chrissy (Fivel Stewart), is now a teenager. Mother and daughter work together as beekeepers on their remote home and spend pretty much their whole time together, raising chickens, reading books and generally enjoying the good life.
Amanda and Chrissy live their lives without any electricity whatsoever, with Chrissy believing that it’s because electricity makes her mum sick. Consequently, any visitors to their home are instructed to turn off their car engines shortly before arriving outside and they must also leave any electrical devices, such as mobile phones, switched off and in their vehicle before entering the property.
One day Amanda’s Korean uncle pays her a visit. He breaks the news that Amanda’s Umma, who she abandoned many years ago, has now passed away. He gives Amanda a box containing her mother’s remains and tells her that she must provide her with a traditional, respectful Korean ceremony otherwise she will not rest. Amanda immediately stores the box out of sight and tries to ignore it, but soon she begins to have visions and flashbacks of her mother. She is also able to hear her mother’s voice and, worst still, her spirit begins to slowly consume Amanda, turning her into that which she fears the most.
At its heart, there’s a good, solid idea behind Umma. The generational trauma and guilt are enough to drive a good story, especially with Sandra Oh involved, and the addition of a restless spirit should only have elevated this even higher, especially in the hands of producer Sam Raimi. Sure enough, there are a couple of nice creepy moments early on, where something that is either out of focus or in partial darkness is definitely there in the background, but never fully made visible. However, much of what happens later in the movie takes place at night and, due to Amanda’s electricity phobia, takes place in almost complete darkness, which makes it very difficult to understand what’s going on for the most part.
On top of that, Umma suffers from some very poor camera work and editing along with a voice for Umma herself that really doesn’t sound that scary or ominous at all, not to mention the general bad use of sound overall. Instead of instilling tension, suspense and fear, the result is something that’s very, very bad. Not even Sandra Oh can save this from being a strong contender for the worst movie of the year.
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Web developer by day, with a movie and TV watchlist that continues to grow as much as my spare time reduces! My favourite movie is Inception and, despite what everyone says, I do not have a man-crush on Tom Cruise.