After her estranged mother passes away, a single mom must confront her dark past while haunted by a looming presence that tests the relationship with her own daughter. Though it has an intriguing premise and offers a view into Korean superstitions and cultural traditions, Umma leaves little to be desired, with a lukewarm script and ineffective jump scares.
After immigrating to America when she was younger, Amanda (Sandra Oh) has now found blossoming success on her farm, selling honey with her teen daughter Chrissy (Fivel Stewart). Due to an underlying condition that makes her allergic to electricity, Amanda has created an unconventional life for them, void of any modern day comforts.
Virtually cut off from everyone, Amanda has all but erased her cultural heritage, even changing her name. One day her uncle arrives with news of her mother’s passing. He critiques her for leaving her mother (aka Umma) to die alone and presents her ashes for a proper burial.
Given the abuse she faced at her mother’s hand, Amanda locks the ashes away with every intention of ignoring them. But their arrival has forced Amanda to confront her dark past and an angry spirit.
Unfortunately, not a whole lot works for Umma. It’s feels as if the horrors were all a second thought. It’s filled with lackluster jump scares and underwhelming appearances by Umma. The presence never feels truly haunting because nothing is unique — it’s all cookie cutter. And on top of bland frights, the CGI is terrible and does the opposite of amplifying any scares.
Umma is such a shame since it is a film that offers a richer cultural exploration into hauntings. But it’s a film I found no redeeming qualities in. Even the exploration of Amanda’s trauma and her moment to overcome it feels weak and sloppy. A more effective film that explores complex maternal relationships under a horror lens would be 2020’s Relic.
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