Sometimes, there is a very real fear among parents that they themselves will turn into their parents. Apparently, the prospect of such a notion was so horrifying that filmmakers have found a way to give this concept life on the silver screen. It’s an entry that goes into one genre in particular, one that might make viewers go, “huh? No way…” The genre that director Iris Shim’s Umma falls under, is horror. Odd as it might sound that mom is out to get you (as the villain), let’s dive into why it works so well as a horror film.
What Gives Umma That Extra Scary Kick?
The best horror stories aren’t always those that glorify an insane amount of gore, fun as those can be. Often, it is the stories that hit closest to home, whose frightening themes have an actual chance of happening to us as individuals.
Umma follows two women, a mother (Amanda played by Sandra Oh) and her daughter, Chris ( played by Fivel Stewart), both of whom sport a pretty reclusive lifestyle living on a bee farm. They appear to get along pretty well in the trailer, but everything comes to a head when a surprise visitor visits their farm. In tow, this visitor has brought Amanda the ashes of her Umma, which translates to mother in Korean. From there, we begin to see everything descend into chaos as they are plagued by the ghost of Umma.
At a glance, sure, it works perfectly as is. It’s a ghost story, so of course, it would fall under horror. But Umma goes the extra mile with its storytelling. According to an interview-style article by NPR, the crux of the story rests upon intergenerational trauma, specifically the fear of turning into one’s own mother. Now for some people, this isn’t a concept that is necessarily horrifying. But as we know all too well, no one is perfect. The same is said of parents, especially when it comes to what we pass on down to the next generation. Some of it is good, sure, but some of what is passed down can be damaging too.
It’s this notion specifically, that the film tries to grapple with. To quote the aforementioned article, the movie puts “three generations of women into conflict [with one another]”, each with their own sets of ideas and beliefs. How much do these values align? How much do they differ? These are all things that add to the film’s intrigue, making for the promise of some very interesting character interplay. To go even further, as stated earlier, this theme is what really makes the film such a fitting entry into the horror genre. If you’re the kind of person who can’t get on board with the supernatural in horror movies, this movie is perfect because the very real fear of becoming your parent is what grounds the film in reality and, ultimately, makes it even more compelling through and through. Umma is out in theaters now.