The theme of generational trauma continues this year with the new horror film Umma starring Sandra Oh (Killing Eve). Most of us have worries about becoming our parents. I think we’ve all had a moment where we say or do something and realize, “OMG…that was my mother/father’s voice.” In the new film from writer/director Iris Shim, she takes this fear to a whole other level.

Sandra Oh plays Amanda, a woman who has run away from her heritage, her childhood, and her mother. Amanda is a single mother, who, because of her childhood trauma, lives on a bee farm with no electricity, no phones, nothing with her daughter played by A-typical’s Fivel Stewart. However, one day her uncle arrives on the farm from Korea holding a box with her mothers’ ashes. He begs her to give her a proper funeral so that she can pass on peacefully. But, Amanda cares to do no such thing which leads to a haunting she’ll never forget.


Umma is a story not only about dealing with our past but how if we don’t it can also affect those around us. Whether that’s our children, our family, friends, or strangers on the street. Secrets always have a way of coming out. Some things I feel this movie gets right are the subtle moments where Amanda is physically turning into her mother. 

Amanda’s face contorts, her voice and cadence change, she even finds herself wearing her mothers’ hanbok. The casting of Sandra Oh is also stellar. I’ve been a fan of hers since she played Christina Yang on Grey’s Anatomy. While she has some experience in the darker realm with her time on Killing Eve it was great to see her tackle a genre piece like this. 

Dermot Mulroney (Hannah) is no stranger to the horror genre after his time in Insidious. Adding him to Umma as a slight father figure to Amanda’s daughter adds the grounding that this film needs. While Amanda knows her secrets and lies, so does Mulroney. But, he understands she needs them in order to function.


I had a chance to sit down with writer/director Iris Shim to discuss the inspiration behind Umma. Turns out, it’s her own life.

My first way into this story is drawing from my own experiences as a Korean-American child of immigrants. [While] growing up here and grappling with the questions of identity in various ways. My identity as a Korean person. My identity as an American. My identity as a woman. So much of that is something I really want to draw upon and explore in this story…I started to really tackle the relationship between…both sets of moms and daughters. I feel that’s where the tension and complexity really started to get developed because every [daughter] has a complicated relationship with their mom.”

THS interview with Umma writer/director Iris Shim


While Umma has an interesting story, with fun visuals, as well as a deeper story than you’d typically find in horror films, the movie just isn’t scary. I would have loved to see more use of the Kumiho other than it being there eating a bird.

So, if you’re looking for something to traumatize you emotionally vs jump scares Umma might just be the film for you.

Umma hits theaters on Friday, March 18, 2022. Stay tuned to THS for more news and reviews!