Sandra Oh deals with the interpersonal conflict of raising her teenage daughter off the grid and a selection of her repressed family trauma in this bilingual mainstream supernatural horror. Much as this writer is up for seeing anything theatrically, the signs as to the film’s potential quality were not good, Despite a Sam Raimi production credit, the film was dumped out into UK cinemas with no trailer or general advertising. It has a runtime of just 82 minutes. This includes an extended opening title sequence and the end credits Sandra Oh might be one of those actresses who is capable of selling anything but It was questionable whether or not her star power could elevate Sony Pictures UK trying to cover up a stinker. Nevertheless, the viewer was at a loose end one afternoon and decided to take in a screening of the film. How was it?
Wow. No beating around the bush here. Umma sucks. At one point this might have been an attempt to cash in on the elevated horror trend with a more mainstream bent. The final product comes across like the most studio mandated jumpscare horror film possible. Throw in elements of Hereditary and Minari. You essentially have Uma.
The most obvious non-horror comparison to this writer was the Jimmy and Chuck plotline in the Breaking Bad spin-off Better Call Saul. It’s mother and daughter here, as opposed to two brothers in that case, but the attempt to put a horror spin on some nigh on identical plot beats and character dynamics did not go unnoticed Even with some identical plot beats, one might argue it’s unfair to compare one of the best series. currently on TV. (destined to be in the conversation for best of all time status if the final season sticks the landing.) On another level, this demonstrates the problem is something like Umma. It’s Not that there is anything inherently wrong with the core plot and dynamics. That particular arc of Better Call Saul should be the template for this kind of story. The execution within this 82-minute feature feels decidedly functional. Lacking any sense of creative drive or passion, Sandra Oh and Fivel Stewart try their best in the central roles, but they can’t elevate the decidedly thin material. Add on a finale so visually muddy that it’s difficult to see the events taking place on the screen and you have a strong contender for one of the worst films of 2022.
Umma is a film that might have had stronger creative ambitions at one point. In the form in which it’s currently released. It’s nothing more than a vague husk of what it might have been. A collection of excruciatingly lame jump scares and nothing more than functional looks at what have been themes and ideas. These have been done before and better both within and outside horror. The brief runtime makes an effective schedule filler in cinemas during a COVID time frame where the same films still run for months on end. Unfortunately, if the new films are bad or do not bring in audiences they will be gone after a week regardless. Something like Umma is the poster child for this fact. Poorly executed on many different levels despite the star power of its lead trying to give this mild embarrassment gravitas. It might be OK as an 82-minute distraction on Netflix but it’s decidedly not worth going out to cinemas for.