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Sandra Oh's Horror Film Umma Shows Fans The New Face Of Fear In Exclusive Images

Sandra Oh in Umma
(Image credit: Sony Pictures Entertainment)

The horror genre has played host to several first-time feature filmmakers, usually because no matter the type of story they want to tell (suburban bigotry in Jordan Peele’s Get Out, the panic of isolation in Sam Raimi's Evil Dead), you can find a portal through fear. Iris Shim knew that her first screenplay was going to be an exercise in genre. What she didn’t anticipate was that the upcoming horror drama Umma would delve so deeply into her personal experiences in a mother-daughter relationship that also analyzed the circumstances of Korean-American families.   

The result, Umma, reaches theaters on March 18 and is being distributed by Sony Pictures Entertainment. In the film, Killing Eve’s Sandra Oh (pictured above) plays a protective mother living on a rural farm with her daughter who has to adjust their lifestyle when the ashes of her recently deceased mom are hand delivered to their location. The title holds special meaning for Iris Shim, who is making her feature-film directorial debut from a screenplay she crafted over the course of two years. As she told CinemaBlend in an exclusive interview:

Umma is the Korean word for mother. It’s what I call my mom. There's obviously a lot of movies about mothers and motherhood, (but) for me, I just never got the experience of watching a movie that explored that theme in the way that I have always experienced it and viewed it. That specificity of seeing a character on screen, saying the same words that I use when I talk to my mom, That's the part that I really wanted to try to keep. I have to give Sony credit for keeping the title. … I think what's so fascinating about language is that the ‘ma’ sound is so common in the word for mother, and in so many different languages. It's so universal that even though it's the specific Korean word for mother, it still sounds universal when talking about motherhood.

I’m not sure the mother in this movie is one that you want hanging around, though. As you can tell from the new trailer for Umma that dropped, Sandra Oh’s character begins behaving quite differently once the remains of her mother arrive on the farm. What will be the explanation for this behavior?

Sony also provided us with this exclusive image, showing off striking masks that will introduce audiences to a new face of fear. When we asked Iris Shim about the significance of the masks as to how they relate to Umma, she once again traced her writing back to her childhood, explaining:

So that's called a Tal. And it's something that I would see in my house growing up. My parents would have this framed wall art with these tiny little wood replicas of those masks. And I had no idea what those were. I honestly, didn't ever really even ask my parents like, ‘Oh, what is this?’ To me, it was always sort of a decoration. … But then when I started thinking about Korean imagery that really connects me to a long-standing tradition that I just had no awareness of – and the more that I started researching – I started realizing like, ‘Oh, these masks have a very, very rich history.’ … That was a really fun process, of actually being able to learn more about my culture and traditions.

Fivel Stewart in Umma

(Image credit: Sony Pictures Entertainment)

I know those masks will be bad news for the characters in Umma, but we’ll have to wait until March 18 to see what awaits Sandra Oh and Fivel Stewart. Umma is directed by Iris Shim, produced by Sam Raimi (who was a great choice to direct Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness), and is one of several upcoming 2022 movie releases, specifically a ton of upcoming horror movies, that you need to have on your radar.

Sean O’Connell is a journalist and CinemaBlend’s Managing Editor. He's frequently found on Twitter at @Sean_OConnell. ReelBlend cohost. A movie junkie who's Infatuated with comic-book films. Helped get the Snyder Cut released, then wrote a book about it.