Following a successful worldwide premiere at Fantasia and a UK premiere at Soho Horror Fest in 2019, Sator is now set to receive a digital release on 15th February. The trailer for this one really grabbed me – atmospheric, with beautiful cinematography and a concept that promised to be something truly chilling. What further appealed to me was the fact that all of this was down to one man – Jordan Graham, a first time director who wrote, directed and produced Sator over a period of seven years, taking care of everything behind the camera. Jordan spent most days shooting with just two other actors and was entirely alone in post-production for years.
Set in a desolate forest, Sator tells the story of a broken family that is being observed by a supernatural entity who is attempting to claim them and is actually inspired by real-life events. In the summer of 1968, Jordan’s grandmother conjured up a supernatural entity known as ‘Sator’, whose torment eventually lead her to a psychiatric hospital. Jordan decided to cast her in a quick cameo while using her house for filming and was shocked at what she revealed during that time – sharing her experiences with ‘automatic writing’ and all the voices that were in her head, accompanied up by a thousand-page journal in which she wrote about her supernatural history with Sator every day over a three month period. His grandmother and her journal both ended up becoming much more integral to the final film.
Sadly, that atmospheric and beautiful cinematography that I described from watching the trailer is probably the only positive that I can use when describing Sator. Changes in aspect ratio, coupled with shifts between colour and black and white, seem to offer little relevance to the story as it progresses, while the story itself proves to be both downright confusing and tedious. It’s not entirely clear who all of the family members at the heart of the story are, or how they’re all related to each other and at times I couldn’t even make out what some of them were saying to each other. The narration of the grandmother’s journal, along with the documentary footage of her only adds to the confusion and there’s no just sense of cause or effect between any of the scenes. The flow of the movie suffers and it all just feels like a collection of scenes, none of which are particularly good – or if they are, then they fail to go anywhere by the time the next scene arrives. It is completely devoid of narrative momentum and consequently fails to deliver any of the tension and chills that a movie like this should.
Something important that I failed to note before watching Sator is that it is recommended for fans of The Witch and Hereditary. I came away from both of those movies almost as deeply disappointed as I did with Sator, so I’m guessing that if you are a fan of either of those movies then you are likely to find something to enjoy here. Hopefully, any future projects involving Jordan Graham will be as part of a bigger team who can help him with the story and editing as there is certainly some real potential shown in his cinematography and direction.
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