Sator is a 2019 horror film, written and directed by Jordan Graham and is inspired by recollections of Graham’s late grandmother. Sator’s protagonist, Adam, is a young man who realizes an insidious being has been watching and influencing his family in an attempt to claim them.
Jack-of-all-trades. From the opening moments of the film, the tone is set, and through the images shown; the sign of a skilled editor. There is clear artistry demonstrated early on in the film; the sign of a skilled director. Immediately, I am reminded of Robert Eggers’ work; not just because of the color palette and choices in aspect ratio but also because of ambiance. The film quietly creeps along, aided by understated yet powerful visuals; the sign of a skilled cinematographer. The score is the undercurrent throughout the film that unnerves the audience letting them in on what is to come, unconsciously; the sign of a skilled composer. The skilled individuals who pulled this film together are actually all one person — Jordan Graham wrote, directed, edited, did the cinematography for, and scored the film. This is a big deal. The reason these are all separate jobs is that they are all separate skill sets. Most people can barely do one, let alone all of the above. Jordan Graham manages to not only fill these roles but be wildly creative in all of them. Jordan isn’t perfect. I found quite a few cuts to be jarring and the story is a little weak. Though, these things should not affect one’s ability to enjoy the film.
Scared of the dark? Darkness is what scares the audience for most of the movie. The dark shadows of the woods, even daytime is a major source of terror. Aided by a muted color palette (sometimes even black and white), the use of light and shadows illustrates this fear of the dark and has the added benefit of being visually appealing. With the consistent darkness through the runtime, Sator maintains a creepy, moody tone throughout. There are a handful of extra-wide shots in the film that reveal how small the characters are in comparison to the vast forest that surrounds and consumes them — it’s spectacular. The forest representing a dreadful unknown is similar to “It Comes at Night”, another well-made atmospheric indie horror film.
The story is told unconventionally, cutting between home videos and current happenings. There are only a handful of settings in the film, but due to how the location is shot, we can mentally separate them into two locations: the claustrophobic indoors and the agoraphobic outdoors — this is by design. However, the film is heavy on atmosphere and light on story, not an inherently bad thing as some films can pull it off well. However, this film needs a stronger storyline as its backbone. There needed to be more happening to justify the runtime. This felt as if it could have been cut down to a 45-minute short film. Sator is mysterious and evocative but it is heavy on the atmosphere above all else, and this may or may not be a problem for viewers. This is where audiences need to know themselves. If you heavily rely on the story, this may not be the film for you. If you love moody, atmospheric films, then this is most definitely the film for you.