Sator is an extremely slow-burning horror, full of truly frightening imagery and well-crafted jump scares, however the plot may not quite be interesting enough to hold the attention of a wider audience.
Written by Becca Johnson
Described as being fit for fans of The Witch and Hereditary, Sator takes place in a desolate forest and focuses on a supernatural entity who attempts to claim a broken family.
Director Jordan Graham admirably worked on this piece of film for seven years, incorporating documentary style footage of his own family as well as fictional horror story. Sator is well and truly a mood project, with Graham behind not only the directing but also the writing, score, set design and production. It's safe to say that all these elements are flawless, and Graham's work paid off. The film features some of the best sound design I have witnessed in a long time, paired perfectly with imagery, largely focused on that of animal skulls, that will stay in your head for days. Jump scares are normally considered a cheap way of inflicting fear, but Graham has a way of impressively incorporating them to ensure your spine is chilling even minutes after. Most notably the final shot is nothing short of masterful.
It's also fun to see an independent film-maker play around with visuals the way Jordan Graham has. The black and white scenes, as well as the change-up of aspect ratios really help to elevate the film to a higher level, adding to the tense and cold atmosphere that Sator creates. The voice-over work from the Mother, played by Wendy Taylor, was truly chilling and helped to inflict fear onto the audience, hinting to us about what's to come. However, for many viewers, Sator may not have the pay-off that it needs to be fully effective and reach a wider audience.
A large portion of this film is plainly incomprehensible. It's a chore to work out who is who, how the characters are related and quite simply, what is actually happening. There's definitely an over-arching sense of mystery that poses questions and leaves the audience wanting more answers, but a lot of the time it is tedious to try and get to grips with the plot. For a slow-burn horror to be 100% effective, the end pay-off needs to be immense, and unfortunately Sator falls short of this. It undeniably offers up some spooks here and there throughout the entire film and at the end with an intriguing climax, but for many it won't quite be enough to warrant the slow pace and lack of dialogue.
It's safe to say that Sator has a lot of competition, with slow-burners including the aforementioned The Witch and Hereditary almost creating a new genre of horror with a new audience. Sator may not do enough to match or best these predecessors, yet for the right audience, it can offer some bone-chilling imagery, voice-over work that will play in your head whilst you're trying to sleep and a final shot that will remain in your mind for weeks to come. Jordan Graham has shown nothing but hard work and promising work at that, but its slow nature and lack of cohesive plot makes it difficult to digest and truly appreciate.