Sator (2019)

Does Sator have fingers that are animal jawbones?
Does Sator have fingers that are made from animal jawbones?

Written and directed by Jordan Graham, this low budget horror movie stars Michael Daniel, Rachel Johnson, Aurora Lowe, June Peterson and Gabriel Nicholson.

This poster plays on the automatic writing aspect of the story
This poster plays on the automatic writing aspect of the story

An old woman (Peterson) has the gift for automatic writing and endlessly speaks of a being called Sator. Meanwhile, her grandson Adam, a man of very few words, lives in a cabin deep in some moody-looking woods. He is obsessed with what might be lurking amongst the trees, checking his Deer Cam feeds, mulling over his grandmother’s claims that Sator is watching, and having various memories of his family that seem to be bothering him.

Nicely-shot woods
Nicely-shot woods
A skull adorned figure in Adam's cabin
A skull-adorned figure in Adam’s cabin

SATOR is pretty atmospheric, with some impressively-shot footage of forests, mountains, ruined walls and fallen tree trunks, though the plot is just too cryptic. The protagonist, Adam, has to carry a lot of the film on his own, without uttering much dialogue, so it’s unfortunate that Gabriel Nicholson just isn’t quite good enough an actor to emote what Adam is thinking via his eyes and expressions.

Gabriel Nicholson
Gabriel Nicholson plays Adam
Adam hides from the antler people that enter his home
Adam hides from the antler people that enter his home

The various outdoor locations are used effectively, there’s interesting use of B&W footage interspersed amongst the colour scenes, the occasionally-seen figures wearing deer skulls and animal pelts look cool, a murder (that includes a burning beard) late in the story is gorily well handled and there’s good use of darkness in some scenes, where a character’s torch can only illuminate a certain percentage of what’s onscreen. So it is definitely a shame that the story itself is too slow-burn, too obscure and confused, with mumbled dialogue early in the movie that is hard to understand.

Deer skull-wearing character seen close-up
Deer skull-wearing character seen close-up
Adam stands on a tree trunk
Adam stands on a tree trunk
Sator lurks in a cave
Sator lurks in a cave

But, as I said, the film does look wonderful much of the time and some of the cryptic stuff, like close-up shots of a yellow slug on the forest floor and misty/snowy footage of foliage and landscapes, adds an interesting, sombre quality to the production.

A snowy vista
A snowy vista
Ah, a poster that uses the ol' monster-claw-in-the-foreground layout
Ah, a poster that uses the ol’ monster-claw-in-the-foreground layout
poster

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