Tuesday, February 09, 2021

Sator, Some Serious Folk Horror

Technically, this film is set in Northern California, but the backwoods are still the backwoods—and they are seriously spooky. It is not the locals we should be scared of, at least not the mortal ones. It is the spirits and hants, who exert an unhealthy influence on the living. Director-screenwriter-editor-cinematographer Jordan Graham would know. This creepy tale of a family in thrall to a (most likely) malevolent spirit is based on his own family history. Either the “shine” or madness runs in the family in Graham’s Sator, which releases today on VOD.

For years, Adam’s grandmother claimed to receive messages from an entity called Sator, through automatic writing. The same was true for Graham’s grandmother, who appears as her analog, so viewers will logically conflate the director with his protagonist. Adam lives alone, only receiving occasional visits from his brother Pete. They are both suspect their family’s recent tragedies might be linked to its weird “relationship” with Sator, but for Adam it is approaching an obsession.

From time to time, Adam tries to draw information out of his grandmother (or “Nani”), but she is steadily slipping into dementia. Again, her deteriorating state could be linked to her contact with Sator. In this respect, the fil revisits some of the themes of
The Taking of Deborah Logan, but it is more disturbing, because it feels more real.

boasts some of creepiest imagery and heaviest atmosphere or any horror movie, perhaps ever. You could seriously unnerve people out by showing subliminal stills from the film. However, Graham’s aesthetic approach is surprisingly akin to European art cinema (for lack of a better description). His story unfolds slowly and super-deliberately.  You need to be able to fully commit to Sator and give it your full attention, or you are not doing it or yourself justice.

The late June Peterson (who sadly never lived to see her grandson’s finished film) is truly haunting as Adam’s Nani. She completely keeps viewers off balance, because we really do not know what to make of her: confused grandparent, victim of possession, or instrument of evil.

is a triumph of ingenuity on Graham’s part and a nearly six-year labor of love (or some sort of darker compulsion). It is unusually eerie looking and features some truly unsettling sound design. Fans of high-end folk horror (don’t call it “post-horror”) really have to check it out, but it is not your typical slumber party horror flick. Recommended for fans of films like The Witch and The Dark and the Wicked, Sator releases today (2/9) on VOD.