Review by Sean Boelman
Slow-burn indie horror has become quite the phenomenon in recent years, and it is always exciting to see what young filmmakers are able to do with the genre despite their limited resources. Jordan Graham’s Sator certainly shows some interesting craft, and even if the script could have used a bit of tightening, the atmosphere is strong enough to make it worth watching.
The movie follows a family living a secluded lifestyle that finds themselves tested when they begin to realize that there is a possibly malevolent supernatural force guiding their lives. And even though the film’s rustic setting does come into play, this isn’t a typical woods-bound horror flick, instead opting for something more psychological.
Undoubtedly the strongest aspect of the movie is its atmosphere, largely defined by some of the eerie imagery used in the film. Although a majority of the strongest moments come in the final third, there is just enough creepiness in the first hour to keep the viewer invested in the mystery of what is going on.
Graham is obviously trying to do something ambitious here, with the inclusion of home video footage to create different timelines being one of the most interesting choices, but it doesn’t always pay off. It tries to straddle the line between abstract and scary but can’t strike the right balance between the two.
At times, it does feel as if the narrative is beginning to meander. Rather than trying to tell his story in a straightforward way, Graham creates a complex web of family history. However, the world-building here is not strong enough to support such an expansive narrative and as such, the low budget begins to show itself.
The character development in the movie is also significantly lacking. Although the things that the film has to say about family are interesting, the characters come across as extremely distant. And while there is a purpose to this, it also prevents the audience from forming any sort of emotional connection to the story.
The cast of the movie does a good enough job in their roles, but it’s nothing particularly spectacular. The fact that none of the actors are big names keeps the intimate tone of the film up, but they also don’t quite have the confidence to really drive the movie, especially since so much of the film is dependent on subtle mannerisms.
Sator is an interesting genre picture, but it’s not as consistent as one would like. A few great moments and effective execution allow this to be entertaining even if it doesn’t meet its ambitious goals.
Sator is now available on VOD.
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