The Movie Waffler New Release Review [Digital/DVD] - SATOR | The Movie Waffler

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New Release Review [Digital/DVD] - SATOR

sator review
Two brothers attempt to capture evidence of a mysterious figure haunting the woods surrounding their homes.

Review by Eric Hillis

Directed by: Jordan Graham

Starring: Michael Daniel, Rachel Johnson, Aurora Lowe, Gabe Nicholson, June Peterson

sator poster

The independent filmmaking spirit is alive and well in Jordan Graham. Along with self-financing his sophomore feature Sator, Graham directed, wrote, produced, scored, lit, edited and no doubt made the tea on set.

The film is dedicated to the memory of his grandmother, June Peterson, who appears in the film as Nani, the grandmother of two brothers - Pete (Michael Daniel) and Adam (Gabriel Nicholson) - who live in separate cabins in a sprawling forest.

sator review

Now suffering with dementia (as was Peterson at the time of filming), Nani claims to hear the voice of a mysterious entity she calls "Sator" and communicates its words through a process of automatic writing. Believing Sator lives in the woods and is responsible for the disappearance of his mother, Adam sets up a series of motion activated cameras around his cabin, hoping to capture a glimpse of the man, beast or whatever form Sator happens to take.


Graham claims that he tore up his script while shooting an improvised scene when his grandmother began speaking about her own experiences with automatic writing. It seems that as a young woman she was herself contacted by a similarly sinister voice, which eventually led to her being admitted to a psychiatric hospital. Graham knew then that his film would have to take a different path, and he incorporates real home videos of his grandmother and extended family.

sator review

I can't help but think that Graham may have been better served making a documentary on his grandmother's experiences, as Sator never quite convinces as a piece of narrative horror filmmaking. The mythology comes off as half-baked, and the characters require more development in order for us to get fully invested in their plight.


Taken on their own merits, there are sequences here that are spookily effective, particularly whenever the titular menace materialises. The idea of spending your nights in a cabin in the middle of a foreboding forest is terrifying from the off, so Graham has a natural headstart in establishing an atmosphere of unease.

sator review

Yet while there are moody set-pieces that demonstrate Graham's ability to stage a scary scene, they arrive in a film that feels frustratingly unfocussed. They also seem to play out of order, with Sator making its first appearance in person, later to be captured on one of Adam's cameras. Wouldn't it have been more effective for us to catch a grainy glimpse of Sator in a photo before we meet them for real? Had Spielberg opened Jaws with the famous "We're gonna need a bigger boat" reveal, every subsequent appearance of the shark would have felt underwhelming, which is what happens here with Sator's eponymous antagonist.

As a showreel for Graham's multi-tasking, Sator will likely win him future gigs, as it's certainly visually impressive, with Graham making great use of his stunning wilderness setting with some eerily gorgeous compositions. Unfortunately, of all his many tasks on the film, Graham appears to have neglected arguably the most important of all - the script - giving us a film that is creepy in parts but frustratingly ill-conceived throughout.

Sator
 is on UK Digital from February 15th and DVD from February 22nd, and is on North American Digital at geni.us/SatorFilm.



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