The best fictional stories are birthed from reality. Director Jordan Graham uses a real familial connection to evoke terror in his Sundance winning film Sator. In the film, a man living alone in the woods faces the terrifying forces of a demon known as Sator, who has haunted his family for generations.
The story, mostly cobbled together in post production, is based off of the tellings of Graham’s actual grandmother. Graham rushed against her dementia and filming deadlines to get her story onto the festival screen. The result: a quiet, yet disturbing experience of terror running deep in the family. From the cinematography to the homemade sound design, the sweat put into this film almost single handedly by Graham is perfect.
A Story that Puzzles
Sator succeeds at crafting a story. However, that story comes off muddled on occasion and leaves a lot for the mind to have to figure out. There is almost no exposition and the dialogue is sparse. As a result, this burdens those wanting a more plot driven experience. Yet, it almost feels unneeded for those who can draw symbolism from the visuals.
The plot is solid: a demon and his disciples haunt a man living with his dog. What gets confusing is the connection to the family and why the man does the things he does throughout the course of the film. There is also a woman who randomly pops up to make boring conversation with him for funsies? The characters aren’t fleshed out or strong, but they are compelling and their bond is well done.
Sator: A Well Made Film
Graham is credited for Sator’s soundtrack, visuals, screenplay, production, and direction. One can tell after watching it that the film came from a singular idea fleshed out and unedited. While Graham takes inspirations from Robert Eggers’ The Witch for some of the cinematography choices, creative strokes such as black and white home video montages are his own pure genius.
While Sator is an enigma and something to be interpreted personally, its cinematography is blunt in its beauty. The film is beautiful. That isn’t an opinion; it’s a fact. It’s beautiful and lit spectacularly. In fact, it’s almost ridiculous how well Graham did on such a low budget and with such a limited crew.
Overall, this film is great for those who want arthouse without being high brow or classy. Sator confuses viewers, but the terror and suspense make up for it and the film is put together well. Give Sator your attention and let us know what you think in the comments.