Have you ever seen a film that even when the screen fades to black, everything about the film lives rent free in your mind, haunting your every waking moment? Jordan Graham’s 2020 horror film Sator wreaked havoc on me psychologically, and since watching has become a film that continuously sits within my cerebral, drip-feeding little doses of horror at every moment.
Deep within the woods, nestled amongst the beauty of the trees, the silence of the stillness and shrouded in pure isolation is a humble cabin in which protagonist Pete lives. Pete lives a somewhat lonely existence, with his only human interactions coming from his brother Adam and occasionally his Nani, when they go to visit her. Something surrounds and consumes the woods, and has already become a permanent fixture within Nani’s mind, who is now struggling with dementia and unable to fully recall the entity that whispers thoughts as if her own. Sator is the everything and nothing that has a hold on this family…
If you go into Sator with preconceived expectations or too much knowledge about the film, there is a possibility that you won’t be able to succumb to the film as much as if you go in knowing as little as possible. This is a film that leads you further and further down a rabbit hole, without any exit or escape from what you might find when you reach the bottom. From the beginning until the end there is an oppressive and bleak atmosphere that holds its intensity for the entirety, never letting the audience catch their breath and instead holding them in a constant state of fear.
Jordan Graham solely created Sator over the course of 7 years (you can watch my interview with Jordan Graham on Sator), writing, directing, producing, editing, scoring and all the rest by himself. For such a stunning yet truly frightening film, only the highest of praise can be given to Graham for accomplishing something so inspiring – it really is a testament to his unmatchable abilities and also proves that you can create something magnificent by yourself through dedication, passion and tenacity.
Sator goes further than surface level when it comes to exploring the horror within; it doesn’t focus solely on the entity but also the complexities of familial trauma and coming to terms with dynamic shifts when someone in a family becomes terminally ill from disease. It intertwines a storyline focused on this entity with the real-life horrors of humans and how the human mind often conjures up coping mechanisms that can feel frightening and confusing. Without going into too much detail, there are theories that can be built here and it feels like an incredibly personal film, not only for Graham himself, but also for the audience.
It has felt like the longest time since having watched a film, turned it off and been genuinely frightened to the very core. This was a film that found me watching through the cracks in my fingers whilst holding my breath and begging that nothing more would happen. The film burns like an oil candle scented with dread and dismay, settling into a mood that becomes a constant state of existence. Sator is a waking nightmare; one of the most visually stunning yet truly terrifying horror films of the last decade.
Rating: 5 out of 5