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This extremely low-budget horror film is a lot like a bunch movies you know – particularly The Blair Witch Project and The Witch as well as the experimental cinema of Kenneth Anger – but also not quite like anything else. It’s a kind of uniqueness to be treasured, although genre fans may feel frustrated with how slowly the plot reveals itself, its degraded visual style, and its wilful obliqueness.
Shot mostly in a snowy forest and a log cabin that writer-director Jordan Graham built himself (he did every job on the film, apart from acting), the film mixes staged scenes with found material. It’s performed mostly by actors but also by Graham’s grandmother June Peterson, who appears to have dementia in real life and whose belief in a supernatural being called Sator who watches over her forms the seed around which Graham has grown the story.
Gabriel Nicholson plays June’s withdrawn fictional grandson Adam, who is seemingly disturbed by events long ago; he now lives in the cabin. His obsession with “deer” in the woods is revealed to be a haunting by creepy-looking horned creature-y things that have a way of turning up in a jump cut. Adam’s siblings check up on him, but it becomes clear that this is one screwed-up family.
Mixing black and white, low-resolution footage with more colourful material creates a bricolage-like effect that keeps wrong-footing the viewer. Graham uses darkness and a very sparse score/soundscape to create a truly disturbing work that relies not so much on gore as the uncanny in its most potent form: stillness, pools of darkness and just-visible figures.
I’ve watched dozens of films at home since lockdown, and this is one of the few I wish I could have seen in a blacked-out cinema.
• Sator is available on digital platforms from 15 February.
Source: The Guardian
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