It took Jordan Graham five full years to complete Sator, his second feature. The end product is a testament to the ingenuity of a singular vision, as Graham is the film’s director, producer, cinematographer, composer, editor, and maybe even (probably to be honest) the uncredited caterer. It is a feat of independent filmmaking that this film even exists at all. It is even more impressive that the film actually manages to achieve some semblance of scares and coherence.
In Sator, Adam (Gabe Nicholson) spends his days cabin bound in a desolate forest, while he processes the life of his grandmother (June Peterson) who spent the majority of her existence discussing the wonder of a spirit named “Sator.” What this film lacks in budget shocks, it makes up for in atmosphere. The film was almost entirely shot on location in Northern California forests, which almost acts as the film’s central character. The deepening isolation of the woods brings out some real classic chills. You can feel the film play from the playbook of films such as The Blair Witch Project and It Comes at Night.
What holds Sator back from reaching the height of a true horror masterpiece, however, is its oppressively slow burn. While this sort of backwoods horror film almost necessitates a slow burn, at times it feels as if this film is merely aimless. Most of the tricks this film plays are mental, a sort of lingering dread that washes over you because you know that you’re seeing a horror film. I’m not entirely certain, however, that it’s the design and visual aura of the film or the meandering pace that is causing these feelings. Regardless, this is a very solid passion project that provides enough scares to be definitely enjoyable for insatiable modern horror fans.