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John’s Horror Corner: Sator (2019), an atmospheric wilderness horror that cusps on a Wendigo film.

April 25, 2022

MY CALL:  Style over substance, for sure, as not much is offered in terms of meaning, cause or explanation of any sort. The atmosphere is creepy, truly mystifying and ever-intriguing. The lack of anything else often feels sluggish as we eagerly await some form of result or action, but to little satisfaction. Hard to recommend, but I wouldn’t necessarily warn one away.  MORE MOVIES LIKE SatorFor more mystifying wilderness horror, consider Black Mountain Side (2014) or The Last Winter (2006).

So let’s talk about atmosphere. Director and writer Jordan Graham’s (Specter) cold opening scenes feel like a toned down Hereditary (2018) finale remade through the eyes of Robert Eggers (The Witch). The tone is laid down thick and creepy, steeped in “WTF is going on here?”

Wandering the wet woods at dusk, Adam (Gabriel Nicholson; Specter) and his dog hunt, doing the rounds tending to DeerCams. Adam’s life is simple, Spartan for our time. He drinks from a jar, sitting down to his laptop beside a lantern at a desk that could easily have looked just the same 100 years ago, less the computer which he only uses for monitoring his DeerCams. Adam lives much as those who wish to be forgotten.

Despite his local brother and grandmother, Adam is an antisocial hermit haunted by his grandmother’s family legacy of a connection of sorts to a spirit of the forest: Sator. Adam has inherited this link to Sator’s whispers and influence. Throughout the film, we watch him struggle to maintain his grasp on sanity as the whispers from Sator become actions and real-world manifestations, if not only in Adam’s mind.

Sator feels very much like a softer-handed Wendigo story, perhaps without being a Wendigo movie at all. For much of the running time, this film is simultaneously boring and intriguing; very little happens, but you ever wonder what’s going to happen. I suppose this is a success on the part of the atmosphere. Still, I am left wanting for so much more.

Not that I disliked this film, but I never found any escape or clarity of my feelings of “WTF is going on here?” Sometimes, that works for a movie. In this case, I think far too little was offered under the guise of crafty mystique. The ending was shocking and intense, but like the rest of the film, much was left to be desired. Still, this film is… something. Never riveting, often boring, yet always intriguing.

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