Horror film budgets are fascinating. Depending on how they get utilized, filmmakers can produce impressive results. Some turn out blockbuster-sized, and others end up with shoestring budgets. One such instance of an effective low-budget shocker is Jordan Graham’s Sator. Believe it or not, Sator took seven years to make. It shows that not all movies follow a specific filming schedule.
The plot is relatively straightforward. It’s about a family living in the middle of the forest. One night, a woman disappears while a ritual is performed. Sometime later, we see the lady’s mother, Nani (June Peterson), who has dementia. She claims that a demon named Sator communicates with her and has been doing so for many years. Her grandson, Adam (Gabriel Nicholson), decides to try and track down the demon. He does so by staying in a remote cabin with deer cameras set up around the area. Adam occasionally returns to Nani’s house to visit, where his sister, Deborah (Aurora Lowe), takes care of her. A family friend, Evie (Rachel Johnson), is also at the residence.
One night, Adam’s dog goes missing. His brother, Pete (Michael Daniel), offers to help. While searching, Pete tells Adam about what he thinks happened to their grandfather: the demon they are after claimed him, thanks to Nani. Soon afterward, things start to fall apart. Several strangers arrive at the cabin to torment Adam, but he escapes in the nick of time. Unfortunately, his escape plan causes him to find the worshiping ground of the very real Sator. Once that occurs, Evie and the family learn that Nani told the truth.
What if I told you that all of this was (somewhat) based on a true story? That’s right, June Peterson was Jordan Graham’s grandmother, who firmly believed in the supernatural for most of her life. June’s first alleged encounter came in 1968 when she played with a Ouija board. She began rambling about this monster, which concerned her whole family. These acts caused her to become committed to a mental hospital, where she started to draw what she thought Sator looked like. Even creepier? The drawings seen in the film were the same ones done in the hospital.
Jordan always remembered what his grandmother went through and decided to base his little movie around the pictures. Sadly, June died right after filming, so who knows what she would have thought about Sator. One thing is for sure: Sator will always keep her legacy alive.
What do I think of Sator, though? Well, it is a slow-burn type of experience. Think of films like Rosemary’s Baby and The VVitch, and you’ll get what I mean. This type of subgenre is not for everyone due to the pacing, but once it gets going, it gets going. The climax turned into something I rarely see in horror films: the antagonist successfully corrupting the protagonist. Thanks to Adam entering Sator’s lair, he has now become possessed. The following events revolving around his family are so depraved I won’t describe them in this article. You will have to find out for yourself what happens…
Throughout Sator, scenes go from black and white to color periodically. It sounds annoying, but it gives the movie an atmospheric advantage. You never know if something will happen based on the color changes, keeping viewers on edge. The overall film quality is worth discussing because it sometimes looks like a home video gone awry. When it comes to certain movies, less cinematic-looking experiences feel different. They seem like something you or I would shoot on a typical day, not knowing what will occur next. Overall, it makes it feel more personal.
A good takeaway from this article is to take another look at movies that may be boring at first. Not every film runs the same. The remaining parts might be worth the wait. Who knows, the movie may become one of your favorites.
That about wraps up this installment of Scary Good Films. If there are any other media you’d like me to cover, sound off in the comments below.