Sator ★★★

Yet another slow burn atmospheric horror film, Sator teased me in its second act with themes of memory, and what it means to capture our experiences. Unfortunately, I may have overestimated the picture; what I thought were signals of cinematic investigation may have just been horror tropes recycled for a gloomy affect.

The essential plot is a loose sketch of an off- the-grid loner; his conflict originates more from his emotions than any typical narrative catalyst. Through diverse and inspired forms of mumbled exposition, we learn of Mr. Loner's struggles with his delusional grandmother, the recent death of his grandfather and the disappearance of his mother. Our near silent protagonist tries then to connect the dots between his myriad tragedies; the delusions of grandma involve a deer-demon named Sator, and our man of few words is under the impression that his mother sacrificed his grandfather to join the pointy horned coven of Ms. Sator herself.

We are then treated to the classic Henry James conflict: is he just crazy or are there really demons in them woods? If you aren't tired of this most classic cliche, Sator has a few interesting twists on the trope: we experience his family tension and dynamics through home movie 16mm, instead of the usual Dutch angle/fast editing perspective of unreliable narrators. Although portentously packed with potential, Sator sends up a shocking finale that is paradoxically predictable, and nothing out of the ordinary for the genre besides some spooky photography and a little well earned, but standard, horror catharsis.

If you, like me, were disappointed by The Alchemist Cookbook, this loner-red-riding-hood fable can redeem the modern milieu of genre films, like it did for yours truly.

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