Sator - Blu-Ray Review

By Dark Starr

"Sator" is a folk-horror film from a few years ago. It has recently been released on Blu-Ray, and I got a chance to see it. I really wish it had lived up to its potential. I mean, the movie is artsy and has some pretty brutal moments. Those two things are not enough to make up for the deficiencies, though.

Apparently the movie was inspired by the film-maker's real life grandmother and her belief in some kind of entity called "Sator" that she believed was her protector. The cinematic version of it is not nearly as benevolent, but then again the grandmother in the film does believe it's a protector, so I guess it depends on your perspective.

I said that this movie is artistic. It is beautiful, really. Parts of it are shot in the mountains and the forest, and it really paints a stunning, if isolated and bleak, picture. Parts of the movie are in black and white, but others are in color, although that color is often subdued, perhaps digitally or through an analog filter or effect. I think the black and white footage represents the past, while the color is the present, but I'm not positive about that.

That's part of the big problem I have with this movie. While it's often powerful in terms of its imagery, the story is very hard to follow. I am sure that it's supposed to be some kind of subtle and understated story telling, but I don't think it works well at all.

I mean, I watched the whole movie and really wasn't sure what had happened. I got some parts of it, but didn't really understand a lot of it. After watching, I looked up a synopsis online, and it all made sense, but you shouldn't have to consult other materials to understand what a movie is about. It seems that good story-telling was sacrificed for a sense of quiet and isolation in the film-making.

The movie does have a genuine sense of dread throughout, and some pretty hardcore horror aspects later in the film. It feels more like style over substance, though. It also feels like it moves painfully slow, but then again a lot of that is because the story is so heavily obscured that it's hard to really get pulled into it.

It's a shame, too, because reading what the story is about, it's a pretty intriguing tale. I just wish it had been a lot more explicitly laid out. This release has only a few bonus features, the most significant of those being the commentary. I think perhaps when I watch it again, knowing what is happening, I might appreciate it more. As it was this time, though, it was a very unsatisfying experience with some aspects that managed to work.