Sator follows an isolated man who becomes obsessed with an entity in the forest that surrounds him. The entity known as Sator has made itself known to his family over the decades, and now he seeks it out as he slips from reality.
Sator is brooding, haunting, and beautifully shot, but requires a fair amount of patience to entrench yourself into it. It is the slowest of burners, with its draw coming from arguably the most majestic, soul-stirring setting in a horror film and disturbing footage of an old family member recounting her experiences with Sator in an unsettlingly realistic fashion.
As our protagonist further secludes himself in the woods, he loses his grip on reality, while seemingly drawing closer to the entity that hides in the woods. The subtlety of it all is powerful when engaged, but it is easy to see how some would struggle to stay that way as the payoffs are limiting throughout the runtime.
Despite some insanely effective directing and cinematography, the film's horror is limited by its handling of the entity. When it chooses to make itself known, it's hard to not be a little disappointed. It reminded more of the Ancient One (Doctor Strange) as a forest hermit than an intimidating presence that could manipulate the mind and reality. For me, a lot hinged on these moments. And while, again, the directing and acting is aptly executed, there is almost more gained by showing nothing than something that is underwhelming.
Still, Sator lives in the ethereal and the ambiguity of it all, similar in vein to The Alchemist Cookbook, or maybe, the first half of The Ritual. Except, unlike the incredible payoff in The Ritual, Sator chooses a different path. Now, that path is rightfully just as admirable and visceral, but it wasn't what I was personally hoping for. So much of Sator is experienced through the forest setting and what you hear. Which is worthy of recognition. But sometimes thing just don't strike you the way they should. And perhaps that's most disappointing when the movie is as well crafted as Sator is in so many areas. But that isn't something I'll hold against it.
Horror Rating System
Horror Qualifier: 8/10
Horror Quality: 5/10
Film Quality: 7/10