Scribbled notes, scrawled and overwritten, pages of them accumulated over the years, written and rewritten to capture in the dry permanence of inked words the fluidity of thoughts and ideas tumbling chaotically through a fading mind, as woven and flexible as the branches of the tall trees, as layered as the damp undergrowth of the forest, as full of things that creep and crawl and decay as the subconscious.
Her voice creaking like the doors of the wooden cabin, Adam listens to the tapes recorded by Nani, his grandmother, recalling her communications with Sator, the spirit with which she communed for years, guided by it, listening to its promises that to be burned in its consuming fire was to be purified.
An eccentric but harmless belief which never shadowed Nani’s life or her marriage to Grandpa Jim, it manifested more darkly in their daughter, impacting the lives of Nani’s three grandchildren, Adam, Peter and Deborah, one living in isolation, stalking the forest in search of evidence of Sator, seeking a bright spark of understanding or meaning, one due to be released from the facility where he was confined for his own safety, one trying to pick up the pieces and hold the family together.
To say that Sator, unnecessarily subtitled The Beast Within for its UK release, is a labour of love for Jordan Graham is an understatement, credited with over a dozen behind the scenes roles including writer, producer, production designer, set constructor, director, cinematographer and editor, inspired by the stories of his late grandmother June Peterson who plays Nani and having taken seven years to bring to the screen.
The bare trees filled with crows where leaves once grew and the forest strung with fragments of bones and antlers, Gabriel Nicholson is woodsman Adam who hunts for something he cannot fully comprehend, driven from his family yet tied to them as deeply as he is connected to the the wind and the water, the growing and the dying, a repeating cycle in which he allowed himself to be trapped with apparent complicity.
Best watched in full dark without interruption or distraction, Sator is built around the same brooding sense of unease as The Last Will and Testament of Rosalind Leigh, the simplicity of a man alone in nature unsure if the inexplicable things he has witnessed, the nocturnal visitations of the figure in animal skins and antlers, is real or a delusion prompted by the indoctrination of his mother’s illness or whether the inevitable sacrifice which will be required is his to give or make.