Family Tree Rooted by Grounded EVIL. “Sator” reviewed! (Umbrella Entertainment / DVD)



Living alone deep among the tall trees and the dark and deafening foliage around him, a tragic past involving the disappearance of his mother haunts the very core of Adam’s broken spirit as he wanders the forest he grew up in and that has also been an afflicting mystifying presence of family lore.  His grandmother, Nani, for a long time has been commenting being the receptor of a dark forest entity named Sator who internally speaks to her and has her write down unintelligible messages; Sator’s words have also whispered in Adam’s ears as well as his vanished mother’s.  Adam ceaselessly searches the clues daily, even setting up a night vision deer cam and ringing out into the woods with a homemade calling flute.  As Adam and his family struggle to rebuild their once strong bond, Sator emerges with an intent to sever what’s left of the tattered strings of family ties, bearing down on the isolated Adam in attempt to insidiously claim more of his kindred for the forest.    

Rich in personal family indispositions that trickle down to unravel everything dear, Jordan Graham’s sophomore supernatural film of a sinister spirt, “Sator,” is much better than my attempt at an alliterated sentence structure.  The 2019 film, hailing out of California, with the forest sequences from Yosemite National Park, is a blend of pristine splendor as it is a nocturnal nightmare in an allegory of mental illness and the distortion of family because of the effects.  For the “Specter” director and screenwriter, particulars of “Sator” intertwine the authenticity of the filmmaker’s ancestry with the ominous unknowns of horror in a DIY production that looks bigger and grander in worth than in actuality.    Graham’s production banner, Mistik Jade Films, and in association with Yellow Veil Pictures, the company behind the colorful demonically intrusive thriller, “Luz,” funds the film with Jordan Graham serving as executive producer alongside Jennifer Graham and Elias Adamopoulous.

“Sator’s” a family and friends affair that opens with Gabriel Nicholson silently, patiently, and near aimlessly wandering through the woods as Adam walking alongside his mutt and carrying a hunting rifle. Jordan Graham’s childhood friend since early teens, Nicholson fills adequately the role’s achy privation and does so without saying so much as a paragraph in the full 85 minute runtime. While “Sator” snuggles up to Adam’s incessant need to check deer cams and conduct daily searches around every rock, tree, and bush, the character isn’t the nucleus essential to Sator’s generational influences that spread like a cancer over Adam’s lineage and he’s where the buck stops. Instead, Jordan Graham’s grandmother, June Peterson aka Nani, bears unwittingly and unimpressed brunt of the actor’s burden to perform due to Peterson’s longtime battle with dementia. Her scenes are authentic and natural in discourse with the recollective ramblings of Graham’s family’s resident topical presence – Sator. Peterson holds all the cards for her grandson’s inspiration from the very name of the entity that speaks to her to the automatic writings set in motion during a stint of Sator’s sometimes hours upon hours of inner ear verbal instructions. Graham doesn’t exploit his grandmother, but rather tells her story in a way dementia allows her not to with recording her experience, with the papers of her automatic writings, and with extending Sator into a metaphor for family strife and mental illness. Rarely are Nicholson and Peterson on screen together, but they come in proxy of one another through the supporting characters played by Michael Daniel as Adam’s troublesome brother, Pete, Rachel Johnson as an unusual relative, Evie, and Wendy Taylor as the bygone mother only remembered in flashbacks and Adam’s documentary memories.

There are movies out in cinema land released for the sole purpose of dishing out entertainment complete with exorbitant special effects and a high profile cast surely to make good on bank statement returns and then there are some with a more somber, but well-crafted, personal story.  “Sator” is the very epitome of that latter category as director Jordan Graham’s profoundly personal story that is tailored to his specifications without the temptation of commercial success.  With dividends on the backburner, “Sator’s” arthouse quality stamps a staid dread of distressing imagery and stillness emblematic from an imprinted personal experience that has been dissected and dispersed to give the entity known as Sator a fluid corporeal form.  What also scores high marks is the ideology of Sator created by, or perhaps more accurately channeled through, June Peterson, forming the breadth of life out of an unseen concept glamourized with unimaginable abilities and attributes that can foraged out of Paganism or Satanic scriptures and have nature be the embodiment of its unholy divinity.  Graham not only unnerves you as passenger looking into eerie family history with “Sator’s” transmissions at the narrative core, but also serenades with serrating stridency in his audio and visual compositions that includes some fantastic gore and torching.  The one thing to point out that “Sator” falls short on is understanding the next jump in the narrative as Graham leaves unclear wide gaps unexplained with only a bit of passive dialogue to gnaw on to get caught up.  In a story that’s already subversive on the plainspoken, “Sator” could use some straight talk to get more inside the dissonance of the entity’s inimical ways.

Let “Sator” whisper into your ear on an Umbrella Entertainment home DVD release. The region 4 DVD comes standard in a NTSC format, like of the Australian distributor’s releases do, and is presented in a widescreen, 2:35:1 aspect ratio. Image quality is paramount for a downbeat psychological horror set inside the absence of noise of a pin drop forest and the release delivers a stunning transfer with elaborating details in the forest setting. Perhaps slightly on the darker on the scale, the engulfing blackness of the cabin, the woods, and Nani’s home add to the surrounding cryptic presence notwithstanding the absence of a body to call the villain. The darker shadows Graham creates sees better contrast in dreamlike sequences with the deep blue sky with a moon over head, the silhouette of the trees, and Adam standing small against the tall trees in his white skivvies, creating stark poetry in the image alone. Graham also incorporates a documentary style, through the mind’s eye of Adam, to replay events like flashbacks that set the stage for the present. The English language Dolby Digital 5.1 surround sound is works inline with the rubato score that creates a pulls and tugs on the emotions. The dialogue isn’t so lucky as actors can only be heard mumbling the lines with the exception of Nani with her natural, genuine talk. Like many of the Umbrella DVD releases, there are no bonus features includes and there are also no bonus scenes during or after the credits. “Sator” thrives as holistic horror with the insurmountable belief that there are far worse things out in the world than mental deterioration that spur random acts of equivocality.

Own Sator on DVD from Umbrealla Entertainment (Region 4)

Satan’s Cult Seeks to Raise the Dead! “All Sinners Night” review!

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An investigative reporter witnesses right in front of him his wife commit a gruesome suicide in their bedroom. Lana searches for her lost brother whose been missing for over a year. The two combine forces in Taylorsville believing their loved one were connected to a group of satanic followers led by the Reverend Hiram Graves. When the local authorities prematurely close the case on Lana’s missing brother, Lana and the reporter seek the truth and the truth might be more deadly than they’ve ever imagined. Halloween night brings the satanic sect to kidnap five innocent and random women, five sacrificial lambs, in order to bring death back to life.
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As a little piece of Independent cinema from writer-director Bobby Easley, “All Sinners Night” comes from the production company Horror Wasteland Pictures and is brought to DVD by the multi-genre distributor World Wide Multi-Media. Now, if you haven’t heard of filmmaker Bobby Easley, the company Horror Wasteland Pictures, or the distributor World Wide Multi-Media, then now you’re one step closer to being caught up on micro-budget filmmaking and one step closer to viewing lesser known film titles that you won’t normally screen at a theater or even come across in a Redbox inventory. Now, while budget films aren’t necessarily for everyone, I have to say that “All Sinners Night” isn’t the best ease-into segue, but if your mind is open and your cinematic palate is vast then Easley’s film might be right up your alley.
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Easley’s film involves a satanic cult collecting female sacrifices to raise the dead has a slow, unfocused beginning that slightly picks up and gains more focus a long the way, but the momentum begins a little too late to obtain entertainment value and much of the other sorts of value, such as the film’s budget, falls right onto the finale where characters die, faces explode, and blood spills when the black magic ritual begins. The bloodletting is creative, but various scenes, which could have been explored further with death exploitation, use editing techniques to convey and imply death when in reality there needs to be more visceral visual stimulants to show the brutality and mercilessness, especially for satanic cults because they’re one of the realistic forms of horror that exist in the world today and displaying the violence on screen, making it breathe on screen, would scare people more than implied violence.
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The acting is a bit clunky from the lead actors and that drag the story’s motivation down a bit. Brittany Jesse as Lana and Tom Sparx as the reporter try to build a dynamic duo that more or less fizzles and their characters are to partly to blame for their characters bring no real spark to their quest and cause of discovering the truth behind Taylorsville’s secrets. The evangelical preacher Hiram Graves played by Bill Levin has grand on screen physical characteristics to pull off a satan fanatical cult leader, but Levin’s acting doesn’t quite have the range of a twisted lord of darkness pastor and just stays on that horizontal plane throughout the film’s duration. The Texas Chainsaw Massacre’s original grandpa actor John Dugan and horror and sci-fi genre fanboy Sal Lizard headline “All Sinners Night” even though their cameo scenes are short and sweet. I found the one cameo of Indianapolis born and based horror host Sammy Terry, an Elvira type host of sorts, to be welcoming and well-fitting for the film’s gloomy nature and to be a nice shout out to the local Indianapolis horror scene. Lets not also forget about actress Sam Alford and her two courageous scenes of exploited nudity. Alford’s character is of generic and lesser value – like a Star Trek minor character labeled for certain death – and she is the sole kidnapped to bare her chest. I’m sure Easley didn’t mind shelling out a couple more bucks for the Alford’s assets.
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After reading a number of reviews online about the film, the consensus on the Bobby Easley’s shooting style is that “All Sinners Night” resembles the visual stylistics of Italian directors such as Mario Bava or Dario Argento’s with their surrealistic or brooding atmospheres. I would venture more toward a duller hue with the right in your face shot-on-video style cinematography of those from such directors as Brad Sykes or Donald Farmer where as Bava or Argento focused more on vivid and popping colors and symbolic suggestions within their mise-en-scenes.
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The DVD screener is presented in a 4:3 ratio with Dolby Digital 2.0 stereo mix and a 5.1 stereo mix. The full screen video, like I mentioned before as a shot-on-video style, has significant grainy interference, but the video is still watchable as if you’re watching straight from VHS quality. Not necessarily a bad thing but in today’s day and age or unless your intentions were to create a throwback, the video quality should be clean. The coloring is all off too with overused darks making certain scenes incomprehensible. The 2.0 mix and the 5.1 mix stiffens the unbalanced sound quality. Some dialogue emits too low of a range and then in the next scene the screaming is overbearing and crackling out of the speakers. The glam, goth rock or punk rock soundtrack is fairly decent, but the preference and priority should be on the dialogue or the story becomes lost without it. The disc did pack quite a few extras including a gag reel, music video from the band Dead Dick Hammer, interviews, and a trailer for the film and also :Atah Saia”.
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Overall, “All Sinners Night” wears a lot of masks – literally, a large number of extras wear masks as if they raided a Halloween party store, but trying to piece together a story that tends to omit key elements or strays away from trunk of the plot is difficult and, basically, one would just need to take the film for what it’s worth, the epitome of independent filmmaking. The effort of introduce homage and the effort to construct a brooding atmosphere makes the Dr. Jekyll side of me admire this film, but the technical and educated Mr. Hyde side of me can’t ignore the obtrusive flaws. In short, rent this title to be adventurous on a forlorn night.

Seeing Evil! Curandero: Dawn of the Demon review!

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By now I imagine we’re all, by all I mean avid movie-goers, familiar with the director Robert Rodriguez. The balls-to-the-wall flare for action Rodriguez has written and directed some of the most memorable movies in nearly the last two decades – Desperado, From Dusk till Dawn, Planet Terror and, yes, even Spy Kids. Rodriguez is now a well-known household name now that he has his own production company – Troublemaker Studios – and is a hot-shit friend of Django Unchained writer and director Quentin Tarantino (they’re always in each other films if you haven’t noticed). Now, I had thought that I’ve seen all of Rodriguez’s work with the exception of Spy Kids, but I was wrong. Curandero: Dawn of the Demon is a latest release from Lionsgate; however, the movie was completed and released in 2005 – why such a delay? Perhaps the delay was a product of the film being made in and using the language spoken in Mexico. I wouldn’t doubt this as El Mariachi was not known to the American audience until Antonio Banderas and Selma Hayek starred in Desperado, a sort of sequel or remake of El Mariachi, and an American DVD of El Mariachi was released later.

Curandero, which translate to The Healer, follows the healer Carlos – a practical man who uses his knowledge of healing on those he think are weak minded fools just so they feel better about their lives. That is until he meets Mexican Federale Magdalena who hires him to become involved a case where a satanic cult terrorizes Mexico City. Carlos beliefs will be challenged as black magic becomes ultimately real and the forces against him are closer to home than what he could ever imagine.
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Curandero grabs you right from the start as we’re thrown into Carlos’s simple hometown world where he competes with another curandero named Alex Munez who is more popular around town, but even though Carlos thinks his line of work is a bit of a sham, he still makes an effort to please other people making him well liked in the community and has been given respect due to his father’s healing services. The horrifying action begins when Agent Magdalena enters the story; the saucy tall Latina is a realist and doesn’t much in the mumbo-jumbo that is black magic, but her story makes a complete 180 degree turn at the finale and so does Carlos. The story is well written by Rodriguez giving the both Carlos and the federale the same view on spirituality yet making both reason completely different.

Robert Rodriguez’s style directorial feels implemented into Curandero even though Robert Rodriguez didn’t direct the film. It is another Rodriguez who takes the credit for Curandero’s fast-paced, over-exaggerated action. Director Eduardo Rodriguez tries to recreate Robert Rodriguez, but does molds his own take to reconstruct the elements and add great horror qualities that contribute to the action.
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This 2005 cult/possession film should have had a much earlier release in the U.S. There is definitely an appeal here for niche horror fans. Would Curandero have done well with mainstream audiences? No because there is just too much working against Curandero when considering American mainstream audiences – it’s in Spanish, it’s lost in translation with the dialogue, and it deals with some Mexican traditions. Certainly pick this up from Lionsgate Home Entertainment. Curandero will fill your cup of blood and horror.

What Evil Terrorizes You? The Inside review!

Hasn’t the hand held first person camera run it’s course? The recently popular method has been criticized as shaky, unintelligible, headache inducing, and over abused. I agree with that criticism as well, but I find there lies a bit of realism in the corners of each the richly blindingly dark and snowy static scenes of a hand held camera.

The Inside is the next flick to hop on the hand held bandwagon. A young man purchases a second hand video camera at a pawnshop and discovers that the tape is still inside the camera. He plays back to footage of five girls out on the town for one of their own’s 21st birthday party. The girls break in to an abandoned undisclosed location for a little wild times, but three vagrants break up their fun and unleash terror upon them. But when the vagrants think they have the upper hand, a supernatural evil falls upon the girls and themselves leaving all of them to fend for themselves against pure evil. When the man finishes the tape, he retraces the girls steps in search of what caused their demise.

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While the shaky hand cam has more realism than any third person perspective, a great backbone of a story can make the film all the sweeter, but The Inside has a flimsy plot line that doesn’t explain what kind of evil forces these girls are dealing with nor can be explained what this “Grave Digger,” as IMDB.com has labeled the character, has gruesomely bestowed upon the victims. Perhaps the take away from this movie is that people disappear without a trace all the time and this could be a theory to how and why…? But glimpses of Satanic pentagram symbols sprayed on the wall and quick visions of Satanic goats are being tapped into the camera’s signal, which I don’t think is the correct type of signal. But this confirms some kind of ritualistic satanic practices being held and, perhaps, going terribly and horribly wrong. I feel there should be a prequel to The Inside to give us a little more insight into who or what the “Grave Digger” is.

What behoves the story to maintains a chilly manner was to keep the characters portraying like horror ignorant idiots. For example, the young man, played by director Eoin Macken himself, who bought the camera decides to retrace the girls’ steps and investigate by himself. Why not turn in the camera to the authorities after witness physical assault, rape, and supernatural evil terror of the girls? This man was not superhuman, but much rather a bum looking to pawn of his wedding ring – we aren’t privy to his background either and have to deduce what we see to come to some kind of half-cocked conclusion.

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Amongst all the chaos and confusion after the supernatural shit hits the fan, the movie takes a 180 degree turn in the other direction and no longer are we invited guests at a party or the voyeurs of a perverse snuff film, but a survivor ourselves. However, the sound is much to hectic to make any comprehendible sense. All that I knew for sure was when the “Grave Digger” was about to make an appearance – a baby wailed and there was an electronic hum – which made an unfitting tell of his whereabouts, but the “Grave Digger” was an interesting looking character despite his mysterious background and his grimly cryptic intentions. He’s naked and covered and blood – if you’ve ever seen Shallow Ground then you might have a clear representation of what I’m talking about.

Much like most hand held camera movies, The Inside is no different or nothing much more special. There is an open ending, which is a common characteristic of films like these which has to do with the realism factor once again. The Inside will chill your spine, yet you won’t figure out why it chills your spine in the first place. Check it for yourself by buying your copy of The Inside at Monster Pictures.com