The Droving is a folk horror movie set in the Lake District. It was directed by George Popov, who co-wrote it with Jonathan Russell. We watched it on Amazon Prime where it’s currently free to members.
Rubicon Films are the team who brought us Hex: a minor gem of a horror movie, set in—or rather, on the sidelines of—the English Civil War.
In story terms, Hex was nearly a two-man show, so The Droving is a remarkable step-up in ambition. Even so, the films have similar strengths: moral ambiguities, compelling stories, clever use of real locations, and a chilling sense of dour, folksy dread. Also, both movies “live within their means”, which is a quality of the best independent films. It basically means telling a story you can afford to tell well, rather than overreaching.
For their second feature, the setup is a “jazz standard” of horror. Troubled soldier Martin (Daniel Oldroyd) wants to know what happened to his sister, who vanished during a strange rural festival. The good news is, the writers use this setup in a fresh way, and the film belongs to a fine tradition of English horror without being merely derivative. We steer clear of spoilers on this blog, but I can tell you that, in terms of heroes and villains, The Droving is much more interesting than a straight-up clone of The Wicker Man—and that’s all I have to say about that.
Aside from the story, the photography is intelligent and beautiful. Some of the framing could pass for fine art (I especially liked a shot through an archway). The pairing of landscape with mood is perfect, to the extent where you almost feel yourself getting rained on. By way of contrast, the interior scenes are claustrophic, and—ironically—give the film room to breathe as a proper horror (there are excellent scenes of awkward small talk which hum with anticipatory dread).
As you can imagine, the festival arrives for the final act. As far as I can tell, it’s a real event—or a superb bit of budget filmmaking—and provides a great backdrop for a tense game of cat and mouse.
The Droving is an attractive product from start to end, including the music and even choice of font. Details like that provide the ring of truth, which helps when a story is, by necessity, quite fanciful. Instead of fighting with suspension of disbelief, you can focus on the gripping mystery, beautiful locations, and relentless downwards arc.
In short, I really enjoyed The Droving and don’t hesitate to recommend it. You can read another review of the film at Movie Reviews 101.