The Droving: Unsettling in The Best Way
Strange rituals, and mysterious locals reside amongst the gorgeous landscape in George’s Popov’s latest thriller, The Droving. The Droving is the latest folk horror film from George Popov, best known for his debut feature thriller, Hex. The resurgence of folk horror, with films such as Ben Wheatley’s, Kill List, Robert Eggers, The Witch and Ari Aster’s Midsommar, which have captured the attention of mainstream audiences, moving on to becoming cult classics amongst indie horror fans, has room for more in the genre. George Popov’s latest, The Droving, adds a fresh new take to the genre, reminding us why we love these films. We learn that true horror does not always lie in the supernatural aspects, but in places in seclusion and in lands filled with dark and violent pasts.
The Droving follows Martin, portrayed by, Daniel Oldroyd, who returns from the military in search of his sister Megan (Amy Tyger), who went missing during the time of a strange local festival called, The Droving. Martin speaks with a local woman named Tess, (Suzie Frances Garton), who is apart of a hiking group that Megan belonged to. Martin asks Tess about the events that led up to his sister’s disappearance and she mentions a local gang that appeared during the festival that the hikers tried to avoid. The investigation leads him to a group of strange men who tell him about a hermit, that lives in the mountains with knowledge of the country’s past folk rituals and traditions. Martin travels into the mountains where he meets the hermit, who tell him about an old pagan ritual that may have a connection to his missing sister. He learns from the hermit about the dark past of the scenic, idyllic countryside and that some past rituals may not be as distant as one might think.
Directed by George Popov and co- written and produced by Jonathan Russell, The Droving, beautifully combines mystery, suspense and terror in this visually stunning thriller that uses nature and isolation to add to the underlying mystery at the heart of the film. There is a strong sense of something dark and foreboding of what is to come, and these sentiments are combined perfectly with Popov’s keen eye for visual detail and stunning cinematography by Harry Young. Young creates an eerie atmosphere throughout the film, with wide shots of the countryside under what looks to be a somber sky, which creates the feeling that something menacing could be lurking in the mountains that Martin passes through on his way to visit the mysterious hermit.
Oldroyd, who was also the star of Popov’s 2017 feature film, Hex, is truly captivating with a commanding screen presence that draws viewers in to this atmospheric nightmare. He gives a gripping performance of the psychologically damaged soldier, Martin, as grief and trauma clouds his judgement. Viewers see Martin and his sister Megan’s relationship in flashbacks and watches as Martin begins to slowly unravel.
The Droving takes its time in building up tension, which works well because it leads viewers to a powerful and unsettling final act.