Tag Archives: Daniel Oldroyd

The Nature of Sacrifice

The Droving

by Hope Madden

It’s been almost exactly one year since Martin’s little sister Meg disappeared. The Droving festival is upon us again, and Martin’s come back to town to do his own investigating.

In filmmaker George Popov’s sophomore effort, following his underseen 2017 gem Hex, the co-writer/director once again weaves elements of a psychological thriller with supernatural themes to create an effectively off- kilter sensibility.

Martin (Daniel Oldroyd, also of Hex) isn’t exactly what he appears to be. His own arc, much of it grounded in slowly-revealed backstory, is what drives the film.

Martin’s internal journey is more deceptively complicated than expected. It creates an underlying unease that nicely offsets Droving’s almost poetic visuals. Though Oldroyd understated grace holds all the film’s unusual elements together, he can’t quite convince when the moment comes to unveil Martin’s most dramatic levels of psychic damage.

The clues Martin pieces together feel too easily sleuthed. The Droving would have benefitted from some narrative complications, some untidiness. Still, the mystery itself—built on a handful of tense set pieces that deliver menace and weirdness in equal measure—is a good one.

Popov’s instinct for visual storytelling is again the most compelling argument for the film. Hex, made on next to nothing, delivered a spooky, medieval atmosphere thanks in large part to framing and cinematography.

For Droving, Popov works again with cinematographer Harry Young, whose shots are often beautifully lit, giving them a painterly quality. From early, eerily quiet pre-festival shots of Martin walking the streets of town to the more frenetic, dizzying festival footage, Popov sets a creepy stage for his thriller.

Casting a Spell


by Hope Madden

We’re afraid of the woods. We likely always have been—the Brothers Grimm may have collected wooded tales of witches, elves and wolves both big and bad during the 1800s, but those stories had been passed down for generations.

Those who told the old fairy tales saw the forest as a mysterious place of wonder, temptation, confusion and danger.

Writing/directing team George Popov and Jonathan Russell follow that same bumpy trail into the woods with their first feature, Hex.

Made on little more than a thousand dollars, Hex proves the duo to be a competent set of craftsmen and effective storytellers.

Two soldiers separated from their companies in the 17th century during England’s Civil War chase each other into a deep forest. The rebel Thomas (William Young) is young, soft and open to the dark poetry and doom of witchcraft. He’s not long in the woods before he sees his true enemy is not the countryman behind him with his sword drawn.

Richard (Daniel Oldroyd) fights for King and Country, strident and single-minded, logic keeps him from believing until he has little choice.

Hex draws quick comparisons to Ben Wheatley’s 2013 experiment A Field in England, but where that film felt fanciful and indulgent (though entertaining), Hex feels a bit more like a stage play taken to the woods.

The film is slow-moving, sometimes frustratingly so. Though Popov and Russell’s technical skills are solid, their instincts for pacing and tension-building are less honed. The slight plot relies immensely on an atmosphere of supernatural dread for its success, but it’s here that the filmmakers have some trouble.

The flaw is hardly insurmountable. Even with sometimes obvious budget restrictions, the film looks good. Popov and Russell let light from a campfire spark the imagination, edging frames with shadowy dangers.

Hex sounds great, too, working the nerves with the effective noise of blades unsheathed or the diabolical tinker of a nearby brook, all enriched with Nino Russell’s appropriately bewitching score.

There is more happening here than you realize, and it’s to the filmmakers’ credit that you only recognize the film’s purpose when they are ready for you to do so. The result is a satisfying tale with more power than just magic.