A FEATURE film inspired by Penrith’s Winter Droving has received critical acclaim and is trending as one of the most popular movies to watch.

The Droving, created by independent Cumbrian production company Rubicon Films, was released on April 20 and has already gained four-and-a-half stars on Amazon Prime Video.

Despite being made on a micro-budget, critics have described The Droving as “Dead Man’s Shoes meets The Wicker Man” and a film that “delivers menace and weirdness in equal measure".

It’s Rubicon Films’ second feature-length production, directed by George Popov who co-wrote the film with producer Jonathan Russell. Their first film Hex, a historical horror thriller was released in 2017.

The Droving follows the story of Martin, played by Daniel Oldroyd, a soldier who returns to the area to investigate the disappearance of his sister Meg during the Droving festival.

The captivating Winter Droving, which features a striking torchlight procession, happens every year in Penrith and draws in tens of thousands of spectators.

Jonathan, 26, said: “I have always been into this genre. I moved to Penrith about four years ago without knowing anything about the Droving. To know that there were people with masks and torches walking through the street once a year, that made me incredibly excited and then inspired to see if we could form a story around it.

“You want the locations to be the things that bring production value to the film and you can’t beat the locations around here. It’s an alternative version of the Lake District – what’s in the cave and what’s below the beauty? That’s what inspired the folklore tone of the film.

“We do try and push buttons a bit with our subject matter. It’s very dark and very mysterious.”

Film critic Kim Newman, an expert on fantasy and horror cinema and a regular contributor to Sight & Sound and Empire magazines, suggested the film re-ignited the folk horror genre.

He said in his recent review: “I was impressed with Hex, and I’m even more taken with The Droving – Popov and Russell know that it’s not enough to riff on other films for nostalgia value.

“The fact that folk horror is at risk of being swallowed by cosy nostalgia is one of the more hideous ironies of current horror fan culture – and this gets away from that, into the dark, cold, chilling, primal nastiness that made the sub-genre connect in the first place.”

The film is now trending on Amazon Prime Video and, through Hollywood Distributor Indie Rights, is available in 68 English speaking territories worldwide.

Jonathan Russell said the feedback had been overwhelming. “We are honoured to be able to share this wonderful area and it’s traditions with the rest of the world,” he said. “We are already receiving rave reviews for the film from independent critics and from fans of folk horror.

“Individuals are contacting us from around the world saying that Cumbria is now on their bucket list, so we couldn’t be prouder.”

He continued: “Whether they knew it or not, Eden Arts have got something which is incredibly linked to the genre. It’s got the aesthetics of that. I know if I ever watched a film and found out that that thing in it was real, I’d be very excited.”

Eden Arts gave permission for footage from the 2018 Winter Droving to feature in the film it inspired. Project manager Bryoney Fawn Cartlidge said: “We are delighted that people are drawing inspiration for their projects from the Winter Droving. The festival really captures the imagination of Penrith and wider Eden and we are always encouraged by the way in which people join in with the myths and magic around the event.”