Director: Steven Garbas & Chantelle Han
Cast: Chantelle Han, Charles Boyland, Michael Copeman, Philip Williams
During a pandemic, a pregnant restaurateur tries to rob a priceless truffle from a reclusive veteran. – IMDB
At this point, anything set during the pandemic is still fairly realistic as it is still more or less in the world. Peppergrass using the early phases of lockdown as its setting gives it a grounded moment as it took the struggling restaurant and bar businesses in its desperate moment to craft a situation where these two resorted to more extreme measures to ease their financial situation. With a beautiful isolated woods setting that brings forward a wilderness dangerous setting, the script itself almost feels a little to thin to keep its momentum going as the result is a rather lackluster hiding in the woods movie experience with only a few moments of conversation to make it more intriguing that pads out the main character. Visually, there are some really decent cinematography scenes and the setup and the ending both has some more action to keep it exciting but the middle bit is a bit of a drag as its mainly a solo quiet wandering in the woods even if the pregnancy seems like a question that hangs in the air but never directly addressed but more of a subtlety.
Wilderness settings and isolated cabins are always a rather effective horror and thriller element. The setting itself gives it the mystery especially when its wandering around in the dark woods which can also mask the danger that could be lurking in its shadows. Peppergrass starts off that way for sure as the two get separated fairly quickly and the film quickly turns its focus onto its main female lead, Eula played by Chantelle Han. The whole film itself is fairly subtle leaving a lot of space for the camera to give those little details especially when it comes to her pregnancy with a shot at the pregnancy test or the nausea along the way right down to the whole reveal about the nature of peppergrass, which also happens to be the name of her restaurant that she is trying to keep alive during the pandemic which also leads to a conversation of the insight to her backstory a little.
Things is, subtlety and darkness and the woods setting and even the isolation are all great in most horror film as it keeps it minimalistic but keeping the unsettling feeling rather alive but something here just doesn’t jive with it as the story is too thin, the character Eula doesn’t have enough to make her feel like she’s worth fighting for and then the tension never feels strong enough to keep the film engaging especially in its second act. That’s not saying that Chantelle Han didn’t do well as her character does have those moments of desperation and survival as she stumbles through the forest and in the few perilous events that happen much like the woodsman that she meets played by Philip Williams who really only shows up for a little part of the film but the conversation with Eula was one of the better moments and gave quite a bit of insight on the character primarily.
With all that said, Peppergrass is a good concept and premise. The setting and the isolation is done really well. The cinematography creates some very nice shots and truly highlights the isolated woods setting much like using the pandemic as a back frame for the story at hand. However, the script is lacking with both its characters and the substance for the motive or even the character arc that feels almost overly simple making it have a decent set up and finale but not enough to hold itself up in the second act.