Review: Peppergrass


Rough times. The corona virus is raging in Canada and businesses are shut down. Eula Baek’s (Chantelle Han – “Circle of Steel”) grandfather has died, and the restaurant he owned is going under. She needs cash from somewhere, and boyfriend Morris Weiss (Charles Boyland – “Becky”) has an idea.

The late owner had a buddy from the war, now a recluse living deep in the woods, who had provided him with truffles during better days. Truffles are a rare and, in some cases extremely valuable, underground fungi prized in the culinary world. One white truffle can bring many thousands per pound. They only grow under certain circumstances, and are found using snuffling pigs, whose sense of smell and lust for these delicacies allows the fungus hunter to locate them.

Eula has a letter her grandfather wrote to this recluse, Ruben (Michael Copeman – “Cherrypicker”), and under the pretense of delivering the letter and her grandfather’s war medals to his old friend, they set out to find him, and get whatever stash of truffles he may have.

So begins this tale of the pandemic. Along the way, we meet some characters – all fearful of contracting the dreaded covid. There is the owner of a roadside stand, run late at night on a totally deserted road and selling fresh-caught fish, among other things. There is an uncle who has given up his dental practice (dentures and implants) to tough it out in the woods away from contagion, and there is, of course, Reuben, a dangerous recluse with a giant pig as his only companion. We also gradually learn that Morris is a man-child, secretly taking drugs, and alternately going with the flow or improvising disastrously, all to the detriment of his relationship with Eula.

“Peppergrass” includes some excellent performances from the main actors, and the dialog is natural and first rate – which makes the truly bizarre situation they gradually work their way into all the more haunting and unreal.

Cinematography is excellent and there are a number of visual setups, like one when, on their 20-hour trek from the city to Reuben’s place, Eula and Morris pull over to check the map and switch drivers. In the near distance, they are framed by winter-stark trees and an unharvested field of grain. Beautiful.

With all this film has going for it, there are some problems. The soundtrack during much of the movie consists of a jumble of noises obviously intended to heighten tension, but rather only irritates the listener and drownes out the natural sounds of the forest, river, and wildlife we should be hearing as the story progresses. This sort of background electronic noise is being used in more and more low-budget flick – a sign of either insufficient funds or, more likely, insufficient artistic value being placed on sound design.

In addition, this Canadian product suffers from Morris’ mumbled performance of his lines. I ended up searching for captions on the “final cut” review copy I had (there were none). On the other hand, the creators cleverly used the upbeat “Young and In Love” during the closing credits – a nice counterpoint to the preceding dark misadventures.

“Peppergrass” has won a number of awards at several genre film festivals, and is certainly well worth spending time with. If you learn nothing else from this imaginative flick, it is to never trust a man who uses a pickax as a crutch.

Note: Modern-day truffle hunters tend to use dogs, which are easier to handle than 600 pound porkers.


Directors: Steven Garbas, Chantelle Han
Writers: Steven Garbas, Philip Irwin
Producers: Grant Cooper, Steven Garbas, Chantelle Han
Cinematographer: Grant Cooper
Editor: Grant Cooper Steven Garbas
Music: Todor Kobakov

Eula: Chantelle Han
Morris: Charles Boyland
Reuben: Michael Copeman
Arthur: Philip Williams
Vendor : Craig Porritt
Truffle Hunter: One heck of a Big Pig

Runtime: One hour, 34 minutes
Availability: On digital platforms June 16, 2023

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