I Dream of a Psychopomp is a horror anthology film about a man named Kerry (Elohim Peña) coming to grips with the untimely death of his wife, Evelyn (Kulani Kai), who was killed in a car accident while they were driving to their anniversary dinner. He can’t shake the guilt, the loss, the grief. Her family won’t forgive him. He can’t forgive himself. Days are spent mourning, aimlessly pondering what could have been and visiting her grave. Occasionally he hears Evelyn’s voice. In his darkest moments, he thinks he sees her ghost.
In mythology, a “psychopomp” is a spiritual guide. As Kerry descends into the darkest hours of his soul, he starts to see his own psychopomp, in this case a man who inhabits a purple void, clad in a robe and face makeup. The Psychopomp (Steven Alonte) guides Kerry’s spirit with three stories about life and death: Spellbound High Monster Hop, Answers and Until Forever. All horror stories in their own way. All ruminations about death.
As far as independent horror anthologies go, Psychopomp has a particular qualities that set it above the pack. All three segments are of high production quality. They feel like professional productions. Importantly, none of them relies solely on gore gags or jump-scares to tell their stories. The least of them is Monster Hop, which is still a unique approach to horror with an emphasis on the kinetic nature of dance. Answers is a serial-killer mystery with a clairvoyant detective. Until Forever is an odd vampire tale. All three are linked by theme rather than characters or style. It’s a nice variety, and it’s never clear what the next story will be.
Director / co-writer Danny Villanueva Jr. and co-writer J. Anthony Ramos deserve credit for compiling such an eclectic mix of horror shorts and effectively binding them together. The frame story about Kerry does a solid job giving each story a reason to be told and has a good emotional payoff. The decisions behind how the shorts are sequenced within the framing story are also commendable; whether conscious or not, it’s nice that the other two build to Until Forever, the strongest of the three.
Until Forever is a vampire tale set in the past. Adriano (Ben Shaul), an older creature of the night, looks at his endless bloody immortality and finds it wanting. Elayna (Jillian Lebling) is a young, terminally ill girl who seeks out Adriano to cure herself. Adriano explains himself to her and promises his gift in exchange for her assistance in ending him. Maybe I’m a sucker for sad vampires, but I became immediately invested in Adriano’s rueful embrace of eternal nothingness. There’s only a glimpse of violence in Adriano’s tale; for the most part, it’s held together by aesthetic and mood.
Anthologies are pretty difficult to pull off. Each piece is measured against the sum of its parts. Villanueva and Ramos have managed to concoct three compelling tales about life and death that organically build on each other and a frame story that pays off the emotional core binding them together. Good work.