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Dark Tales from Channel X (2021) Review

When the review request for the anthology film Dark Tales from Channel X the name Manny Serrano sounded familiar to me, but I couldn’t quite place it. As it turned out he’d directed Theta States, not to be confused with The Theta Girl, an interesting slice of sci-fi/horror that seemed to vanish without a trace. That settled what my next review was going to be.

Written and directed by Manny & Lindsay Serrano, Dark Tales from Channel X is comprised of stories that were originally part of the web series Dark Tales from Channel X from 2016-2018 and some new material.

The wraparound, fittingly titled “Channel X” introduces us to Cassie (Michelle Nuñez, Dream Weaver Chronicles, Looking in the Mirror). She’s babysitting and her phone is dying. Her search for a charger for it leads her to the basement. She doesn’t find a charger, but she does find an ancient cathode ray tv that turns itself on and begins playing short films hosted by The Viewer, played variously by Patrick Devaney (Slapface, Black Wake) in some segments, and by Eddie Jessup, Frank Joseph, or Deana Demko (Witches Blood, Halloween Horror Tales) in others.

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The first segment “Sleepless” is an extremely short tale of a man (Mike Roche, Blood Slaughter Massacre, Infested) who gets a visitor in the night. It’s a one note affair but does have some endearingly cheesy effects.

The second segment “The Au Pair” is another vignette, this time concerning a couple, David (Sean Edward Evans, Revenge of the Unhappy Campers, The Text) and Kate (Angie Hansen, Bloody Nun, Bloody Nun 2: The Curse) trying to deal with a crying baby. Again it’s one note, but not the note I was expecting.

Cassie checks on the kid and hears snoring from under a pile of covers, so it’s time for more TV.

“Knock Knock” has two unnamed women played by Heather Drew (Creepy Clowns, Sickness) and Kati Schwartz (The Unspeakable Act, Caterina) in a hotel.

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Remember when you couldn’t just hit pause on what you were watching? Cassie learns about that when her pizza arrives and she, as well as the viewer, misses the end of that segment and the start of “M Is for Mastectomy” in which Kathryn Lill (Utopia, Welcome to New York) tries to deal with the results of disfiguring surgery. It’s a trick that’ll get a chuckle from viewers who faced this dilemma, but it’s also frustrating as I wanted to see the end of “Knock Knock”

Dark Tales from Channel X takes on another serious topic in “Beneath”. Mike (Frankie Basile, Radiofinger Raids Again) gets a lesson in consent when he tricks Amanda (Alyssa Booth, The Blood is the Life, Eve) into having sex on camera. The resolution may not be as serious as the offence, but it is enjoyable to see.

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In “I Waited for You” Ryan (Sarah Schoofs, Meme, Infernum) gets dragged out on the town by her friend Alex (Angie Hansen again). Things quickly go wrong when she leaves her phone in a cab and the wrong person finds it. Schoofs, who’s always fun to watch, elevates a fairly predictable segment.

“Matryoshka”, the last of the Dark Tales from Channel X also features an additional writer, Manen Lyset. Carol (Angie Hansen for the third time) is at a Halloween party when she notices a Matryoshka doll. Tucker (Jose Torres) remembers his grandmother telling him about The Nesting Game, which involved one of these dolls and, naturally enough, demons. This is the one segment that gets gory, with the demon making an entrance reminiscent of one of Lamberto Bava’s Demons with effects courtesy of Beatrice Sniper (Theresa & Allison, The Institute).

The resolution of the wraparound is unfortunately rather predictable but most wraparounds are fairly weak so that should be expected.

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Overall, though, Dark Tales from Channel X is a good collection of stories, despite the film itself only runing seventy-three minutes. That means the individual segments are all shorter than I usually like. The Serranos do a good job of fitting the stories to their length, though, rather than leaving them feeling underdeveloped. That said, I would have liked to have seen the full versions of “Knock Knock” and “M Is for Mastectomy”.

Dark Tales from Channel X is available on DVD, Blu-ray as well as on Tubi and Vimeo on Demand with additional bonus features. You can check their website for more information. And you can check with FilmTagger for more films like it if you want more short horrors.

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