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Horror with a Heart: The Dark Fantasy World of BBC Three’s “The Fades”

Paul Roberts (Iain De Caestecker) in The BBC Three series The Fades (2011-2012)


“This is a bad idea.” – Paul Roberts (The Fades)

“Correction. This is a good idea with bad possibilities.” – Mac Armstrong (The Fades)

 

Spooky Sunday #5…
You’ll probably notice a trend in my last few posts. It’s true, I have an unabashed love for British television — British science fiction and horror, in particular. You can blame my exposure to Britcoms, Masterpiece Theatre and Doctor Who on PBS as a kid — not to mention those Hammer Horror films I keep mentioning… As it proudly states in my bio, I’m “A lover of all things Anglophilic…” I wasn’t kidding.

Thanks to BBC America and Netflix, I discovered this unusual little coming of age supernatural drama a few years ago. It was a great idea (with great possibilities) taking familiar genres — a dash of Buffy and Teen Wolf, a smattering of Medium, with some The Walking Dead — and creating a new superhero origin story, to conjure up  The Fades (2011-2012).

The award-winning BBC Three television series created and written by Jack Thorne (Skins, Shameless) follows the life and misadventures of 17-year-old Paul Roberts (Iain De Caestecker —Young James Herriot, In Fear, Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D), a seemingly unremarkable, awkward, geeky British teen just trying to survive High School with his best and only friend, Michael “Mac” Armstrong (Daniel Kaluuya — Doctor Who, Black Mirror, Kick-Ass 2, Get Out, Black Panther). As if High School wasn’t bad enough, Paul has an evil twin sister (Anna, portrayed Lily Loveless — The Musketeers), suffers from low self-esteem, bedwetting, and, oh yeah, has visions of an apocalyptic future only he can stop. But no pressure…

Mac (Daniel Kaluuya) and Paul (Iain De Caestecker) hiding in the girl’s bathroom in The Fades.

“I’m mad. I see – things – I look out of the window and see – things – and I hate it. And I want it to stop. I just I want it to stop.” – Paul Roberts (The Fades)

 

He Sees Dead People Too…
After a strange and terrifying encounter at an abandoned shopping mall, while on an adventure to obtain props for his friend Mac’s short horror film, Paul, our nerdy protagonist, soon discovers he is an Angelic, a human being who can perceive spirits who have not been able to ascend or move on to the afterlife — referred to as Fades.

Paul learns from another Angelic, a mercenary type by the name of Neil Valentine (Johnny Harris – Eastenders, Snow White and the Huntsman), that he has a mission and there’s so much more to him and so much more at stake than whether or not the girl he has a crush on, Jay (Sophie Wu – Kick-Ass, Kick-Ass 2), likes him. Again with the pressure! Needless to say, Paul is beyond overwhelmed, but like any reluctant hero, as his powers grow, he has to face the facts. The world is in trouble, facing imminent annihilation, and we need our budding young superhero-in-training to get up to speed quick!

Paul’s history teacher Mark Etches (Tom Ellis) in The Fades.


“I’m not quoting Star Wars! I’m quoting Leia! You can’t quote a film! You can only quote a character in a film!” – Mac Armstrong (The Fades)


Use the Force, Paul!
As ascension points begin to close, more and more spirits become trapped on Earth, turning them bitter and angry. Unable to touch other human beings and starved for connection, the Fades become increasingly hostile and vengeful. After years brewing with hate, they start to break through the veil separating our plane of existence from theirs and they begin to interact with the real world.

When people in Paul’s neighborhood go missing, including the estranged wife of one of his teachers (Mark Etches, portrayed by Tom Ellis – Merlin, The Strain, Lucifer), the police investigation heats up. Unbeknownst to Mark, his missing wife Sarah (Natalie Dormer — The Tudors, Game of Thrones, Elementary, The Hunger Games: Mockinjay), is also an Angelic… and… a Fade…

Sarah Etches, a failed Angelic-turned-Fade (Natalie Dormer) in The Fades.


The police are baffled and at a loss, including Mac’s dad (Robbie Gee – Pirates of the Caribbean, Underworld), a hard-ass police detective in way over his head. The body count ramps up — gruesome murders of children with their severed limbs and partially devoured bodies, are discovered. The Fades are hungry for more than connection and start to multiply faster than zombies on The Walking Dead, and it’s up to Paul and his friends to stop them before the world descends into chaos and darkness.

 

Our heroes in action! Mac, Anna, Paul, Neil, and Sarah.


“My only friend is either a lunatic or Heather Langenkamp. I’m petrified.” – Mac Armstrong (The Fades)

Andy Says…
The Fades is a refreshing take on the familiar ghost, vampire, or zombie story — well written, fast-paced and with a good deal of action. With witty dialogue and strong, heart-tugging performances from its cast — especially its lovable and talented leads, De Caestecker and Kaluuya, who are funny, charming, sympathetic and adorkable (the bromance between these two sensitive outsiders alone is worth the price of admission) — it’s no wonder the series won the BAFTA (The British Academy Film Awards).

The humor in this teen drama endears us to the characters, but make no mistake, the graphic imagery, dark horror elements, and grisly bits are not suitable for children — however, it is well-suited for teens and adults.

Sadly, after only one short season, due to budgetary constraints, The Fades was canceled. While I’m not a fan of the reboot trend, this is one little gem of a series I hope to see resurrected — not as a Fade, however.

If you’re a fan of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Teen Wolf, or Stranger Things, check out The Fades — available on DVD/Blu-Ray from BBC Worldwide or for streaming via Amazon Prime video and Hulu.

For a look at The Fades, check out the official BBC Three trailer.

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