On my sister’s recommendation, we watched The Fades (2011) recently. I’d heard much positive raving about it on Twitter and elsewhere, and I think it’s worth the cultish hype.
As with some of the best cultural ‘finds’ in my life, I had next to no knowledge about it.
These were the things I did know:
- There are only six episodes. Ever.
- It’s supernatural horror.
- It’s a UK series.
I had deliberately not Googled it after my sis told us about it. From what she was saying, I knew we’d be watching it no matter what.
In the end, we inhaled the series, watching the six episodes over three nights. We’ve had a good run of British horror movies lately (i.e. Daisy Chain, The Broken), so were predisposed to this series.
Summary of the show (my version):
Teenage Paul possesses the ability to see dead people, but it’s nothing like Sixth Sense. These dead people – or fades – are out to live again, even if this means destroying life as they knew it. The core of the narrative rests on the ages-old ‘war’ between the angelics and the fades, but evolutionary changes take place that lower humanity’s survival prospects significantly! Can Paul save the world with his best mate Mac, brand-new girlfriend Jay, queen-bee twin sister Anna, and lugubrious comrade Neil?
What did I think?
The horror and supernatural elements were well sustained, and I liked the overall story, even though I was slightly dubious about yet another angelic/demonic showdown.
Given that the fades are basically ghosts, the series manages to give them a tactile edge, one that develops into fleshy, organic incarnations. The creepy opening credits already struck a ‘membraney’ chord, and the show used this element well. Notions of consumption weave through the series: the fades, well, fading as they are wasted by time; the angelics having their lives consumed by their calling; the flesh-eating that enables fade-to-human transformations; and
I liked the way the unsentimental, harsh existence of the angelics was implied, and how this world exists, then erupts, alongside the mundanity of Paul and Mac’s suburban lives.
While the battle between ‘good’/’evil’ (with appropriate, satisfying grey areas and contradictions) – and the mystery that surrounds Paul’s real gifts – are the series’ driving forces, the most engaging element for me was the outstanding way Paul and Mac’s friendship was presented. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a teen male friendship presented so lovingly, with nuance and integrity. It was precious. I’m now hungry for more of it. Why can’t teen friendships and relationships with others be better written in general? Smarter (not smartarse), caring, crafted with attention to familial context and individual desires. I know I watch too much Hollywood pap, but this was brought home to me once again when I found myself enjoying Paul and Mac’s relationship so much.
The complexity and honesty of Jay’s character was also refreshing. Queen-bee offsiders aren’t usually given much room to maneuver, character-wise, but the way Jay and Paul’s relationship develops is – dare I say it? – really nice. Also: gamine Asian-Brit! What’s not to love there?
Given I’ve spoilt the show in a few ways so far, I’m staying well away from the ending.
Suffice to say that we’re really, really looking forward to the non-existent second series. So much.