Friday, 23 September 2011

The Fades (written by Jack Thorne), BBC Three

A bit late, but here's a review of BBC Three's new fantasy/horror series, The Fades, that I wrote a couple of days ago for Orange.

I didn't get chance to mention it in the review, but one brave choice that I really appreciated as a writer was having Paul wet his bed.

It was just a small character detail, but one that you'd never expect to see in a teen hero and something that highlights the compassion and insight that runs through Jack Thorne's writing.

Award-winning writer Jack Thorne might not be a household name, but having come up through Shameless, Skins, Cast Offs and This is England '86 in recent years, he's a man whose time has very much come. His new show, The Fades, is a fantasy horror series that proves you don't need a big glossy production to come up with some very effective chills.

It stars Iain De Caestecker (Coronation Street) as Paul, an uncool 17-year-old whose life gets complicated when he stumbles across a secret war being waged between the living and the dead – or, more specifically, the Fades: the angry spirits of the dead who have been trapped on Earth.

The big problem is that one particularly nasty Fade is breaking back into the world of the living and has started to kill.

There's also a nice domestic element to the story, focussing on the friendship between Paul and his motor-mouth mate Mac (Daniel Kaluuya). As Paul tries to work out what's happening to him, Mac draws on his encyclopaedic knowledge of geek lore to comment humorously on what's going on.

The two leads get great support from a cracking cast: Johnnie Harris leads the way as Neil, a grizzled veteran of the supernatural war who becomes Paul's mentor, while This Life's Daniela Nardini provides sassy back-up as a sweary, gun-totting, magic-weaving vicar. It also looks good, with moody photography and the skilful use of modest special effects.

As you'd expect with this sort of thing, there's a lot of explanation to cram into the opening episode, and some of the “mythology” does seem a bit arbitrary and cobbled together. However, the insight into teenage life Thorne brought to his earlier work also shines through, as Paul negotiates some more of the usual tricky teenage territory.

The obvious question about The Fades would be whether it's going to follow its predecessor Being Human as BBC Three's next break-out hit. It might not have the immediate appeal of that flatshare/horror mash-up, now approaching its fourth series, but it's a classy and engaging bit of work that disguises very easily its low-budget digital channel origins.

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