The title of the BBC teen horror series “The Fades” refers to ghosts who can’t quite cross over the other side. Despairing of the limbo, they start to chomp on the living in order to come back to life. Beyond that, the mythology gets incredibly detailed and messy, just the way geeks like it.
It follows the outstanding “Being Human,” another BBC series with horror, humor and heart. Both series do their bit with the terror and fantasy, but ultimately they’re about the power of friendship.
The key relationship in “The Fades” is between adolescent pals Paul (Iain De Caestecker) and Mac (Daniel Kaluuya). Paul sees dead people, an irony not lost on the teens, whose principal means of communication seems to be quoting American movies from the 1980s and ’90s. (“My only friend is either a lunatic or Heather Langenkamp,” Mac moans.)
The male bonding is tested by Paul’s new girlfriend (Sophie Wu of “Kick-Ass”) who actually appears to want sex. Equally terrifying is a pistol-packing religious nutter (Johnny Harris) who insists the boy is the chosen one. At one point, Paul puts down his foot, announcing that he’ll balance his sticky high school existence with saving the world as he pleases.
“The Fades” clearly didn’t come from an American shop. The six-part series anticipates a patience on the part of the audience as it mucks about for several episodes laying out geeky key concepts and finding a rhythm. A leap of faith — or at least an investment of several hours — is required before recognition that this is brilliant TV. (Your mileage may vary.)
The horror can be plenty goofy, but never at the expense of scares. The gore seems torn from a hardcore horror film — downright startling in the context of a broadcast TV show.
And the sex uses no gauze filter: At the start of one episode, Paul takes a break from bedwetting for a bit of a pud pull — with mind-blowing consequences. Earlier, his girlfriend celebrated their first kiss with, “I’ve got the taste of your spit in my mouth now.”
Series creator Jack Thorne (“Skins”) has a background in theater, often reflected in the quality of the dialog. “No one is as despised as us,” Mac says to Paul, reflecting on their high school social status: “That’s quite an achievement.”
No word yet on a second series — Thorne painted himself into a bit of a corner — but rest assured the real-word Pauls and Macs are out there agitating for one.
Update: “The Fades” has faded to black. Reports of April 2012 said that BBC cutbacks resulted in no season 2 of “The Fades.” The BBC went with a fifth go-round of the (quite good) “Being Human.” Bummer.
More British TV:
- “Ripper Street” Blu-ray review: Victorian evil at large
- Long live “Prime Suspect” on DVD
- “Two Fat Ladies”: Yummo cooking on DVD
- “I, Claudius” on DVD: Thumbs up … finally
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