Director – Farren Blackburn, Tom Shankland
Cast – Iain De Caestecker, Daniel Kaluuya, Johnny Harris, Lily Loveless, Sophie Wu, Natalie Dormer, Tom Ellis, Claire Rushbrook, Robbie Gee, Jenn Murray, Theo Barklem-Biggs, Joe Dempsie
Release Year – 2011
Reviewed by John of the Dead
The Fades is an “award winning” (BAFTA for Best Drama in 2012) BBC television show that I was excited to check out. I’ve been in the mood for some unfamiliar television horror, so this was something I was hoping to enjoy. For those new to the horror genre I am sure The Fades will be more than enough to satisfy your interests. For me, it did not cut in the end. It starts off very well but by the halfway mark it takes turns that I found unfavorable for a horror experience.
The Fades stars Iain De Caestecker as Paul, a loser with a history of wetting his bed. Alongside his best/only friend Mac (Daniel Kaluuya; Get Out) he spends his days quoting movie trivia and getting picked on. This idyllic life turns upside down when he sees something he never imagined would be possible. Paul has always been a gifted individual. He never knew it because he never needed to, but now those days are gone. A war is coming and Paul is the key to mankind’s survival. For centuries a battle has been waged between the Fades and the Angelics. Angelics, like Paul, are able to see the dead that have not been able to ascend to Heaven – AKA the Fades. When the Fades find that they can bridge the gap to our world by eating human flesh, Paul’s town becomes the epicenter for the battle to save mankind.
The story kicks off right away, with the first episode delivering the goods. There are a few kills and some interesting creature action, so it left me wanting more. The first three episodes move like this, so for me this was also when the horror was at its best. I mentioned that for the Fades to move into our realm they have to consume human flesh. Without doing that, they are stuck – unable to touch us nor can they open doors. That means that if a Fade enters a building and fails to leave before someone shuts the door they are stuck there indefinitely. This leads to a rogue Fade that learns how to breach the human realm. This Fade is unlike the others. He does not resemble a homo sapien and is straight out of a creature feature. Naturally, I dug that. Unfortunately, this character begins to transform about halfway through the series. Why is that a bad thing? Well, what he transforms into isn’t the least bit scary and that was disappointing to me. This character is not the only one undergoing some major changes. Our lead, Paul, is changing and not just because he is an adolescent teenager. He is achieving powers he never knew he had. With the power to heal the mortally wounded and also to kill Fades, he is the only hope in saving his town and subsequently, the rest of the world. I liked seeing this outcast gaining powers that essentially make him a superstar, but I was not pleased with the direction the writer took this element. Instead of slaying Fades left and right he tries to go the noble route, which I found boring and uneventful. With the creature feature element already fading it was a shame to also see Paul’s powers not used to full potential. Simply put, the latter half of the series failed to deliver on the most important fronts.
The direction of the series is solid and I was glad to see a familiar name: Tom Shankland, attached to three of the episodes. Some may remember his most notable work, 2008’s The Children, which was one of my top 10s for that year. Since then he has worked on television, including Luke Cage and Iron Fist. The other director of this series, Farren Blackburn, also directed for Iron First as well as The Defenders and Daredevil. These two give the series a good look, especially early on when the Fades would only attack at night. As the story moved the “horror” also began to hit during the daytime, which sadly did not have the same effect. There are moments where the CGI will also be a bit cheesy, at least in my opinion, but all in all I was pleased with the direction. The look of the creature was great, and there were moments where good live-action gore graced the screen. Their biggest selling point though will have to be the performances from the many solid actors. Ian De Caestecker is great as the lead, Paul, and you can now catch him as one of the leads for Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. I enjoyed seeing his character arc, albeit I did not personally enjoy the direction it went. Nonetheless, he kept my interest with his engaging performance. Of course, Daniel Kaluuya is equally great as his best friend Mac. I was thrilled to see the Get Out star do his thing before losing all of his baby fat. Nearly every other main character serves their role well, with there also being several prominent female characters. This isn’t a one-man show, as Paul will surely need all the help he can get. This includes his girlfriend, his twin sister, his mother, and both the Fades and Angelics.
Despite the show’s high ratings I did not love it like others did. For those new to horror or not dedicated to it I can see how such a show would appeal to them. For me, the horror faded too soon and the resulting drama was quite tame in comparison to actual drama shows. Still, if you are into the BBC material then maybe this will be worth a shot. That is the reason I gave this a chance.
Overall, The Fades: Season 1 is an OK television series that delivers enough horror for some but not enough for me. The direction it goes on certain elements is unfavorable for my liking, which is what mostly lead to its borderline-positive rating.
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