Saturday, November 12, 2011

Vamp or Not? The Fades

The Fades was a BBC series that I was told I should see and was, luckily enough, able to catch up with. Let me start off by saying that this was, on the surface, a ghost series but these ghosts had a pedigree going back to some fine Euro-horror – whether the writers knew it or not. It was directed by Farren Blackburn and first aired in 2011 (there was an unaired pilot dated from 2010).

It follows the fortunes of protagonist Paul (Iain De Caestecker, the Little Vampire) Abandoned by his father, undergoing therapy and detested by his twin sister Anna (Lily Loveless). He and his best friend Mac (Daniel Kaluuya) are the school geeks but it is their odd quirkiness that actually carries the series, in its early part.

Iain De Caestecker as Paul
The first episode sees them in an abandoned shopping centre at night when a woman called Sarah (Natalie Dormer) is attacked and murdered by a creature and her companion Neil (Johnny Harris) takes a pot shot at Paul. Sarah and Neil are Angelics, humans with powers above and beyond normal humans – for instance Sarah is a seer and another Angelic Helen (Daniela Nardini) can heal the injured. All Angelics can see the fades.

a soul ascends
The fades are souls of the dead that are earthbound. There are certain points on the earth known as Ascension points, places in nature where the souls of the dead can ascend (to whatever lies beyond death). The trouble is that many ascension points have been lost due to urbanisation and over recent years some of the dead simply do not ascend. Earthbound and aging in spirit form, burned by the touch of the living and unseen by all bar Angelics they become bitter towards the living.

he wasn't expecting that
However, because they have no substance they cannot interact physically with the world and so the fact that one is able to kill Sarah is worrying to say the least. Needless to say, Paul discovers that he is an Angelic and, indeed, not just an Angelic but an über-Angelic. As things progress he discovers that he has healing powers, he dreams the future and he also sprouts wings (at the end of a vigorous teenage solo activity, as it happens!)

John reborn
They discover that the fades are eating the flesh of the living and this is giving them the ability to touch the physical world. The main fade is John (Joe Dempsie), a man who died in the Second World War. We see him cocoon eventually and when he emerges he is reborn whole. Indeed, better than whole as he discovers he is now immortal. However the reborn fades cannot eat human food and must eat human flesh and drink human blood, they are filled with a ravenous hunger. John hatches a plot for fade domination.

blood transmuting spirit to flesh
When we hear about how he accidentally became physical again we discover it is when his wife, whom he had silently watched for decades, contracted cancer and killed herself. John sat below her slashed wrist not wanting to move, whilst the blood spilt on him and burned him and, where it burned, he developed new tactile skin. This puts me in mind of the film La Vendetta di Lady Morgan, where ghosts drank blood to manifest physically. Also, for the best Euro-horror example of vampiric ghosts, you need to check out Castle of Blood.

a reborn fade is killed
So, what we end up with are truly immortal creatures (though no one tries dismemberment as a killing method) that became physically whole and young again through drinking blood and eating flesh. They are filled with hunger and become weak when starved. When in fade form their teeth seem to become sharp, though they return to normal when they are reborn. The Z word is mentioned in series and dismissed, and honestly they are too darn sentient for that label. Paul discovers he is able to destroy them and they burn up and explode.

Whilst the filmmakers may not have been aiming for it, they did create something that I would say is vampire genre. It was also a good watch thanks, as much as anything, to the performances of Daniel Kaluuya and Iain De Caestecker. The imdb page is here.

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