I see dead people... but no spoilers
So then what is the The Fades? Well, it's a new six part series, airing on BBC3, and promising to serve up spooky chills and thrills.
Now I'd seen the trails and obviously being a horror buff, I booked my spot on the sofa. However also it's fair to say that I wasn't holding out high hopes. Firstly because BBC3's output, as one of the more experimental arms of the Auntie Beeb, can be rather hit and miss. And indeed, horror television series in general tends to be a risky proposition. For every hit like Buffy The Vampire Slayer, there's a dire miss like Demons. And indeed, the fact that I gleaned from the promos that The Fades would feature a young cast did bring back bad memories of that latter series.
However on the plus side, it appeared to be a serial rather than an episodic show, which is usually a better footing for horror on television, as a multi-part story avoids the main pitfall of becoming a monster of the week circus. But also BBC3 had scored a previous success in this area with Toby Whithouse's Being Human, a series about a vampire, a werewolf and a ghost living together in a house. And despite sounding like the set-up for an old joke, Being Human served up an entertaining brew of drama and horror, leavened with a twist of dark humour.
Now I went into the world of The Fades pretty much blind - yes, I'd seen the trails but they just gave the flavour rather than masses of detail - and I'd recommend you do the same. So I'm not going to tell you much about the show other than it concerns ghosts. But ghosts with an intriguing twist, and judging from this opening episode, a whole mythology which we are going to discover as the weeks progress. Writer Jack Thorne has clearly thought out his world in detail and presents us with the ideal balance of interesting character work and plot hints to guarantee you'll be tuning in next week. However that's not to say this is a slow-burn starting episode - The Fades hits the ground running and crams alot into its first hour.
Now, what I can tell without giving anything away is that The Fades is cut from similar cloth to Being Human- we have the same high standards of writing, acting and direction, and a similar approach of rooting its fantastic and macabre events in believable characters and kitchen-sink realism. However the big difference is that The Fades, although not afraid of a little wit, is a far darker story. And while Being Human earns its horror credentials by being viscerally gory, The Fades is going for the more subtle creepy approach; it's clearly going for the fear factor and is aiming to be a show that scares its viewers.
And that my friends is a very refreshing change for a horror television series, for unlike all the series referenced above, and a great more others too, The Fades isn't about having fun with supernatural monsters. Not that there's anything wrong with that, but it's good to have series that is actively seeking to make its viewers anxious to turn out the lights. There are some marvellously eerie scenes in this first chapter and also some high strange imagery that will linger in the imagination. And the fact that all of this is occurring in a recognisable ordinary corner of contemporary Britain and being witnessed by down to earth and well-observed characters give these weird and spooky moments all the more weight.
If this first episode is anything to go by we may well be in for a real treat this Autumn...
JIM MOON, 21st September 2011