No, not a se­quel to Her, but a new ITV su­per­nat­u­ral drama.

SFX - - Contents -

Pick the bones of Stephen King’s

Car­rie and it’s a story about bur­geon­ing wom­an­hood; about pu­berty, men­stru­a­tion, sex­u­al­ity. ITV’s new “do­mes­tic hor­ror”, HIM, is not as grue­some as Car­rie – it is, after all, on ITV – but screen­writer Paula Milne is try­ing to achieve some­thing sim­i­lar: to take King’s ex­plo­ration of fe­male ado­les­cence and flip it in the di­rec­tion of men.

“What it is, re­ally, is a metaphor for teenage boys’ rage,” she tells SFX. “I have three sons and a daugh­ter and I’ve been mar­ried twice, and di­vorced twice. I wanted to do some­thing that showed how dif­fi­cult life can be for a child go­ing through di­vorce. Es­pe­cially young men, who find it dif­fi­cult to ar­tic­u­late emo­tions. And when fam­i­lies break up, I think they’re placed at a vul­ner­a­ble po­si­tion at that time, in try­ing to find out who they are, and how they fit into new dy­nam­ics. Like Car­rie, I wanted to use this power he has as a metaphor for that, and whether or not he could con­trol it, and whether it would all end in tragedy.”

That power is some form of telekine­sis, an abil­ity which 17-year-old HIM (played by new­comer Ffion White­head) has in­her­ited from his grand­fa­ther, and is strug­gling to sup­press ever since the di­vorce of his par­ents, played by Kather­ine Kelly and James Mur­ray. Now both re­mar­ried with new fam­i­lies, he finds him­self caught be­tween their two homes – and an en­emy to his par­ents’ new, re­spec­tive part­ners. Cue teenage angst, cue “act­ing out”, cue knives float­ing above step­fa­thers’ heads...

based on lIfe

“HIM was very much based on my youngest son,” says Milne, “and the sort of teenage tur­bu­lence that he hit [dur­ing my di­vorce]. But at the same time, Steven Novem­ber, who is the com­mis­sioner at ITV, asked me, ‘Why is he called HIM? He never has a name’. And I said, ‘Be­cause he’s all our sons.’ Peo­ple have to watch and be like, ‘I know that kid’.”

Do­mes­tic drama comes nat­u­rally for Milne, who has built her ca­reer on straight, of­ten po­lit­i­cal shows like 2012’s White Heat, and 2013’s The Politi­cian’s Hus­band; both of which aired on BBC Two. Yet to blend that kind of grounded drama with the su­per­nat­u­ral was a whole new chal­lenge for her.

“I think [su­per­nat­u­ral] things carry more im­pact if they’re set against an or­di­nary back­ground – the kind of mun­dan­ity of sub­ur­bia, if you like. But I did re­search [the su­per­nat­u­ral el­e­ments], be­cause the genre has its own ap­peal to an au­di­ence so you want them to buy into that.

“The re­search it­self was very in­ter­est­ing,” she adds, “be­cause to make it cred­i­ble you have to park your dis­be­lief and your scep­ti­cism and ap­proach it as if it were true... Peo­ple do want it to be true in some ways. Peo­ple who believe in it and con­duct ex­or­cisms and so forth have told me that pu­bes­cence is a ripe and op­ti­mum time if [telekine­sis] is go­ing to oc­cur. I think it’s no co­in­ci­dence that the hor­ror genre of­ten re­volves around young peo­ple in some stage of alien­ation. That, to me, is very much the stripped down en­gine of what the genre is.” Although far from the days of The Pris­oner,

The Avengers and even – yes – Primeval, HIM does rep­re­sent some­thing of a shift in ITV’s at­ti­tude to­wards sci-fi, fan­tasy and hor­ror; with the past few years hav­ing seen such su­per­nat­u­ral stabs as Mid­win­ter Of The Spirit,

The Oaks, Af­ter­life and, of course, last year’s doomed Jekyll And Hyde. Even so, ITV is still a main­stream chan­nel, with an ar­guably broader tone than, say, the BBC or Chan­nel 4. Was there a limit to how far she could push the hor­ror?

“Well, I’d al­ready pro­cessed what I wanted to do – set­ting it in sub­ur­bia, ex­tended fam­i­lies, di­vorce and such. So to some ex­tent, wher­ever I’d taken it, that was go­ing to be a com­po­nent in it. And I’m sure that suited them! It wasn’t go­ing to be so com­pletely ‘far out’ that they

He’s like all our sons. Peo­ple have to watch it and be like, ‘I know that kid’

would lose their main­stream au­di­ence. But at the same time, hav­ing said that, it was quite brave to in­tro­duce some­thing quite dif­fer­ent, in that they hadn’t done any­thing quite like that be­fore. It’s not quite creep­ing floor­boards and doors open­ing when no one’s there. It’s rooted around one spe­cific power.”

Does she feel that ITV com­mis­sion­ing HIM says some­thing about how main­stream the su­per­nat­u­ral has be­come?

“I would say so. Tele­vi­sion is very dic­tated by genre. And the sort of safety net of genre has tra­di­tion­ally been crime shows, thrillers, hos­pi­tal dra­mas and so forth. And per­haps hor­ror has been ne­glected, be­cause spe­cial ef­fects have mainly taken it over. I think two things have kind of hap­pened to­gether. The first is, I think, see­ing pop­u­lar­ity in con­tem­po­rary cul­ture, like The Blair Witch

Project and Twi­light. See­ing how they reach and im­pact on an au­di­ence has kind of spilled more over into TV.

“The sec­ond thing is be­cause the dig­i­tal stuff is now much more af­ford­able. We did a lot of ef­fects on cam­era but we did a lot in post­pro­duc­tion. And be­fore that, it would’ve been hor­ren­dously ex­pen­sive. It’s much more doable than it used to be. I re­mem­ber tak­ing my kid on the set of Doc­tor Who once and he burst into tears be­cause it was all poly­styrene...” As you can imag­ine, dra­mas like The

Politi­cian’s Hus­band don’t fea­ture a lot of su­per­nat­u­ral spe­cial ef­fects. How did Milne find writ­ing HIM’s pow­ers?

“What was fun was to show how some of the scari­est things are those that come out of the or­di­nary. There’s one scene where the scary thing is just a bag of tools on a ladder, and there’s a blade stick­ing out, and [HIM] is re­al­is­ing you could ac­tu­ally slice some­one’s skull with that. He just about man­ages to con­trol [the urge to], but it’s im­por­tant to show that he’s ca­pa­ble of that.”

teenage trI­als

Told over three episodes, HIM will push its tit­u­lar teenager to the limit. It will tear him be­tween bro­ken homes; it will make him the bane of hos­tile step-par­ents, the un­wanted bag­gage of his ac­tual par­ents; it will con­fuse him with feel­ings for a step­sis­ter he’s barely met; it will thrust upon him gen­er­a­tions of im­mense, su­per­nat­u­ral power – and ex­pect him to con­trol it. Surely this won’t end well?

“I had to pile stuff on him,” says Milne, “so he had nowhere to go. Peo­ple who are boxed into a cor­ner have a habit of com­ing out fight­ing. And from that, the cen­tral thrust of the story is, ‘Will he con­trol it?’ And be­cause of what the au­di­ence un­der­stands and per­ceives the hor­ror genre to be, this will even­tu­ally have to be­come a mat­ter of life and death – whether he uses his power in terms of vi­o­lence or not. It builds and builds to that – the frus­tra­tions and emo­tions that he can­not con­trol.”

HIM is on ITV from Oc­to­ber (date TBC).

It was fun to show how some of the scari­est things come out of the or­di­nary

HIM has Car­rie-like pow­ers – but will he use them for good or evil?

Ffion White­head takes on the role of the boy with no name.

Si­mona Brown is step­sis­ter Faith, who HIM be­gins to feel at­tracted to.

For­mer Coro­na­tion Street star Kather­ine Kelly plays HIM’s mum Han­nah.

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