Netflix’s ‘Chilling Adventures of Sabrina’ Puts a Delightfully Dark Twist on the Iconic Teenage Witch
Typically when someone hears the name Sabrina Spellman they think of the Melissa Joan Hart sitcom that ran on ABC for seven years, but we can safely say that names are about the only similarity between that sitcom and Netflix’s highly anticipated new series Chilling Adventures of Sabrina. Dropping on October 26th, the first season of Chilling Adventures of Sabrina delivers a stunning and action-packed supernatural drama that is sure to make even the biggest of horror fans jump.
From the creators of Riverdale and based on the Archie Comic of the same name, Chilling Adventures of Sabrina follows Sabrina Spellman (Kiernan Shipka) as she struggles to find her identity while juggling the two worlds, and two paths, that come with being a half-mortal and half-witch.
The series kicks off just before Sabrina’s pivotal 16th birthday where she is expected to attend her Dark Baptism and sign her name in Satan’s book, pledging herself to the Dark Lord for eternity. Doing so would mean that she would have to say goodbye to everyone she loves in the mortal world including her boyfriend and best friends and attend the Academy of the Unseen Arts – a prep school for witches and warlocks. It’s a decision that continuously connects her to her deceased parents who were notorious in the supernatural realm for being married despite her father being a warlock and her mother being a human.
Chilling Adventures of Sabrina has vehemently vowed to put a darker twist on the iconic teenage witch and it more than delivers. In short, the series is scary. While it doesn’t solely rely on horror, it’s definitely one of the most enjoyable and consistent aspects of the series (and something that younger viewers should be aware of). Sabrina doesn’t hold back for a second when it comes to jump scares, demons, and terrifying horror sequences. It’s a wickedly wild ride that uses fear and thrills effectively and convincingly.
Horror aside, when it comes to Chilling Adventures of Sabrina, it’s the cinematography and production value that steals the show. The series features an abundance of visually breathtaking and haunting shots. Oftentimes, scenes feature a blurred effect, giving it an almost dreamlike feel, putting viewers on edge as the mortal and supernatural worlds blend together. Much like Riverdale, the series clearly takes place in modern times yet a lot of sets, props, and outfits feel right out of a different era, making for beautiful television.
While at times it feels overstuffed with lore, characters, and plot, Sabrina does manage to squeeze in a couple of wonderful bottle episodes. One standalone episode in the front half of its ten-episode season is sure to please Buffy the Vampire Slayer fans, taking a cue from one of the show’s most iconic (and nightmarish) episodes. Similar to Buffy, Sabrina excels at blending the supernatural elements with the real world. It’s fun, not afraid to be a tad extra at times, and fully commits to this demon-dwelling story.
The strongest player in the series is by far Kiernan Shipka, who has stepped into the titualr role flawlessly. Appearing in nearly every scene, she carries Sabrina Spellman as a young yet defiant high school student with an old soul. Shipka is believable, likable and completely embraces the series’ more campy moments. On top of that, Sabrina herself is strong and likable female lead who is not afraid to stand up for what she believes in. She’s brave, romantic, and a supernatural whipper-snapper. It’s obvious that Shipka is having a blast playing the character, which only makes it more enjoyable for the audience.
Shipka is backed by an incredibly strong supporting cast as well. A huge standout is Chance Perdomo who plays Ambrose, Sabrina’s warlock cousin under house arrest at the Spellman Mortuary. Perdomo is charming and charismatic, elevating every scene he’s in with witty humor and relaxed delivery. My prediction is Perdomo will most likely arise as a fan-favorite amongst audiences and I support it wholeheartedly.
Of course, you can’t have Sabrina without her mentors and aunts, Hilda and Zelda. While Miranda Otto’s take on Zelda may have a bit more bite than viewers will probably remember, Lucy Davis is the perfect Hilda, bringing a ray of sunshine into nearly every scene. The two are on completely different ends of the spectrum when it comes to Sabrina’s choice, with Zelda pushing her to accept her Dark Baptism and Hilda being more open to Sabrina’s apprehension. The two compliment each other well, but I imagine fans will be more drawn to Davis’ Hilda. Also, the pair has very interesting sleeping arrangements that I am eagerly waiting to read some Twitter commentary on.
The series also features a well-rounded young cast orbiting around Sabrina in both worlds. Ross Lynch does a fine job as Sabrina’s sweet yet clueless boyfriend Harvey Kinkle despite the little material he is given in the front half. Sabrina and Harvey are an iconic twosome in the Archie comics, but it was a tad tough to get 100% behind the young couple as the series kicks off in midst of their romance, making them come off as cheesy at times. That being said, the duo has great chemistry and it was refreshing to have the pair already together rather than the series being tempted to shift its focus to romance as it quickly did on Riverdale. Tati Gabrielle is captivating as Prudence, the leader of the Weird Sisters, yet throughout the season it felt as though the character wasn’t quite as developed as she could have been.
It isn’t all smooth sailing for Sabrina & Co. though. The thread between both the mortal and dark world for Sabrina finds a needle in Ms. Wardell, played by Michelle Gomez. As probably the campiest character in the series, Ms. Wardell is actually a demon who has assumed the form of one of Sabrina’s teachers. Her sole purpose is to deliver the young witch to the Dark Lord and she’s quite entertaining in her efforts. Richard Coyle also does a great job as the ominous Father Blackwood, the High Priest of the Church of Night, but similar to Prudence, it feels as though he gets lost amongst the other antagonists.
Overall, Chilling Adventures of Sabrina does a great job of staying grounded within its central plot and is sure to please any horror fans looking for a Halloween binge. It’s an action-packed spooky treat that checks off just about every bucket. As long as Sabrina stays on course and doesn’t teeter too far into the soapy teen drama that Riverdale fell victim to, the series should come out as a Netflix original standout!
FanFest Takeaway: Netflix’s Chilling Adventures of Sabrina puts a delightfully dark spin on the iconic teenage witch and is determined to both entertain and scare the hell out of audiences!
Chilling Adventures of Sabrina will drop its debut season on Netflix on Friday, October 26th!