Chilling Adventures of Sabrina
Before the stream of Netflix’s cheesy Christmas rom coms was released to the world, a surprising horror hit was found in Chilling Adventures of Sabrina. The show is based on the Archie Horror series of the same name, which was a darker retelling of Sabrina the Teenage Witch, the basis for the tv show of the same name that aired from 1996 to 2003, starring Melissa Joan Hart. My interest in the new show was rooted in this 90s classic, which was a favorite of mine growing up. The star of the 90s Sabrina, besides the title character, was undoubtedly Salem, a talking black cat full of witty banter and an ongoing desire for world domination. In fact, Salem’s taste for world domination was about as dark as the old show went. Chilling Adventures of Sabrina has bigger aspirations.
One of the most surprising aspects of the new Netflix series is just how satanic, demonic, and outright dark it is. Seriously, it goes there. Whereas the magic in the original show was conveyed with a bouncy ping sound to get out of doing homework and to fix other silly teen problems, the characters of Netflix’s show use magic to terrify their professor by drowning him in spiders, to perform exorcisms, and to attack creepy sleep demons that prey on their worst nightmares, which though an interesting concept, was overwhelmingly the worst episode of the show. At one point, someone (I won’t say who) has to shoot his undead zombie brother in the face before said zombie brother starts to feed on humans. But wait, there’s more. The witches and warlocks in this show serve the dark lord (aka the devil, sometimes referred to as Satan) and on a witch’s 16th birthday, they must sign their name over to the dark lord and are bound to do whatever he wishes if he calls on them (which Sabrina isn’t too keen on).
In spite of every exclamation of “hail Satan,” the show is rooted in Sabrina’s journey in deciding who she is as half witch and half mortal, supporting her friends, and being with her boyfriend, you know, just like any regular teenager. Kiernan Shipka as Sabrina makes the role hers, and while I love Melissa Joan Hart’s portrayal, Shipka’s version is amazing in its own right in portraying Sabrina's inner strength and independence. The distinct characterization of the aunts was also great, and the contrast of Hilda's (Lucy Davis) meekness to Zelda's (Miranda Otto) unwavering support of her beliefs (worshiping the devil and all) and their expectations of their niece added to Sabrina's conflicting emotions. Harvey Kinkle (Ross Lynch) didn't retain the "stupid" trope that he had in the original, which was refreshing. But the newest addition of Ambrose (Chance Perdomo), a witch who is housebound after attempting to blow up the Vatican (as one does), was my favorite. Confined to the Spellman household, Ambrose copes with his loneliness as Sabrina's closest confidant and partner in crime, or by trying to win the love of a fellow warlock. With that being said, I have to applaud the show’s diversity in casting and LGBT representation. It truly is a Sabrina retold for modern times.
Although the overly demonic aspects can be a little unsettling at times, I would highly recommend Netflix’s Chilling Adventures of Sabrina for anyone who hasn’t seen it yet. It’s a fresh and intriguing retelling of the teenage witch many of us grew up loving, with just a few more deaths and exorcisms thrown in, sans talking black cat.