Tweens of the ’90s and early 2000s likely remember being spellbound to ABC’s Friday nights TGIF sitcom lineup, which included the TV show Sabrina the Teenage Witch. Last October, Netflix subscribers were placed under a much darker yet captivating spell with a reboot called Chilling Adventures of Sabrina. This also serves as a re-envisioning live action version of the Archie Comics’ 2014 imprint, Archie Horror, bearing the same title.
While the original sitcom was fun for its target audience, my taste in horror has matured over the years and I never cared for the show enough to become excited over a reboot. So, needless to say, my expectations were lower than a 6 foot grave. However, when I heard about a copyright lawsuit filed against Warner Bros and Netflix due to the show’s depiction of the Baphomet statue, my attention was lured into giving Chilling Adventures a chance. And when I first heard Sabrina’s Aunt Hilda and Zelda, casually expressed relief by saying “praise Satan,” it was clear to me that this re-envisioning is a far cry from the lighthearted TGIF family show.
Approaching her 16th birthday, Sabrina Spellman (Kiernan Shipka, Mad Men) must choose between the path of light and the path of night. As a half-witch living with her dark arts practicing aunts, Hilda (Lucy Davis, Shaun of the Dead) and Zelda (Miranda Otto, War of the Worlds), Sabrina is conflicted with emotional ties to her mortal teenage life. Sounds familiar, right? There is even a black cat named Salem and a boyfriend named Harvey Kinkle (Ross Lynch, My Friend Dahmer). However, the similarities more or less stop there.
While the sweet human-relatable aunts from the ’90s help Sabrina balance her double life, Chilling Adventures Zelda and Hilda begin to panic when Sabrina expresses reluctance to abandon her human life and pledge her servitude to Satan. However, helping Sabrina choose her path from a neutral standpoint is her cousin Ambrose (Chance Perdomo) while Salem silently protects and keeps watch. Yes, you read that right. Salem doesn’t speak in this version of Sabrina. And rather than a talking cat, it is Ambrose who is the relative bound to the Spellman house as punishment for violating witch law.
To say the least, the new spin on Hilda, Zelda and Salem is far from the only creepy twists in this devilish reboot. While the Spellman’s house doubles as a mortuary, there is a witches coven, a Church of Night, cannibalistic rituals, necromancy and witchcraft with morbid consequences far more deadly than ever seen in Sabrina the Teenage Witch. This dark and twisted journey all comes down to one decision: whether or not Sabrina signs her name with blood becoming a servant to the Dark Lord aka Satan.
As dark as the story plot may seem, Chilling Adventures still maintains a somewhat playful element with a touch of dark comedy largely found in the performances. Otto and Davis have perfect sibling chemistry as Zelda and Hilda with a murderous love-hate relationship repeatedly resurrected throughout the 10-episode season. Obviously the more domineering of the two, Otto flawlessly portrays Zelda as a know-it-all with a soft spot deep in her cold witchy heart that simply works for this mature version of Sabrina. Davis, on the other hand, brings to life a bubbly well-meaning portrayal of Hilda similar to her roles in Wonder Woman and Shaun of the Dead, which is perfect for the conflicted aunt wanting nothing but the best for her niece. Perdomo in the supporting role of Ambrose is a great addition as he lightens the show’s tone giving advice to Sabrina and coming to her aid when necessary.
Other performances helping to emphasis the darker edges of Chilling Adventures are the antagonistic roles of Prudence Night (Tati Gabrielle) and Mary Wardwell (Michelle Gomez, Doctor Who). Gabrielle gives a loathsome mean-girl angle to Prudence while Gomez puts her mischievous and deceitful acting skills seen in Doctor Who‘s Missy to good use as a much more malevolent threat. However, giving balance to both sides from all angles is Shipka in the lead of Sabrina, Phenomenally portraying layered character development, this young talent owns the part of a curious coming of age witch complimenting the series’ tone in every scene.
Though I surprisingly enjoyed Chilling Adventures of Sabrina, one organization did not feel the same way. According to Bloody-Disgusting, the Satanic Temple filed a $50 million copyright lawsuit soon after the series first premiered due to the depiction of the Satanic Temple’s Baphomet monument. Describing the show as “asinine Satanic Panic fiction” in a tweet regarding the lawsuit, co-founder and spokesperson of the Satanic Temple, Lucien Greaves, clearly is not a fan. This legal action left viewers pondering what would become of their new favorite series. The answer to this was recently released and, according to Variety, the lawsuit has been settled. Though much of the terms of agreement are confidential, fans can rest easy knowing that a second season is well on its way and they will be treated to a Chilling Adventures of Sabrina Christmas special on 14 December. If the gruesome unorthodox Thanksgiving episode is any indication, the Christmas special will not be one to miss.
With very climactic character development and cliffhanger leaving you begging for more, I am personally relieved that we will see more of these dark adventures. Appearing as though it has merely scratched the surface of its potential, it would have been a shame to see an abrupt ending with no satisfying conclusion. If the season 1 finale is any indication, we will likely see more of the twisted witching world and a decent into darkness on a chilling new scale.