by Vicki Vass
Released in 2018, The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina is a not-quite reboot of the 1990s TV sitcom Sabrina: The Teen-age Witch. Both series center on the same lead character, Sabrina Spellman, the teen witch who first debuted in Archie’s Madhouse in October 1962. The character then received her own comic series and animated series until gaining new popularity with the 1990s series starring Melissa Joan Hart.
This most recent version could not be more different than the earlier series. First, the similarities. Both series are set in the 1960s, and in both sixteen-year-old Sabrina is half-witch/half-mortal and lives with her aunts Hilda and Zelda who are also witches. Her familiar is a black cat named Salem, and her boyfriend is Harvey. Then the series diverge with the new one taking on a very dark and chilling undertone.
Season 1 starts on the eve of Sabrina’s sixteenth birthday, Halloween, when she is forced to make a choice between remaining a mortal or accepting her witch bloodline by signing her name into the Lord of the Night’s book. Her aunts attempt to compel her to accept her destiny as a witch, however, she is torn. Like any typical teenage girl, she wants to stay with her boyfriend and friends.
Sabrina is played by Kiernan Shipka, best known for playing Don Draper’s daughter in Mad Men, and she does a brilliant job portraying a young girl trying to come to terms with her destiny. Miranda Otto is superb as the seemingly cold-hearted Aunt Zelda while Lucy Davis who plays the kind-hearted Aunt Hilda is a little too zany. The production quality is great except I still found something lacking in the series. Maybe it was trying too hard to take itself serious that it became hard to engage with it.
Not for the feebleminded, the series is dark, extremely dark. Some of the nighttime scenes are so dark that I cannot see the action in my low lit room on my 4K TV. With that aside, the witch story centers on Satan worship with characters saying, “Praise Satan” in every other sentence. I found the images of the Dark Lord disturbing and didn’t know whether I wanted to watch the remaining episodes. There are also very few moments of light-heartedness to give any breathing room from the dark passages.
And, on the high school side, Sabrina is pulled into supporting her girlfriend who is being attacked by the bully football players. Not only did this part seem contrived and unrealistic, it also felt that it was written to be politically correct. I don’t feel it was a necessary addition to the show and actually took away from it as it pulled away from the story.
Seasons 1 and 2 are currently available on Netflix, and Seasons 3 and 4 are currently in production. If you want a spine-tingling Satan-worshipping show to add to your list, this may be for you.
For some fun Halloween listening check out the last 2 episodes of Mysteryrat’s Maze Podcast! We also have a lot of fun Halloween related book reviews, and short stories throughout the month!
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