Twenty-two years after Sabrina the Teenage Witch was released, Netflix has produced a completely new iteration of the story of a regular American teenager with a rather large secret. In the town of Greendale, where it feels like Halloween year-round, orphan witch Sabrina Spellman (Kiernan Shipka) lives with her two magical aunts, Hilda (Lucy Davis) and Zelda (Miranda Otto), and warlock cousin Ambrose (Chance Perdomo). Appropriately, they run the mortuary in a town surrounded by mortals who know nothing of the family’s powers. This drives the main conflict throughout Chilling Adventures of Sabrina, as most of Sabrina’s life revolves around her friends and boyfriend at the local Baxter High School.
Based on the Archie Comics Publication’s series Sabrina the Teenage Witch, and produced by the makers of the popular Archie Comics spin-off show Riverdale, this Netflix iteration is sure to please long-time fans and newcomers alike. With plenty of jump-scares, tasteful horror, and the allure of the occult, the show draws you in and is almost impossible not to binge.
In the 48 hour period after Chilling Adventures of Sabrina came out, I had watched every single episode. Although it’s only ten episodes long, the season managed to develop a well-rounded and diverse cast of characters. It’s all too easy to find an occult-based film or show where most characters are entirely good or evil. The characters in Sabrina live in the grey zone, with flaws, aspirations, positive attributes, and ulterior motives in everyone; the one exception, of course, being Satan himself. In addition to well-written characters, the show does a wonderful job of not making a big deal about diversity. One of Sabrina’s friends, Susie (Lachlan Watson), is gender non-binary and played by a non-binary actor, but none of the main characters question Susie or make a big deal out of it. Watching their face light up as old psychic Nana Ruth refers to them repeatedly as a “fine young gentleman” was one of the most heartwarming moments of the series. Chilling Adventures of Sabrina also impressively and nonchalantly includes interracial families, queer folks, and POC main characters throughout.
My absolute favorite part of the show was the occult world of the witches. Having grown up near Salem, MA, this side of the show was the most exciting to me because the show leans into some stereotypes about witches while also introducing new, magical elements to the audience. Most people casually familiar with witches have already heard about animal familiars and likely think of witches as Satanists who meet in the forest at midnight to cast spells—things that are true of Sabrina and her coven. But even the witchiest of viewers will be excited to learn about the magical properties of dirt from a Cain Pit, the gift of The Cunning, and the various laws and traditions practiced by the House of Night. The detail and thought given to creating the witch world in this series is one of its greatest assets, making the plot all the more immersive and the story all the more exciting.
The problems I have with the show arise out of my own over-attentiveness to detail. For example, in one scene where Sabrina goes apple picking, I could spot a wire wrapped around the tree branch to secure the fake fruit in place. The effects are mostly good, but not top-of-the-line; leaving it up to the viewer to suspend their disbelief enough to unsee any obvious smoke-machine fog, CGI goblins, or demon prosthetics. At times, the show can also be heavy-handed with narration, making for a somewhat cheesy transition in places where using context clues instead would seem far more natural.
The charm of the characters and the gripping intensity of the plot seriously outweigh any of the show’s faults, however, and have left me on the edge of my seat waiting for the next season. With a detailed storyline and feminist undertones throughout, this is a must-watch for horror lovers, long-time Sabrina fans, and curious newcomers alike.