Review: ‘Chilling Adventures of Sabrina’ Features Frights and Vintage Horror

As Netflix continues to grow and expand, they’ve reached to interesting areas to collect more content. One of the wiser moves they’ve made in recent years is to acquire new adaptations of older properties. That’s the camp where the Chilling Adventures of Sabrina will fall. While the show will carry some nostalgia for audiences under 35, the real triumph comes from the strong adaptation of the creepy comic book. Instead of a sitcom, this show brings to life the world of witches, demons, and warlocks in a gripping and sometimes comedic fashion. The result is a wholly unique, yet familiar show that should result in Netflix’s latest blockbuster series.

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Chilling Adventures of Sabrina picks up days before Sabrina (Kiernan Shipka) turns 16. Sabrina is the daughter of two worlds. Her father was the High Priest of the Church of Night, while her mother was a mortal being. After their deaths, she has lived with her aunts in the old Spellman house. Her Aunt Zelda (Miranda Otto) and Hilda (Lucy Davis) are prepping her for her dark baptism, where she will sign her name in the book of the beast.

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Her cousin Ambrose (Chance Perdomo) tries to assuage her fears of becoming a full witch. Yet Sabrina does not want to leave her friends at Baxter High, including her beau Harvey (Ross Lynch), and BFFs Susie (Lachlan Watson) and Rosalind (Jaz Sinclair). She receives equal pressure from the students of the Academy of the Unseen Arts. Other witches, including Prudence (Tati Gabrielle), Father Blackwood (Richard Coyle) and the mysterious Mary Wardell (Michelle Gomez) all push her towards the darkness. Which will Sabrina choose? A life with her friends or near immortality as a witch?

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The show sparkles to life with an extra fire that other shows don’t seem to have. Shipka showcases that she has far more talent than Mad Men would let her display. Here, she’s quick to take over the proceedings, refusing to be silenced by adults or teachers so she can pursue her own path. She’s undeniably the centerpiece of the show, and will likely receive praise in the vein of Buffy the Vampire Slayer

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While Shipka’s performance will drive the series, Otto and Davis are both astounding as her aunts. Davis, a veteran of the British version of The Officesupplies the show with a strong comedic backbone. Otto comes off as an ice queen at times. She’s above the fray and a very powerful being. Her performance is reminiscent of Meryl Streep in Devil Wears Prada. Both fully commit to their roles, and are amazingly enjoyable to watch.

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The rest of the cast is fun and exciting, each giving their own important levels to the show. Each of the women involved in the story push boundaries in their personal lives. A nice theme for the show would be “Females are Strong as Hell” if another Netflix show hadn’t already taken it. The cast crystalizes when interacting with Sabrina, but there are B, C and D plots that all help build the world. Each character feels rich and layered, helping to craft a lived-in world.

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The actual aesthetics of the world of Greendale are exciting to bring to life.  Like Riverdalethe vintage pop design of the town and schools makes the show very pretty to look at. There are little easter eggs present throughout, especially in Chilling Adventures. This show is in love with old horror films, with televisions placed throughout the show consistently showing black and white classics. With age appropriate music and letterman jackets abound, the show strikes gold. Harkening back to the 1950s and 1960s of the comics, Chilling Adventures makes the most of its production budget.

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The creature design and horror are also very strong when needed. While some audiences will be disappointed that Salem the Cat will not wisecrack his way through the series, Salem still plays a big role, specifically when it comes to things that go bump in the night. The creatures that Sabrina, her family, and friends encounter are very creepy. It’s more than just goblins and ghouls. There are some creatures that make appearance that would easily fit into the world of Evil DeadThe Exorcist or Buffy. This helps craft legitimately fun horror, making it creepy but not too scary for those who shy away from the genre.

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Overall, this feels like a huge genre win for Netflix. The show is going to appeal to many, has a built-in wokeness, and actually works on a number of levels. The cast is huge, but each does an excellent job in their roles. Shipka is very good and should quickly become a folk heroine in the vein of Buffy. With a well paced, excellently built show, Chilling Adventures will become one of the biggest shows on Netflix yet.

GRADE: (★★)

What do you think of Chilling Adventures of Sabrina? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below! 

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