Review: ‘The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina’ offers a more dramatic and horror-filled spin on a witch classic

In Film & TV, Lifestyle, Reviews
(Anita Huor / Daily Titan)

All it took was an endearing half-witch, half-mortal and a heavy dose of supernatural horror to make “The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina” the perfect Halloween series.

The 10-episode series follows the life of Sabrina Spellman (Kiernan Shipka), a half-witch who has successfully lived a double life as a human and witch in Greendale. However, upon her 16th birthday she must sign the Book of the Beast and choose between the life she’s developed with her friends and being a powerful witch in Greendale by choosing the Path of Night.

The new Netflix series debuted on Oct. 26 and is a far world away from the bubbly and comedic 1990s version “Sabrina, the Teenage Witch.”

To create a clear distinction between the previous series that aired from 1996 to 2003, creator and executive producer Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa, who has also worked on others shows like “Riverdale” and “Glee,” developed a perfect blend of horror and drama.

The show may carry a dark mood throughout the series, but the horror elements don’t reach the point where it’s overly gory. The more dramatic moments happen at just the right time, which keeps the series from being another soap opera teen high school show.

From sleep demons to resurrection spells, Sabrina’s antics at times get the best of her, and the first season as a whole does an excellent job setting up many avenues for the show to explore: Sabrina’s quest of fighting against Satan, the truth behind her parents’ mysterious deaths and Mary Wardwell’s (Michelle Gomez) scheming.

Casting for the show also delivered several breakout performances from young actors and actresses that made the show truly captivating to watch.

Shipka was a brilliant choice to play Sabrina. She masterfully executes the duality of Sabrina’s light and dark personality, serving both as a bright-eyed, bold half-human with strong morals and as a stubborn half-witch with a tendency to disregard the rules.

Prudence Night (Tati Gabrielle) serves as another character that will surely be more significant in the next season. Gabrielle portrays her character masterfully, playing the bad witch everyone either loves to hate or absolutely adores.

Rather than being a one-dimensional mean girl archetype, Gabrielle’s delivery shows that the witch is multilayered. She has questionable morals, a strong and intimidating demeanor, but also can be relatively considerate toward others.

Though the series could have spent less time with Harvey Kinkle (Ross Lynch) and more with Salem the cat (who honestly got more time on the red carpet premiere than the actual cast of the show), the other supporting characters also help create a clear division between Sabrina’s two vastly different lives.

Aside from the main plot of the show, “The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina” also has powerful themes that can resonate with younger viewers. Sabrina’s struggle with giving away power by relinquishing her free will proves that her character isn’t that of the chosen one that gets nearly everything handed to her, but is one that has to make sacrifices to get what she wants.

The open message of female empowerment (as well as the harrowing challenges the women face) is the backbone for the series. This is inspiring and welcoming, particularly since “The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina” has predominantly female leads who are all different in personality, yet outspoken with brilliant minds.

Overall, “The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina” is sweet enough to give its viewers a toothache and completely binge-worthy for anyone who’s looking to feel festive during the spooky season. After the buildup in the last few episodes, it only leaves viewers excited for what the next season has to offer. Though the cast has been filming back-to-back for the second season, those in eager anticipation can delve into “The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina” comic book by Archie Comics (the show makes homage to in the opening credits), or take yet another walk through Greendale by rewatching the series again.

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