Netflix revives Sabrina Spellman with new series ‘Chilling Adventures of Sabrina’

The new Netflix original series reimagines “Sabrina the Teenage Witch” in a realm of supernatural horror.

This review contains spoilers for “Chilling Adventures of Sabrina.”

Demons, satanic rituals and human sacrifices allow Netflix’s “Chilling Adventures of Sabrina” to bring a supernatural horror spin to the story of a character many know and love, Sabrina Spellman. Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa (creator and showrunner of “Riverdale” and chief creative officer at Archie Comics) is a writer, director and producer for the series. Part one of the show, which is composed of 10 episodes that are each around an hour in length, was released on Oct. 26.

“Chilling Adventures of Sabrina” is based on the Archie Comic series of the same name, which began in 2014. The comic focused on Sabrina Spellman as a teenager in the ‘60s and adopted the characters and setting from “Sabrina the Teenage Witch.”

“Sabrina the Teenage Witch” aired in 1996 as a television sitcom. Young Sabrina, played by Melissa Joan Hart, had a normal life before discovering that she was a witch on her sixteenth birthday. She lived with her talking cat, Salem (Nick Bakay), and aunts Hilda (Caroline Rhea) and Zelda (Beth Broderick), who taught her how to use her magical powers for good — often in the form of finger points and brewed potions. The show followed Sabrina’s adventures in high school, where she used her powers to help her friends and fight against head cheerleader Libby Chessler (Jenna Leigh Green).

While some aspects of the Netflix show remain in common with the 1996 series, “Chilling Adventures of Sabrina” takes a much darker turn. Sabrina (Kiernan Shipka), with her signature choppy, blonde bob, black headband and red attire, isn’t your typical teenage girl. Following the death of her parents, she lives in the town of Greendale with “aunties” Hilda (Lucy Davis) and Zelda (Miranda Otto) and cousin Ambrose (Chance Perdomo) at the family’s mortuary. Sabrina has known her whole life that she is half-mortal and half-witch, but she is close to her mortal boyfriend Harvey Kinkle (Ross Lynch) and two best friends Rosalind Walker (Jaz Sinclair) and Susie Putnam (Lachlan Watson).

On her sixteenth birthday, which also happens to be Halloween, Sabrina must decide whether she wants to live a mortal life with her friends at Baxter High or abandon it entirely to study at The Academy of the Unseen Arts, become a servant of Satan and abide by his 13 commandments in order to receive the full strength of her powers.

The process of becoming a servant requires a ceremony known as a Dark Baptism. During a Dark Baptism, a young witch or warlock enters the woods at midnight, under the light of a blood moon. A magical counsel must oversee as the warlock or witch vows to use his or her powers to serve the “Dark Lord” and signs his or her name in the “Book of the Beast.”

Magic in the show has a very religious context. The Church of Night rules over the witches and warlocks. The church is led by a human representative of Satan, called the High Priest. Followers of the church believe that Satan is not the embodiment of evil but, instead, the embodiment of free choice. In one episode, Zelda retells the story of Adam and Eve. She says that God lied to the pair when he said they would die upon eating from the forbidden tree. Satan was merely offering Eve knowledge and free choice when he suggested she eat the fruit. This idea is present throughout the series as witches and warlocks use séances, chants, voodoo dolls and other rituals to perform spells and hexes.

Unlike “Sabrina the Teenage Witch,” there are no talking animals. Instead, witches and warlocks bond with familiars, goblins who have taken the shape of animals to protect their master. Sabrina’s familiar is a black cat named Salem, which alludes to the first show. Throughout her journey to become a full witch, Salem accompanies and saves Sabrina from the evil forces working against her.

“Chilling Adventures of Sabrina” is more like “Riverdale” than the show’s television predecessor, “Sabrina the Teenage Witch.” It’s eerily blasphemous, addictively unpredictable and difficult not to watch all in one sitting. The series is not for the faint of heart, but thriller-lovers are bound for a pleasant surprise.

Edited by Siena DeBolt | sdebolt@themaneater.com

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