It all started with an innocent text from a long-term friend. “You should really watch the remake of Sabrina. Perfect for binge-watching on a gloomy Sunday,” it said. Sure, I thought. Why not? Just hearing that there was a remake made me feel all anticipatory warm inside. After all, I LOVED Sabrina the Teenage Witch back in the day. And yes, I am really THAT old.
Having always held a fascination for all things supernatural, witches are second only to vampires on my “creatures that fascinate me to no end” list. The only problem with that? I don’t like horror. Like AT ALL. Just seeing the cover of Stephen King’s Pet Sematary still gives me goosebumps (and not the good kind!).
I also strongly dislike clowns (scary!). However, whenever I happen upon a horror movie when channel surfing, I can’t help but keep watching in morbid fascination. At least until the scary music reaches a crescendo, at which point I click on my remote like a mad person just to avoid all the gory details about whatever bad is going to happen.
Why do I tell you all this? Well, one of the reasons I loved the 90’s Sabrina series was that despite its subject matter of witches and magic, it was all great fun, lighthearted and not scary at all. That is why I jumped at the chance of seeing the new show which I expected to reflect the atmospheric setting of the original version. Quite naive, yes I know.
In hindsight, maybe, just maybe the title “Chilling Adventures of Sabrina” should have given me a hint that this show would be nothing like the previous one. But I found out soon enough. Alone, wide-eyed, on my couch, in the dark living room. I’ll admit, even the opening credits gave me chills and I knew I was in for a ride! But, despite my dislike for the horror genre, I found that I loved this version of Sabrina a lot – even though it is undeniably creepy.
Not everything is brand new
It’s easy to fall under the new Sabrina‘s spell. I have not read the comics that this show is based on, so it helps that there are some things that you recognize from the 90’s series. At least, the familiarity with character names and basic plot-line helped me settle and enjoy the new adventures of this chillier version of Sabrina more readily.
So what is familiar? Let’s see. Sabrina is still an orphaned girl just shy of her sixteenth birthday. She’s intelligent and compassionate. Her mother was human while her father was a powerful warlock. She grows up with her aunts Hilda and Zelda.
She’s in love with Harvey Kinkle, her devoted human boyfriend, and has a familiar called Salem. But while he looks like a cat, he is a goblin who has taken cat form. However, the most notable difference is that he doesn’t talk – which makes sense for this darker, grittier version of Sabrina.
Now let’s move on to the reasons why this new Sabrina is so enjoyable and entertaining, shall we?
Seven reasons to appreciate this dark remake
1. The characters are so damned good (well, not literally)
The first thing you notice when watching is that it is so damn hard to work out who is bad and who is good. Later on you realize it is because there is no purely good and purely evil. The lines are deliciously blurred, adding to the complexity of the characters. Even though we know characters like Sabrina and their aunts from the 90s comedy sitcom, it’s by name only. The characters in The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina are so much darker and a far cry from their light-hearted, funny 90s version.
Take Sabrina, for instance. She’s always full of good intentions, determined to make the right choices, but ultimately gets caught up in a spidery web of confusion of what’s right and wrong. Does the end justify the means? It’s a question Sabrina has to face time and time again, and sometimes her answer is an unhesistant yes.
Hilda and Zelda
Hilda and Zelda, once portrayed as the teenage witch’s loving aunties, are more distant towards Sabrina. While Hilda sometimes has a warm, motherly vibe going, Zelda’s character is more difficult to grasp. Most often, she comes across as sinister. Creepy: Whenever she cannot put up with her sister any longer, she kills her. Don’t worry, though. Hilda always finds her way back.
Sabrina’s relationship with her aunties is affected by the expectations they have of their niece, namely going through her “Dark Baptism” (and doesn’t that sound lovely) and becoming a valuable member of the “Church of Night,” accepting Satan as her Lord and Master.
2. The setting is eerily beautiful
A large part of action takes place in Zelda and Hilda’s house. Well, house might be an understatement. It’s more of a big spooky mansion housing the Spellman sisters’ mortuary in the basement. The mansion is surrounded by its own graveyard, a spooky forest is close by. Maze-like tunnels and flora are often featured as well.
3. The overall vibe of “Harry Potter meets Buffy the Vampire Slayer“
As a huge Harry Potter and Buffy the Vampire Slayer fan (unnecessary fact: I was SO in love with bad boy Spike as a teenager), I couldn’t help but notice that the show contains elements of both.
What does Sabrina have in common with the boy who lived? Both shows feature a Dark Lord. There is a lot of secrecy about the events following Sabrina’s birth. She growth up with relatives without knowing the circumstances leading to her parents’ death. Though she is only just now learning magic, she’s quite powerful. And just like Harry, she also has to go through obscure rights of passage.
Concerning Buffy, Sabrina is also a kick-ass blonde who fights evil forces, thus defending her friends and hometown.
4. The blurred lines between good and evil are intriguing
As mentioned before, nothing and no one is purely good or evil. It is hard to determine what is right and what is wrong, and in the course of the series, the lines blur even more.
Sabrina grows up knowing only one religion – that of the “Church of Night.” Satanism is the norm in Sabrina’s world and her aunts are faithful disciples of the Lord of Hell, and the “Hail Satan” omnipresent in the Spellman’s household.
Sabrina knows the “13 Commandments” by heart and Christianity is considered “fake news”. Unsurprisingly, it takes an arcane ritual, the “Dark Baptism” to become a member of the Church of Night. During your Dark Baptism, you are expected to write down your name in the “Book of the Beast.” Doesn’t exactly sound fun, does it? While everyone pressures her that this is the right thing to do, Sabrina isn’t so sure. What is right and wrong, anyway?
5. It’s gratifying to watch Sabrina’s fight against patriarchy and social pressure
Writing down her name in the Book of the Beast? Becoming a plaything of Satan to do his bidding? Obeying orders of the church’s male superiors without questioning? Nope, that’s not Sabrina. She’s kick-ass and independent. From the start, the young woman fights against the expectations placed on her and continues questioning everything.
In an interview with variety.com actress Kiernan Shipka comments: “Her entire grappling with signing her name away in the Book of the Beast and questioning a lot of the more patriarchal elements of what she was raised to believe and to go into. I think that in and of itself is very feminist and she’s a strong independent woman and she stands up for herself and she does what she thinks is right.”
6. Ambrose Spellman is sexy as hell
All praise the series’ makers for including British actor Chance Perdomo as Sabrina’s cousin Ambrose Spellman. The way he delivers his “cousin” catchphrase is addictive and divine. Furthermore, Ambrose is sexy, all powerful and courageous. Pity he’s trapped in the Spellman’s mansion as punishment. But as this is probably the reason why we’re seeing so much of him, we aren’t overly upset about poor Ambrose’s fate.
7. Despite its dark themes, the morbid sense of humor makes the show fun to watch
Ghouls, demons, blood curses, devil-worshipping and even cannibalism (eeew): There’s an abundance of creepy themes throughout the series. However, the morbid sense of humor easily balances it. Comic relief at its best!
More Chilling Adventures of Sabrina to come
Only three more months, then we’ll know how Sabrina’s adventures continue. The end of season one left her life shattered. It will be interesting to see her struggle to balance her life between the mortal world and the supernatural one of her father’s heritage. The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina will air on April 5 on Netflix. A third season is already in the works and a fourth season confirmed. We’re sure there is a lot to look forward to!
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Featured Image Source: Netflix