Whilst it isn’t the teenage witch you’ll remember, Chilling Adventures of Sabrina is a welcome, darker take on the classic story that follows Sabrina Spellman in her teenage years, struggling between her dual nature of being half witch, half mortal.
Released just in time for Halloween, Chilling Adventures of Sabrina is a supernatural horror developed by Robert Aquirre-Sacasa for Netflix. It’s based on the comic book of the same name which debuted back in 2014. The whole of Season 1 is available to watch, which consists of 10 episodes with a second season on its way.
The Netflix series differs drastically from its source material, but I still think it’s a faithful adaptation and actually ends up being better than the comics. Even though the story is extremely different – with the only major similarity being the premise, it still manages to capture the deliciously dark tone and spirit that the comic book series has.
Back in 2017, it was planned that the Chilling Adventures of Sabrina was originally going to be made a companion series to network CW’s Riverdale with potential crossovers. Since then the series was moved to Netflix, and the Riverdale connections were kept to just eastereggs or small references, which I think is for the better. It gives Chilling Adventures of Sabrina room to stand on its own, and not be tied down to another series.
Something this series really nails is the atmosphere and aesthetic. It wastes no time setting it up either. From the get go it makes sure its audience knows it’s a gritty, dark series. They build up a creepy and tense atmosphere, full of mystery and hold it up consistently throughout episodes. The aesthetic and how the creators utilize it is also genius. During scenes where Sabrina is in her “witch”-element, it opts for a more dark gothic horror look, which is a great contrast to the more clean and bright look when she is with her human friends. It shows the stark difference between her two lives.
The writing team for Chilling Adventures of Sabrina also did a fantastic job. It’s really impressive to see just how deep this series go with introducing the concept of witches, their magic, as well as the lore of the universe and building up the world. They thoroughly talk about the witch world, their laws and rules, as well as the magic and rituals. It’s well thought out.
Even though the series main focus is Sabrina Spellman, it is a welcome change from the comic books that other main and supporting cast members get just as much fleshing out and development. The writers made sure that in the Netflix series that all their characters are three-dimensional, they make sure Sabrina’s friends, families, and even enemies are people with feelings, backstory, and a motive who also all go through their own story-arc.
Kiernan Shipka plays the role of Sabrina Spellman flawlessly, she was also Aguirre-Sacasa’s first choice for the role. She does an outstanding job, and she is able to switch between the caring, kind, human to a badass, cut-throat witch on the fly. She’s perfect for the role. Similarly, Chance Perdomo is another standout performance, who plays her cousin Ambrose Spellman. The character was written with him in mind and it shows. Similarly, Miranda Otto and Lucy Davis are also great as Zelda and Hilda Spellman respectively.
One of the few gripes I had with this series is how they overuse a blur filter effect in the scenes. Although it isn’t as prevalent in the later episodes, it is used in nearly every scene at the beginning of the season. Nearly every shot is partially blurred, or the background is. Whilst I originally thought it might be a good way to build up a sort of dream-like, surreal effect in the witch related scenes, it gets old fast. It’s also a huge shame because the settings and background in the scenes seem so well thought out, with the dark gothic horror aesthetic, but all that is wasted because you can’t even see it most of the time through the blur.
Besides that the only other few issues I had was Ross Lynch’s acting comes off as a bit awkward and flat in the first few episodes, and the character makeup. Ross doesn’t display his emotion well at all. For example there will be heartfelt moments between his character Harvey and Shipka’s Sabrina, and he just stands there blank, whilst Sabrina would be full of emotion. The character make up in some scenes also looked really off, for example Hilda’s face would look so orange, then her neck and arms would be ghost-white. Although it doesn’t start off that bad at the beginning of the season, it becomes painfully distracting in the last few episodes, and in some scenes her face looking almost green.
Despite its few flaws, the Chilling Adventures of Sabrina is an amazing horror series that puts a dark spin on a classic. It has huge potential and I’m really looking forward to seeing what Season 2 brings, just hoping the wait isn’t too long!