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Chilling Adventures Of Sabrina TV Show Review
Review Date: 30/10/2018
Genre: Horror, Occult
UK Release Date: 26/10/2018
Season: 1 Episode: All
If you want to be reminded of getting home from school, plonking yourself in front of the T.V and laughing along to Sabrina The Teenage Witch’s zany adventures then this is most definitely NOT the show for you.
This show is dark, seriously dark – and I mean that literally and figuratively.
The show is set in the town of Greendale where it “always feels like it’s Halloween” (presumably because it’s so gloomy and they don’t light any scenes properly) and follows Sabrina Spellman (Kiernan Shipka) as she approaches her 16th birthday where she must attend a “dark baptism” and give herself over to The Dark Lord.
There’s one tiny problem: Sabrina is half-witch, half-mortal and as the date of the ceremony approaches she begins to question where her loyalties lie.
This is so far removed from the Melissa Joan Hart TV Show that I’m not sure why they chose this title unless it’s merely for the shock value – and even the Archie Comics on which both versions are based describes Sabrina as “spunky, flirtatious and sometimes scatterbrained” – and while she’s certainly spunky (well more like an authority-deifying know-it-all) she’s certainly not flirtatious thanks to long-term boyfriend Harvey and she definitely isn’t scatterbrained.
So we have Harvey, Aunts Hilda and Zelda and Salem (but don’t expect a sassy sarcastic cat, he meows and that’s about it which is a shame because a couple of pithy comments here and there would have helped lighten the mood a bit). Sabrina’s friends are Roz who’s some kind of annoying self-righteous millennial (“How DARE the establishment not allow me to read this book even though it’s not on the syllabus and is banned…”) and Suzie who’s non-binary which is fine except they seem quite pleased when they’re called “Son” so that’s not really non-binary is it? There’s also cousin Ambrose who’s described as “pansexual” so that’s pretty much every right-on box ticked.
Sabrina’s trying to figure out how she can balance these two opposing worlds and the more that she looks into her witch heritage, the more she begins to question it – and it’s not surprising really as this isn’t your “Sabrina The Teenage Witch”, “Charmed” or even “Dark Willow from Buffy The Vampire Slayer” type of witchcraft. No, this is some serious shit that involves cannibalism and apparently having to get undressed quite a bit.
And speaking of getting undressed, that leads me to one of my major issues with “Chilling Adventures Of Sabrina”: These kids are supposed to be 15, just turning 16, and we have Sabrina naked in one scene with evident side-boob (the actress is 19 so I guess that makes it okay does it?) and wearing a negligee in several other scenes which I found rather unnecessary and uncomfortable. After all of the impetus of the #MeToo campaign they’re sexualising a teenage girl – and I don’t care if it’s because witches are hedonistic and live for pleasure it’s just plain wrong and did nothing to serve the scenes. These could have been shot in a different way without the need for giving old men something to jerk off to.
Anyway that rant’s over. Let me get onto the other problems I have.
The story line is relentlessly dark, even the most horrible horror films have some slight comedic relief but there isn’t any here – or if there was I missed it completely. Aunt Hilda (played by Lucy Davis) tries to add a bit of humour but it falls flat thanks to the overall tone of the script and as a result you’re pounded with this depressing story that doesn’t let up. I’m not asking for much, Hilda could have made a few light-hearted comments – I think that’s her purpose but it’s not used. The only thing that made me chuckle slightly across the 10 episodes was when Zelda got annoyed at Hilda and killed by bashing her head in (watch and you’ll see why it was amusing – I’m not a sicko, honest!).
I’d also love to know what the directors and cinematographers were thinking with this weird-arse fish-eye bokeh lens thing they have going on. I initially though they were using it to denote that some crazy magical crap was going down but no, it seems to be some odd stylistic choice that blurs the background characters when in fact seeing their reactions would actually be cool and useful.
Plot wise it holds it own, each episode starts exactly where the previous one left off which is why I think Netflix was the best vehicle for this show: if it was shown weekly on The CW as initially planned they wouldn’t have been able to produce the episodes this way. This continuity really helps with the flow of the story and allows you to be pulled along with it although I did have to back-track to a previous episode a couple of times as I’d missed something that turned out to be important.
There’s some interesting threads that weave their way through the 10 episodes with the main one being what’s behind school teacher Mary Wardwell’s (played by the marvelous Michelle Gomez) fondness for Sabrina which is finally revealed at the end of episode 10, and it’s worth watching the series just for this.
Before you start watching Chilling Adventure of Sabrina make sure you have some friends, a bottle of booze and shot glasses handy as I reckon this series will make an excellent drinking game – drink every time they say “The Dark Lord” and you’ll be paralytic half-way through episode one!
I hadn’t read any reviews of the show so had no preconceptions going in to it and I’m not saying it’s terrible because it’s not. I think the problem stems from the fact that the show centres around a 16 year old and wants to be dark and edgy but can’t be because Sabrina’s so young. The show’s rated 15 so, unlike Sabrina The Teenage Witch, it’s not targeted at a young audience. If they’d have put Sabrina in her 20’s – maybe approaching her 21st birthday instead of her 16th then they could have gone a lot further and darker with it and it’s a shame as it seems like a huge missed opportunity when you compare it to something like The Haunting Of Hill House which used children in a really clever way
Would I recommend it? Mmmm. The title’s rather misleading for starters – it’s neither chilling and nor are there many adventures really. I wouldn’t go out of your way to watch it but if you’re stuck for something to view the it’s worth a look – just don’t expect any laughs or a talking cat!