The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina: Netflix's New Terrifying Horror Hit
We all remember Sabrina, the Teenage Witch, right? The show based on the Archie comics featuring a bubbly Melissa Joan-Hart who finds out she’s half-witch on her 16th birthday? She’s then forced to navigate her life as a witch with her life as a mortal. It’s an iconic sitcom featuring feuding aunties, a sassy cat, and all the events that come with being a teenager trying to figure life out—mixed with a dash of mischief and magic. So, when Netflix declared to the world that they were releasing a reboot of the classic show, we were all expecting a similar, cutesy experience.
The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina is a horror show in all sense of the word. It’s a dark delve into Satan worshipping and, well, evil. I know. It already sounds crazy. Sabrina and her aunts, Hilda and Zelda, are a part of the Church of Night, their coven of Satan-praising witches who have all signed their names in the Book of the Beast. There is gore. There is blood. There are plenty of jump scares. Frankly, it’s terrifying. There isn’t one episode that doesn’t spook the hell out of you.
The scares are there, of course, but perhaps, the most alluring thing about CAOS is the societal commentary embedded in the show. The most striking of these comes in the juxtaposition between the Dark Lord (Satan) and the False God (God). Weaved amongst the storyline are phrases like “Praise Satan” and knowledge of the 13th commandments. Satanism is not just a deranged religion, it’s the religion that Sabrina has always followed. Similar to Christianity, the Path of Night is depicted, simply, as the belief of the Spellman household. Aunt Zelda is the devout worshipper of the group, pledging her blind allegiance to Satan and upholding the 13 commandments to the T. She is the woman who follows the (Un)Holy Book verbatim, not unlike worshippers of other religions. The comparison between the Path of Night and the Path of Light is made strikingly clear in an episode where one of the witches, Prudence, has her faith tested. She proclaims to Sabrina that she is utterly confident about where she will go upon her demise—at least until the apocalypse happens and she can rest amongst the other witches in their hellish paradise. Sabrina questions her, asking her what she’ll do if that doesn’t come to be. Instead of cowering at this question of faith, however, Prudence simply sneers at Sabrina, telling her that her lack of any faith is a sad existence. This conversation sounds familiar doesn’t it? If we replace Satanism with another religion, if we switch out the Dark Lord with a different religious figure, this blind, unwavering faith would not seem odd. Because the religion in question here is now an evil one, however, things are different. It seems more ludicrous, more heinous. But, CAOS shows us, maybe a bit indirectly, that the line between good and evil isn’t so thoroughly defined, and while the tenants of the religion may be different, they actually aren’t so far apart.
Women empowerment is also engrained in the plot—literally, there’s a part where Aunt Zelda is praising Eve for seeking knowledge instead of demonizing her for disobeying the Lord (not the Dark one, guys). Additionally, Patriarchy is something that gets discussed in detail across both Paths and in both societies; when Sabrina questions why she can’t have both freedom and power, referring to the Dark Lord not permitting both, she’s met with a simple and coy “he’s a man isn’t he?”
Another aspect of The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina that made me fall in love with it, is that it hosts a fairly diverse cast. Her cousin, Ambrose, a new character in the Sabrina saga, is Black and pansexual (and also overwhelmingly attractive—the accent is real y’all). Her best friends are Ros, the daughter of a Black Panther, and Susie who is bullied for being gender nonconforming. Not to mention there are Black and Asian witches, many of which are extremely powerful. The beautiful thing is, these characters aren’t just supporting Sabrina. They are all given complex and intricate subplots. Now, of course nothing is ever perfect. There could be more characters with darker complexions, and there is a lot to say about the discussion of “witchcraft,” the way it’s depicted, and the history of Black and Indigenous religions (that’s for another article, folks). There also seems to be an air of colorblindness in the show. Sure, racism is talked about, but race is never fully addressed. It’s never explained, for example, who Ambrose is in relation to Sabrina—she and their aunties are obviously white, and he is obviously Black, but we never know the full context (maybe we’ll find out next season).
But, The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina is certainly still a show that is here to stay and it is definitely a horror show, so if you’re not ready for the gore and frights, get prepared. I’m currently having withdrawals and in need of new episodes as soon as possible. I binged it in only a few days and would have finished it sooner if I wasn’t watching it with someone (apparently me watching one little episode without that person was the world’s greatest betrayal). So, guys, turn off the lights, get your popcorn, and get ready to have a chilling adventure with Sabrina, the teenage witch.
cover image via nerdist