*Mild spoilers for The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina*
To the delight of many horror fans (myself included) witches are enjoying a moment in the sun right now. This year has seen films like Hereditary and Suspiria make waves with their frightening portrayals of one of civilizations oldest horror archetypes. And now, Netflix has thrown its hat into the ring with The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina, based on the horror comic of the same name, itself a dark reimagining of a beloved Archie icon.
Similar to the light and wacky ’90s show Sabrina the Teenage Witch, this new Sabrina (Kiernan Shipka) is a half-witch, half-human teenage girl, living with her magical aunts Zelda and Hilda. As if navigating the pitfalls of high school and teenager problems weren’t enough, Sabrina must also contend with the added responsibilities of her blossoming magical abilities.
That’s where the similarities end, because like the horror comic, The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina casts Sabrina and the other witches as everything old-timey witch-hunts said witches were: full-on devil-worshipping cannibals who hold black masses in the woods and have a dangerous propensity to interfere with mortal affairs. In this new TV series, Sabrina must decide if she will embrace her human side and forsake her witch heritage, or if she will join her family by signing her name in the Devil’s book and give up the mortal world.
It’s a fun and macabre show, with lots of entertaining twists on old TGIF material. But more importantly, the fascinating thing about The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina is how sharply it examines the power dynamics of being a witch. Power and influence trickle down from Satan, to his high priests (all men), to influential coven members, until those at the very bottom tear at each other for scraps. This dynamic is intentionally juxtaposed against Sabrina’s yearning to harness her fledgling powers and use them as she sees fit. Continue reading