Clear your mind of canned laughter, sarcastic puppet cats and Melissa Joan Hart’s sass, Netflix’s ten-episode Chilling Adventures of Sabrinais a darker iteration of the young teen’s journey through coming into her own, trading laughs for gore, a more serious tone and even some sensuality here or there.
Based on Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa’s strange little reboot of the same name, Chilling Adventures of Sabrinasees the titular half-witch-half-mortal (here played Kiernan Shipka) reach her sweet sixteenth birthday, which propels her along a journey of juggling her two different lives as they come into conflict with one another.
Kiernan Shipka is wonderful as Sabrina, playing her with a soulfulness that is delightful and tender and warm. Her eyes say it all, conveying her very thoughts, no matter vengeful or sorrowful or desperate to understand this new Witch life.
On both sides of her life she’s backed up by a colourful cast of characters, from Miranda Otto’s scene-chewing performance as her Aunt Zelda to Michelle Gomez’s darkly delicious turn as Sabrina’s teacher Miss Wardwell, who has a dark secret of her own.
Richard Coyle is a lot of fun as Father Faustus, the High Priest of Sabrina’s coven, the Church of Night, while Ross Lynch, Jaz Sinclair and Lachlan Watson all lend wonderful support as the three anchors to Sabrina’s life, Harvey, her true love and Roz and Susie, her best friends.
After watching all ten episodes of this first season (or part one, as it is billed), my thoughts are that the overall package is decent – solid, entertaining, a grower. Initially, it struggles to find its footing but it starts to come into its own mid-way through the season.
I get the impression that the writing is confident, building to the bigger picture, the end game, that it has a plan and viewers can rest easy on whether it’s making things up as it goes along.
Some elements in the writing do feel particularly clunky here or there but mostly it sticks to the strengths of its cast and of the material itself.
I will say that there is some strange visual effect going on with the cinematography that blurs the edges of the screen – I am sure the crew was going for the lucid-waking-dream feel to the proceedings but instead it gives off a strange blurring effect that will have you wonder if the TV is going haywire. It’s distracting at times but it’s not constant and only slightly detracts.
All up, Chilling Adventures of Sabrina is a strange beast of a show that’s fun to watch, walking the line between drama and horror while splattering its environments in gore and horror.
J’s Verdict: ☆☆☆