Chilling Adventures of Sabrina First Reviews: A Dark Heroine for a New Generation

Kiernan Shipka leads a stellar cast in a bewitching new series, say critics.

by | October 15, 2018 | Comments

Chilling Adventures of Sabrina season 1 keyart (Netflix)
(Photo by Netflix)

A few may have cried “Sacrilege!” when TV super-producer Greg Berlanti and Riverdale showrunner Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa threatened to makeover magical teen darling Sabrina, the Teenage Witch — a career-defining role (for better or worse) for star Melissa Joan Hart. But naysayers needn’t worry: This is not your mom’s Sabrina.

Kiernan Shipka (Mad Men) inhabits the titular role in Netflix horror offering Chilling Adventures of Sabrina, a version of the Archie Comics title that finds Sabrina Spellman in a much darker universe, one that is closer in tone to Rosemary’s Baby than the perky 1990s teen witch some might remember. Even the introduction of Sabrina’s “familiar,” a demon who takes animal form — in Salem’s case, a black house cat — is sufficiently scary to advise against the youngest viewers tuning in.

The series opens as Sabrina approaches her 16th birthday, a time when, tradition in her family of witches dictates, she must sign the Book of Night, become Satan’s bride, and inherit vast powers. This rebellious teen has other ideas, however; she’s half mortal and wants to continue life with her Baxter High classmates, including boyfriend Harvey Kinkle (Ross Lynch) and friends Roz Walker (Jaz Sinclair), and Susie Putnam (Lachlan Watson). Her cousin Ambrose (Chance Perdomo), under house arrest for illegal witch activities, tries to temper Sabrina’s more radical plans, while her aunts Hilda (Lucy Davis) and Zelda (Miranda Otto) manage the fallout when Sabrina inevitably chooses her own ill-informed path. Richard Coyle appears as Father Blackwood, the sinister head of the Church of Night and its magical Academy of the Unseen Arts, while Tati Gabrielle‘s Prudence leads a trio of bitchy witches, the Weird Sisters.

The horror, suspense, and wicked mayhem from Shipka and her stellar costars — especially devilishly delightful Davis, Otto, and Michelle Gomez — are exactly what’s called for this time of year, and critics so far heartily approve, branding the series 94%  Fresh with 17 reviews so far (updated). Here’s more of what they had to say:

How’s the Horror?

Chilling Adventures of Sabrina more than lives up to its title — sometimes too well, as when spells go awry and the nights are stalked by demons, ghosts, and zombies.

With plenty of scares and heaping helping of style, Chilling Adventures of Sabrina is a wicked and wonderful concoction. — Julia Teti, The Playlist

Chilling Adventures of Sabrina will still give you moments of comic relief, but the dichotomy between Sabrina’s mortal and witch identity is far weightier here, offering true moments of horror and macabre developments. — Arusa Qureshi, The List

Those of us who enjoyed the perkier version from our youth will tune in out of curiosity, while a new generation of Netflix junkies can take this sexier, more sinister version at face value. — Isabel Mohan, Daily Telegraph (UK)

Its intoxicating mix of supernatural thrills and deadpan one-liners approaches the heights of Buffy the Vampire Slayer … and I realize that’s high praise indeed. — Dave Nemetz, TV Line

Is Shipka’s Sabrina Up to Snuff?

CHILLING ADVENTURES OF SABRINA season 1 PHOTO CREDIT Diyah Pera/Netflix PICTURED Kiernan Shipka, Miranda Otto

Critics are not scared of this casting. They also offer high praise for Shipka’s costars.

Star is Kiernan Shipka, Sally from Mad Men, and she brings an appealingly sincere touch as she mixes phrases such as “dark baptism” into her teen lexicon. Her aunts, played by Miranda Otto and Lucy Davis, are kooky excellence. — Matthew Gilbert, Boston Globe

Kiernan Shipka leads the series with growing confidence … By the end of the first season, Shipka has more than lived up to the teen hellion promise of her famous Mad Men role — but as Sabrina, she’s far more empowered to revolt against regressive social conventions … Perdomo [gives] his pansexual character a slinky, almost feline energy … [W]hen Gomez, who was once menace incarnate on Doctor Who, finally comes out of the periphery, Chilling Adventures becomes spellbinding. — Danette Chavez, AV Club

The cast is a big perk — Lucy Davis and Miranda Otto, in particular. — Ben Travers, indieWire

What’s the Catch?


No tricks here. While a few critics didn’t shine to the more teen-melodrama moments of the show, most acknowledged that the series is a bingeable treat.

Sabrina mixes genres and offers believable performances, creative conceits and, duh, magic. The drawback is that you must endure the monotony of its more mundane story lines to get to the truly bewitching bits. — Brandon Katz, Observer

Loaded with great production design, and blessed with several strong performances, Chilling Adventures of Sabrina none the less succumbs to exhausting exposition, and uneven storytelling. It might still cast a spell over you, though. — Chris Evangelista, Slashfilm

The series is skilled at building tension and leaves us eager to learn more about the spooky world of its protagonist. — Brian Lowry,

Chilling Adventures of Sabrina season 1 launches on Friday, October 26 on Netflix.

Tag Cloud

independent 2020 elevated horror Sneak Peek cinemax Disney Channel Disney+ Disney Plus cults anthology Amazon Prime Video Chernobyl VOD Spring TV Cosplay PaleyFest slashers Brie Larson Fantasy Sundance animated Amazon Prime Ovation WarnerMedia cartoon A&E ghosts versus BBC One Epix Funimation Tomatazos space 20th Century Fox TCM Reality Competition Photos movies universal monsters The Walking Dead book romantic comedy HBO Go Countdown Academy Awards VICE Year in Review video ABC TCA dramedy teaser richard e. Grant Shondaland Lifetime Christmas movies Polls and Games biography psychological thriller Britbox screen actors guild green book E! toy story discovery Bravo binge IFC technology child's play rotten movies we love die hard Music RT History SundanceTV Teen harry potter Comics on TV canceled Infographic Christmas politics adaptation Television Critics Association Emmy Nominations BET Awards Showtime NBC Best and Worst Mary poppins a nightmare on elm street anime robots dc zero dark thirty First Reviews Netflix tv talk sag awards Pop cancelled documentary Kids & Family 71st Emmy Awards 72 Emmy Awards sequel Box Office Character Guide The CW boxoffice Marvel Television TCA Awards FOX Action Winners Rocketman asian-american franchise The Arrangement thriller TIFF TCA 2017 Trailer Certified Fresh war Mary Tyler Moore Drama First Look MSNBC CBS All Access PBS Rocky Shudder PlayStation OneApp Star Wars Elton John 21st Century Fox joker Endgame Extras cops Summer free movies finale Holiday GLAAD Chilling Adventures of Sabrina twilight chucky Sundance Now Holidays ITV San Diego Comic-Con best hist Mary Poppins Returns Travel Channel films HBO Max Arrowverse Writers Guild of America NYCC FX on Hulu documentaries criterion Walt Disney Pictures crime drama scary movies romance Black History Month Apple south america Baby Yoda Trivia casting DC Comics DC streaming service USA Network Pop TV Star Trek serial killer YA DGA stop motion witnail Avengers game show President Western crime thriller unscripted theme song indiana jones satire Pixar Fox News Classic Film spy thriller dceu TNT Amazon Valentine's Day batman Family Sundance TV See It Skip It X-Men Calendar latino Horror series hollywood directors streaming History Nominations YouTube Premium FX rotten festivals Vudu 24 frames superhero 4/20 Interview natural history Starz Anna Paquin singing competition comics spain Spike Pet Sematary composers christmas movies IFC Films Crackle Musicals reviews TruTV diversity news Reality Disney Plus OWN Fall TV Super Bowl USA American Society of Cinematographers halloween sports comic police drama mission: impossible revenge miniseries ABC Family Trophy Talk 2018 talk show concert TV Land Hulu dogs psycho YouTube MTV Disney streaming service transformers CW Seed justice league cats movie Creative Arts Emmys parents stand-up comedy Freeform 2015 Mystery critics Pirates Adult Swim Comedy Central DC Universe TLC Marvel Studios obituary BAFTA hispanic television CNN TCA Winter 2020 Tarantino comedies true crime strong female leads Amazon Studios Sci-Fi ESPN werewolf facebook Lifetime Discovery Channel reboot HBO zombies Film Festival dragons political drama blaxploitation based on movie cooking Esquire award winner 2016 GoT Ghostbusters nature Comic Book Thanksgiving LGBTQ Syfy spanish language Quiz Winter TV quibi Superheroe Podcast period drama BET mockumentary Black Mirror Watching Series Song of Ice and Fire CMT Paramount Network Premiere Dates APB Awards Tubi DirecTV docudrama comiccon BBC blockbuster Cartoon Network supernatural name the review vampires SXSW golden globes Nickelodeon cancelled television Video Games zombie mutant Film Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt GIFs Crunchyroll Nat Geo adventure Paramount New York Comic Con renewed TV shows Lionsgate Opinion Ellie Kemper Women's History Month MCU Awards Tour Superheroes Marathons Oscars 45 cancelled TV series Acorn TV SDCC game of thrones Comedy Disney CBS Musical ratings sequels TBS Set visit kids Toys El Rey disaster Mindy Kaling Biopics BBC America Emmys Country dark Warner Bros. RT21 A24 Columbia Pictures AMC crossover video on demand sitcom medical drama Rom-Com nbcuniversal LGBT Masterpiece Dark Horse Comics screenings Spectrum Originals science fiction Hallmark Christmas movies crime stoner Pride Month emmy awards Cannes Television Academy worst fast and furious foreign social media E3 Hallmark Food Network YouTube Red 2019 doctor who indie breaking bad Peacock Animation TV renewals WGN Turner Classic Movies Hear Us Out Binge Guide what to watch Sony Pictures Stephen King cancelled TV shows Apple TV Plus all-time spinoff VH1 FXX canceled TV shows jamie lee curtis 007 Election laika Grammys children's TV historical drama Martial Arts travel Heroines Red Carpet National Geographic spider-man Netflix Christmas movies 2017 Schedule Captain marvel Mudbound classics Tumblr cars aliens Universal Rock Turner Marvel Logo Apple TV+ Lucasfilm TV The Witch The Purge