News

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?

CHILLING ADVENTURES OF SABRINA SEASON Season 1 EPISODE 2 PHOTO CREDIT Diyah Pera/Netflix PICTURED Ross Lynch, Kiernan Shipka

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, CNN.com

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


Tag Cloud

Awards dceu romance anime Cosplay Martial Arts vampires social media singing competition Columbia Pictures Marvel Best and Worst Syfy cooking CMT diversity Nat Geo PBS TV Trailer 2016 hist Countdown El Rey Opinion television Dark Horse Comics A&E YouTube Premium Election Polls and Games Cartoon Network Ghostbusters Walt Disney Pictures CNN GIFs transformers 45 2018 supernatural cinemax Creative Arts Emmys Universal BET binge APB blaxploitation Music zombies justice league AMC Interview TCM finale Kids & Family Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt USA TruTV Netflix what to watch RT History Extras GLAAD New York Comic Con YouTube Red National Geographic spy thriller Marathons Teen 2017 Superheroes Rocky SDCC award winner mutant serial killer History WGN Comedy adventure Bravo composers Freeform Comedy Central cats zombie harry potter cops Apple IFC Films E3 Shondaland Spike First Look Country CW Seed Christmas biography Reality Fox News Western Pixar OWN Amazon LGBTQ 007 medical drama festivals thriller Mystery IFC green book TIFF crossover Animation Infographic Disney HBO TNT period drama facebook Ovation Superheroe Tumblr Summer Adult Swim Tomatazos Mary Poppins Returns Britbox Super Bowl Mary Tyler Moore GoT Winners Sony Pictures spider-man ITV President VH1 Rom-Com Valentine's Day Set visit miniseries Writers Guild of America Crackle Action 24 frames Trivia Masterpiece MTV Grammys sitcom Chilling Adventures of Sabrina comiccon Sci-Fi SXSW Rock robots Black Mirror Thanksgiving ESPN 20th Century Fox TLC Toys YA Nickelodeon Podcast jamie lee curtis FX Sneak Peek CBS All Access war aliens travel dc police drama DC streaming service Logo VICE politics 2015 Food Network MSNBC PaleyFest Year in Review Reality Competition Lionsgate American Society of Cinematographers Paramount Network Drama comic doctor who The CW streaming FXX talk show Character Guide Oscars BBC America Video Games E! Emmys Comic Book Disney Channel Fantasy boxoffice Hulu Trophy Talk Winter TV ABC Family NYCC SundanceTV Shudder Premiere Dates Esquire discovery See It Skip It DirecTV Sundance Lifetime FOX unscripted Star Wars USA Network Biopics Starz Holidays Star Trek crime thriller docudrama DC Universe Lucasfilm Fall TV Comics on TV Musical DC Comics Awards Tour Musicals Box Office crime Mary poppins Calendar Mindy Kaling historical drama TCA 2017 Certified Fresh Epix dramedy Pirates technology Red Carpet Warner Bros. based on movie ABC Schedule X-Men TBS cults Showtime Horror Ellie Kemper Quiz Spring TV CBS Photos NBC political drama The Arrangement BBC Sundance Now Song of Ice and Fire golden globes San Diego Comic-Con ratings TV Land Watching Series 21st Century Fox Pop sports psycho 2019 science fiction crime drama Nominations Acorn TV Paramount TCA