By now, any TV watcher worth their salt knows that reboots of beloved small screen classics are pretty much the work of the devil.
But in the case of Chilling Adventures of Sabrina, Netflix’s new 10-part reimagining of the ’90s classic Sabrina The Teenage Witch, I am willing to make a rare exception. All because this show is an example of reboot culture at its absolute best, taking a few crucial plot threads from a retired franchise and carefully weaving them into something enticingly new and modern.
After all, no one really wants to bite into an ageing banana… but slice that banana up, add a few extra fixings and you’ve got yourself a cake. That’s the formula that goes into pulling off a successful reboot.
Just like its ’90s predecessor, the new Sabrina is based on a series of Archie Comics, which were first published in the seventies. However, this version is a much darker look into the tale of a half-witch, half-mortal teenage girl named Sabrina Spellman as she approaches her 16th birthday and her life begins to splinter into two different directions.
And in this case, I mean literally a darker version, as the creative team behind the new Sabrina have constructed a very sparsely lit on-screen world on purpose, to the point where you may start to think your darkened TV is on the fritz. If your screen also looks a little bit blurry as you watch the series, rest assured there’s no need to have your eyes checked. The sides of many of Sabrina’s frames have been intentionally blurred in order to create a depth of focus in the middle. Just to make the whole thing seem a little bit spookier and off-kilter.
In this version, Sabrina Spellman (Kiernan Shipka) and her family are not just witches, they also come from a long line of straight-up Satan worshippers who exist in a world of dark spirits and brutal magical rules. All serve an ominous figure referred to as the “Dark Lord”.
Happily, there are quite a few genuinely creepy moments buried within this slow-burning new Netflix series.
There’s a scene of cannibalism where a fanatic young witch’s body is ripped to shreds by her coven moments after she commits suicide, a ghoulish jump scare from a genuinely unsettling sleep demon who invades Sabrina’s bedroom, and a visit to a graveyard littered with the scared ghosts of murdered little children.
Instead of a wise-cracking Salem, this time around Sabrina’s feline sidekick is a “familiar”, which is a goblin who takes the form of an animal in order to aid and protect a chosen witch. And he is not there to mess around. The deaths of other familiars throughout the season are the only times when we see these creatures in their true forms, when their dead goblin form protrudes from their animal bodies.
Pretty nifty stuff.
However, although the devils, demons and deaths in Sabrina can be unsettling to watch, the truly fearful moments of the series do not stem from the supernatural moments.