Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you’ve probably heard Riverdale creator Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa, along with Netflix, has rebooted the 90s TV series Sabrina the Teenage Witch. Fans of the original were understandably skeptical. After all, it takes skill and a fresh new vision to create a compelling retelling of a classic. Luckily, Aguirre-Sacasa does exactly that with Chilling Adventures of Sabrina.
Older millennials and some of their parents will probably remember sitting in front of the TV on a Friday evening to watch Sabrina the Teenage Witch on ABC, a sitcom based on a comic book series of the same name from the Archie and Friends universe. In both shows, the titular character, Sabrina Spellman, is a half-witch, half-mortal who lives with her aunts—both immortal witches—and a cat named Salem. The episodes are focused around Sabrina trying to find her place in both the magical and mortal world and the hijinks that inevitably ensue as she tries to balance her magical and mortal responsibilities.
That’s where the similarities end. Aguirre-Sacasa’s Sabrina is darker, drawing inspiration from classic-horror films like Rosemary’s Baby and The Exorcist with all the teenage snark and girl-power of Buffy the Vampire Slayer. And it works.
CAOS takes place in a carefully built world with laws and rules that govern the supernatural elements of the show. Like Buffy, the demons and other horror elements range from enjoyably campy to genuinely frightening. The writers have nailed the horror elements of the show, tapping into our fascination with the grotesque. From the unavoidable gore that comes with living in a mortuary to the complex liturgy of the Satanic Church of Night coven, the beauty of the show is in the details. Scariest of all, the show takes place the fictional backwoods American town, Greendale.
Like many of the settings for AHS, CAOS seems to exist on its own plane, a kind of dream-world where people call each other on corded telephones when they need to talk instead of texting. And though the world of CAOS is immersive and haunting, you never have to look far for a bit of levity. Cue Aunt Zelda killing and burying her sister Hilda in the backyard because she’s annoyed with her.
Sabrina, played by 18-year-old Kiernan Shipka, is easy to love. Her innocence and earnestness contrast perfectly with the dark glamour of the magical world, while her commitment to forging her own path makes her a force for change in Greendale and the Church of Night. Teens and older viewers alike can identify with Sabrina’s struggles. Adolescence is hard enough without attending weekend classes at the Academy of Unseen Arts and fighting demons in your spare time. With compelling, well-drawn characters and a script as self-aware as it is heavy-handed (a horror genre conceit), at its heart CAOS shares the same messages as the original. Love your family, love your friends, and use magic responsibly.