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

Apple dramedy historical drama series Shudder Thanksgiving foreign CBS Fantasy vampires television IFC Marvel 72 Emmy Awards The Academy Lifetime Christmas movies movies Epix Superheroes Columbia Pictures OWN Rocketman Arrowverse Spike crime thriller classics Television Critics Association serial killer Brie Larson canceled 2015 Showtime See It Skip It Grammys zero dark thirty stoner sequel First Look WGN parents SDCC Christmas slashers Captain marvel USA anime Kids & Family quibi french Winners Turner Cannes The Purge toy story dark child's play GoT criterion adaptation zombies Martial Arts Election video on demand HBO true crime Photos BBC One Baby Yoda unscripted E! news Chilling Adventures of Sabrina Trivia witnail diversity Spring TV CBS All Access reboot 99% versus GIFs Opinion Food Network FOX Logo mutant The Arrangement 71st Emmy Awards ITV technology Funimation Bravo Comic Book werewolf ghosts halloween tv FX on Hulu History 007 TV renewals revenge venice Song of Ice and Fire BAFTA archives worst Cosplay composers CNN TCA Winter 2020 critics anthology comic books cancelled TV series kids doctor who Holiday strong female leads NYCC jamie lee curtis Elton John fast and furious game of thrones twilight WarnerMedia reviews directors docudrama Rock Paramount sports Esquire blaxploitation Marvel Studios CW Seed football Quiz Trailer halloween Turner Classic Movies Fox Searchlight dragons El Rey canceled TV shows rt archives Ellie Kemper Star Trek spinoff hispanic Star Wars Pixar Comedy MTV concert stop motion stand-up comedy NBC Mary poppins nbcuniversal dceu comic satire Alien rotten cartoon Writers Guild of America FXX Women's History Month politics The Walking Dead SXSW nature First Reviews game show Endgame latino Tomatazos sequels ABC Family elevated horror Crackle Apple TV Plus Mystery TCA streaming superhero discovery Video Games RT21 Amazon Studios natural history romantic comedy Awards travel ABC Oscars harry potter 20th Century Fox Interview adventure TNT Superheroe screen actors guild OneApp YouTube Red zombie Emmys BET spain Netflix Christmas movies Masterpiece Heroines cooking cinemax Sundance TV scary movies ID Ovation FX cars 2018 video based on movie psycho toronto name the review joker crime drama TV Land documentary boxing Britbox miniseries Countdown Chernobyl supernatural Comedy Central hollywood TLC ESPN Paramount Network Academy Awards YouTube Premium Starz Horror Anna Paquin X-Men HBO Go Drama nfl a nightmare on elm street Film finale blockbuster boxoffice Cartoon Network indie psychological thriller talk show Hallmark Christmas movies Mary Tyler Moore Comics on TV TIFF universal monsters American Society of Cinematographers police drama italian biography Box Office Disney streaming service DC Comics IFC Films LGBTQ Summer Tubi BBC America binge Best and Worst AMC Sneak Peek political drama Character Guide festivals spanish worst movies facebook GLAAD justice league Disney period drama aliens San Diego Comic-Con screenings fresh Sony Pictures chucky YouTube Animation BBC 2019 Super Bowl emmy awards PaleyFest Sundance 4/20 Travel Channel science fiction Nat Geo cancelled TV shows 2017 Awards Tour casting independent Rom-Com Tarantino Teen Vudu Stephen King Infographic Disney+ Disney Plus renewed TV shows batman festival sitcom all-time cancelled television Netflix sag awards franchise remakes Discovery Channel social media VICE movie asian-american TCA Awards laika ratings james bond crime Tumblr A24 VH1 Red Carpet Disney Channel spider-man Sundance Now Film Festival Set visit spy thriller Trophy Talk Emmy Nominations Black History Month Creative Arts Emmys Universal black Mary Poppins Returns Action Music singing competition teaser tv talk Premiere Dates Nominations medical drama golden globes japanese Fall TV mockumentary Fox News cats Peacock dc PlayStation Spectrum Originals Certified Fresh Musicals Apple TV+ theme song christmas movies indiana jones Adult Swim USA Network war scorecard Valentine's Day space Marathons Dark Horse Comics MCU Lifetime Polls and Games Toys Amazon deadpool spanish language Television Academy TBS hist PBS 45 comiccon cops Freeform Lionsgate films Amazon Prime Video breaking bad Pop Marvel Television Podcast LGBT Reality 2020 best HBO Max TruTV TCA 2017 Shondaland comedies Crunchyroll DC Universe 2016 Year in Review thriller free movies APB Rocky CMT DGA Family DirecTV Acorn TV Nickelodeon Sci-Fi Mindy Kaling dogs robots BET Awards Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt VOD Classic Film Western Winter TV comics The CW National Geographic disaster die hard Lucasfilm DC streaming service Country Black Mirror romance Walt Disney Pictures Calendar A&E Pet Sematary Pirates Reality Competition Mudbound crossover what to watch australia Warner Bros. obituary Extras Musical Hear Us Out Schedule cults SundanceTV President cancelled south america award winner Syfy Pride Month Hallmark Disney Plus Pop TV The Witch documentaries 21st Century Fox Hulu Watching Series YA mission: impossible TV New York Comic Con richard e. Grant animated TCM rotten movies we love Biopics Amazon Prime E3 Holidays 24 frames Ghostbusters Binge Guide transformers MSNBC RT History Avengers children's TV book green book