Heads Up, Parents: Chilling Adventures of Sabrina Is Not For Kids
For most people, Sabrina the Teenage Witch conjures up images of the late '90s/early 2000s sitcom or the brightly colored pages of your favorite comic book. The ABC comedy was a staple in the family-friendly TGIF lineup, full of lighthearted teenage hijinks and wholesome sitcom banter. Aside from an occasional innuendo from the ever-snarky Salem, nothing was inappropriate for even the youngest viewers.
Netflix's reboot, Chilling Adventures of Sabrina, is not that show. The basic premise remains the same: Sabrina Spellman is a half-mortal, half-witch teenager who is approaching the magical milestone of her 16th birthday and must figure out how to navigate her blended identity in both worlds. Aside from that, however, the Netflix series has little in common with its predecessor. Instead of slapstick comedy and goofy humor, Chilling Adventures embraces the darker side of its world of witchcraft, with all the creepiness and violence that entails. It still has a sense of humor, but the aesthetic as a whole is much more of a retro-horror vibe than anything else.
If you have younger children, it might be better to stick with old Sabrina the Teenage Witch reruns for now. Teens would probably be fine with Chilling Adventures's darker tone, but you know your family best, so if you're debating whether or not to stream the series as a family, read on for our comprehensive guide.
Warning: minor spoilers for Chilling Adventures of Sabrina lie ahead.
The show doesn't avoid violence.
Within the first few scenes of the first episode, Sabrina's favorite teacher Ms. Wardwell is brutally murdered by a demonic entity. The show doesn't shy away from showing the bloody aftermath. While it's not quite Walking Dead levels of gross, for the most part (aside from a gruesome cannibalistic ritual later in the season), there's no discretion shots either. Throughout the series, acts of violence take place on and off at a similarly explicit level, and bloodshed itself is a plot point.
There's a significant horror factor.
Witch-ghosts, a spider attack, Satanic rituals, and nightmares galore: this Sabrina is definitely a horror series as much as a coming-of-age tale. Even the scenes that aren't directly violent are deeply creepy, and Sabrina's battles with demonic forces are at the forefront, including an episode that revolves around a Hunger Games-style ritual that involves entrails nailed to doors and cannibalistic sacrifice. Later in the season, a necromantic ritual forms an important plot point, with upsetting results. Definitely take the "chilling" part of the title seriously.
These witches are DARK.
If you're remembering the perky Halloweentown-esque "Other Realm" of the ABC sitcom, think again. Chilling Adventures hinges its mythology on Sabrina's "Dark Baptism," an induction into the witch community that serves the Dark Lord. No, not Voldemort — the literal Devil with a capital D. Sabrina's witchy rivals-turned-sometimes-allies, the Weird Sisters, openly enjoy inflicting torment on mortals, and Aunt Zelda regularly kills Aunt Hilda (who apparently can resurrect each time).
Bullying happens in both realms.
Early in the first episode, Sabrina finds herself targeted by the Weird Sisters, a trio of mean-girl witches who taunt her half-mortal heritage and try to set a curse on her. Meanwhile, in the mortal realm, Sabrina's friend Susie is the target of gross violations and bullying over gender identity. The nastiness and bullying isn't played for laughs, but is presented in a very real and frightening way. Even at home, the animosity between Hilda and Zelda erupts into violence, and the "wicked" ways of the Academy of Dark Arts includes a particularly nasty hazing.
Sexuality isn't so taboo.
While Chilling Adventures is, ultimately, about teenagers and doesn't go into Game of Thrones levels of sexposition, it also doesn't pretend sexuality doesn't exist. In an early episode, Sabrina needs someone to check her body for a witch's mark, and the only person she trusts to do it is her boyfriend Harvey. The virginity of two characters — Aunt Hilda and a mortal teenage boy — is directly discussed, and Sabrina's aunt questions her to find out if she's slept with Harvey because the Dark Lord requires witches to be virginal at their Dark Baptism. The witch community, meanwhile, involves a fair bit of sexual content: Sabrina stumbles upon a witch orgy at the Academy, and Zelda sleeps with Father Blackwood.