TV Review: Chilling Adventures of Sabrina 2.4 “Doctor Cerberus’s House of Horrors” (dir by Alex Garcia Lopez)


Is Chilling Adventures of Sabrina the most underlit show on Netflix?

Seriously, every scene on the show seems to take place in near darkness.  I get that’s because the show itself is supposed to be dark and spooky and I appreciate the fact that the show is trying to maintain a proper atmosphere but still, as I watched the fourth episode of the 2nd season, I found myself shouting, “Will someone turn on a freaking light!?”  Like a lot of things about this show, the constant darkness seems like one of those “it seemed like a good idea at the time” concepts.

That said, I also have to say that I liked this installment a bit more than the previous episode.  Though it can probably be correctly stated that this was something of a filler episode, it still had enough surreal moments to remain entertaining.  In fact, it reminded me a bit of last season’s superior Dreams In A Witch House.  Like that episode, House of Horrors largely took place in the minds of the show’s characters.  Whereas Dreams In A Witch House used the character’s nightmares as a way to provide a glimpse of their subconscious fears and desires, this episode used Tarot readings.

The episode begins with Hilda and Dr. Cee hanging out at Cerebrus Books.  No mention is made of the fact that Dr. Cee apparently has an incubus inside of him, which seems like an odd thing to go unmentioned.  Anyway, a fortune teller (played by Veronica Cartwright) shows up and asks if she can do readings in the back of the store.  Hilda and Dr. Cee promptly agree because …. well, when do they ever say no to anyone?

For the next hour, various characters wandered into Cerebrus Books and got their fortune read.  The fortune teller turning over her cards would lead to everyone having a surreal vision of the future.  The visions rarely turned out well but, with one huge exception, the fortune teller was always quick to explain that the ominous vision was actually a good thing.  For instance, Sabrina may have seen herself getting killed during Nick’s magic show but the fortune teller was quick to explain that the vision meant Sabrina should put her faith in Nick and not trust anyone else.  Theo may have had a vision of turning into a boy and then having his body turn to wood but apparently, that meant Theo should trust others to help him out.  Roz was thinking of having an operation to get her sight restored but her vision — in which a blind girl accused Roz of stealing her eyes — convinced Roz that she should remain blind.  Harvey saw that going to Rhode Island would lead to him having a Satanic roommate.  Hilda envisioned telling Father Blackwood the truth about the baby but then discovered that would just lead to Blackwood cheating on her.  “Some secrets,” the fortune teller announces, “should stay secrets.”

Finally, Ambrose showed up and got his vision of the future.  Four things disturbed him.  First off, Luke was nowhere in the vision.  Secondly, in the vision, Father Blackwood made him a member of the Judas Society and ordered him to murder the Spellmans.  Third, in the vision, Ambrose did just that.  And fourth, the fortune teller told Ambrose this was going to happen, regardless of what he did.

Rushing to Father Blackwood’s office, Ambrose asked for an assurance that Father Blackwood would never hurt the Spellmans. “Of course not!” Blackwood replied before informing Ambrose that Luke was dead and that Ambrose was now a member of the Judas Society….

After all this, it was revealed that the fortune teller had actually been Ms. Wardwell in disguise.  I can’t say that I was particularly surprised by this reveal.  Since Wardwell was, up until the show’s final five minutes, the only regular not to have made an appearance, it was obvious that the fortune teller would turn out to be her.  I’m going to assume that her advice was intentionally bad and we should definitely be worried about Sabrina’s relationship with Nick.

Anyway, this episode was entertaining enough.  Since Sabrina is really the only multidimensional character on the show, Chilling Adventures can be uneven when it doesn’t focus on her but this show managed to do a pretty good job with the other characters.  We may not have learned anything new about any of them but some of their visions were enjoyably surreal and macabre.  The scenes of Theo’s body turning to wood were well-handled and Roz’s vision was genuinely frightening.  Even though you knew they weren’t real, the scenes of a murderous Ambrose stalking through the Spellman House were appropriately creepy.

Up next in the TSL’s Sabrina review-a-thon: Case returns with his reviews of Episodes Five and Six!

The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina, S2,Ep2 Review By Case Wright


sabrina

Hello friends. Last time we spoke, it was really hard.  I wondered if my second favorite show after Santa Clarita Diet went Lost Season 2 on me.  The season opener was bad…really bad.  It was scary for me to watch the second episode.  I was actually worried that the show was a season 1 fluke or maybe I misread or willfully blinded myself to a meh show. Well, I’m happy to write that this episode was a solid …. Not Bad.  Its flaws were LEGION (and we’ll go over those), but the story had a theme, character growth, and despair.  Honestly, through in some Adele and Ben and Jerry’s and you got the makings of a lonely night in as you watch yourself age and love sulks away from you, broken, and never to return.

The episode is all about unrequited love and who We should be, but who We really are.  It’s fun, if you’re in the mood for it.  It was written by new writer Mj Kaufman and Christina Ham (Orphan Black) and these writers capture the loneliness of all of the most interesting characters.

The Devil talks to Ms Wardwell who we know is Lilith (Adam’s First Wife).  He not too gently casts her aside and tells Wardwell/Lilith that Sabrina is to be Satan’s Prophet and Queen, not Her.  The heartbreak is palpable, but the Devil’s  Costume looks like a step above Party City and it really takes me out of it.  Lilith asserts that Sabrina is too goody goody to be the Devil’s main squeeze and they wager on it: have Sabrina steal a stick of gum.  Sabrina resists.

I gotta ask why? She seemed all on board the Midnight Train to Gethsemane with Old Scratch, but she just can’t bring herself to steal the forbidden Fruit Stripe.  I would’ve been all in for the Freshen Up gum…ya know the one with the goo inside…I liked it….Whatever.  Because she refused, Satan starts hurting people around Sabrina by giving them Chickenpox.  WHAAAA?  Chickenpox?! What kind of anti-vax town is Greendale?! Let it burn to the ground! They’ll give us all measles!  To make amends to Satan, she starts to burn the school down as per Satan’s command.  Well, why bother?! They’ll all get Whooping Cough soon enough away.  Come on, Lucifer…this town is doomed and weird.

There are good subplots the Lilith story, which is a nice evil love story where Ms Wardwell watches her life portrayed as entertainment.  The Evil Dean wrote and produces a play of Lilith and Satan falling in sort of love.  It might of brought her a smile, but instead it brings tears because Satan has found a new special lady and Lilith’s destined to be eternally alone. We see in Ms Wardwell AKA Lilith how love is supposed to be, but how it withers and dies.

Suzie is now Theo is the focus of the other subplot. She should be accepted as a boy, but it doesn’t quite work out that way.  Theo tries to change in the boy’s locker room and is mocked by some, but gawked at by all.  The shot is done very well. We close up on the known bullies from the previous episodes, but then the camera pulls back and ALL of the boys are gawking silently, waiting to see female nudity regardless of her gender identity.  They simply can’t help it.  Where we should be, but who we are.  It’s disappointing, realistic, and sad.

Sabrina and Harvey react to a sensual spark and begin making out, but her tie to Satan destroys the encounter and ends their love affair forever.  What their love should be and the reality cannot be.

This was a good episode overall.  It allowed you to see and not be told Lilith’s story and the struggles that everyone has against loneliness and despair.

Adele

*SPOILERS* Chilling Adventures of Sabrina, S1 Ep 7: Feast of Feasts, (Dir. Viet Nguyen) Review-


STAW

Happy Horrorthon Home Stretch!!! Devil’s Eve is today.  Devil’s Eve is the day before the Great Samhain rises from the ground and goes door to door selling auto insurance at competitive rates…as the Druids taught him.

Those last reviews by Lisa were awesome as usual- Check them out, like them, and get Mia Farrow to live tweet while reading them!

Episode 7, Directed by Viet Nguyen, focuses around jealousy, betrayal, and corruption. Viet Nguyen is typically a film editor who occasionally directs.  I’m not sure if horror is where he is best suited to direct.  He usually directs action iZombie/The Flash/Legends of Tomorrow, camera shots that zero in on main characters with long still shots from below to reflect their larger than life hero or villain status.  The problem is that these long shots tend to diffuse the suspense that horror needs.  Take a look at the horror directed by Guy Norman Bee or Josh Stolberg.  The shots are at eye level with a slow push-in.  These people at your level and can get YOU.  Viet has done great work, but as I have written in other reviews Horror directing is a specialized art form where building suspense is its beating heart.

The story focus was narrowed.  Instead of an overarching drama piece where Sabrina straddles two worlds like a witchy Gilmore Girls, it’s a personal story of a father betraying his daughter with courtly intrigue.  The Feast of Feasts commemorates the bodily sacrifice to her fellow starving witches to eat her.  This story gives another piece to the backstory of the town vs the witches and how the townsfolk massacred the witches years ago.  It’s like the Taylor V Sutton feud, but with more goth makeup.

Each witch family in the coven in Hunger Games style has to send in a tribute to be “Queen”.  The Queen embodies Freya by getting massacred and eaten by the coven to celebrate Freya’s sacrifice.  The main course is chosen by lots.  Sabrina’s annoyed that her Aunt Z participates in the drawing and insists on being part of the drawing to see if Aunt Z will speak out that the ritual is barbaric.  Does it work? Not so much.  Sabrina and Prudence go head to head and Sabrina is picked to be Prudence’s servant and Prudence draws the dinner card.

The storyline meanders a bit and it focuses around courtly intrigue and headmaster ascension… yawn.  Turns out the drawing was rigged by the Headmaster’s wife who knows that Prudence is the Headmaster’s illegitimate child and threat to her kid because of a possible inheritance dispute….boring.  When I reviewed Stranger Things, there was a mediocre episode too.  Overall, this episode is not perfect, but good enough. The episode ends with Prudence’s toadies causing a mine cave-in, which sets off a very cool story arc!!!!

Cheers!!!

Chilling Adventures of Sabrina 1.6 “Chapter Six: An Exorcism In Greendale” (dir by Rachel Talalay)


So, I’m just going to start this review out by honestly admitting that the sixth episode of Chilling Adventures of Sabrina didn’t do as much for me as the previous episodes.

A lot of that, though, is because any show would struggle to follow up an episode as brilliant as Dreams In A Witch House.  The show didn’t do itself any favors by following up that episode, where Sabrina had to battle and trap a viscous demon, with another episode in which Sabrina had to battle and trap a viscous demon.  That similarity alone makes it impossible not to compare the two episodes against each other and, unfortunately, there’s no way to really top what went on in Episode 5.

Episode 6 does start out with an interesting example of psychological manipulation on the part of Ms. Wardwell.  With Sabrina confronting her about both being a witch and spying on her, Wardwell is quick to claim that she once wanted to marry a mortal and that she was an acolyte of Sabrina’s father.  Wardwell claims that she’s only been spying on Sabrina because Edward Spellman requested it.  Since Sabrina is still struggling to work out her feelings towards her deceased parents and their legacy, Wardwell told exactly the right lie to keep Sabrina from completely dismissing her.  However, Wardwell then took it too far by claiming that she had been in love with Edward.  Sabrina tells Wardwell to stay away from her but, by the end of the episode, Wardwell has once again go Sabrina confiding in her.

How does Ms. Wardwell accomplish this?

The answer is right in this episode’s title.  Wardwell helps Sabrina to do something that no witch has ever done before.  Wardwell helps Sabrina to exorcise a demon.

It turns out that Susie’s Uncle Jesse has been possessed by a demon, one who claims to be named Maerceci.  (Write it down on a piece of paper and then stand in front of a mirror.  As Ambrose puts it, demons have got a terrible sense of humor.)  Not only are Roz, Susie, and Harvey being haunted by visions of Uncle Jesse but apparently, the demon is going to possess one of them as soon as it gets finished devouring Jesse.  Despite being told that witches are not allowed to perform exorcisms, Sabrina, Wardwell, Hilda, and eventually Zelda do just that.

(It turns out that, in another case of deus ex Edward, Sabrina’s father just happened to come up with a exorcism ritual for witches, which leads to the question of whether there’s anything that Edward didn’t do before he died.)

The exorcism is a success, though Sabrina soon learns that it takes more than just successfully casting a spell to make people happy.  Even after he’s freed from the demon, Uncle Jesse still dies.  (He’s killed by Wardwell, though Sabrina doesn’t know that.)  Thanks to the demon, Roz fears that she’s losing her eyesight because her faith isn’t strong enough.  Harvey is still scared to death of going into the mines and worries that Sabrina thinks that he’s less of a man as a result.  The demon may be gone but Susie remains traumatized by the demon’s taunts and, by the end of the episode, is declaring, “I won’t be an abomination!”  In the end, that’s the main lesson of an Exorcism in Greendale.  Just because a story ends in with special effects and a temporary victory, that doesn’t erase the pain that came before.

Anyway, this was an okay episode.  It moved forward Sabrina’s relationship with Wardwell so, if nothing else, it served its purpose.  I hate to say it but I probably would have had a better reaction to this episode if the demon had been taunting Hilda, Zelda, and Ambrose as opposed to Sabrina’s friends.  The witches are just more interesting than the mortals.

Case is going to be reviewing the rest of this season so I’m going to wrap up this review by sharing my thoughts on the show as a whole.  As the first season of any show will, Chilling Adventures of Sabrina has its flaws.  Overall, though, it’s a good show.  I go back and forth on whether I like Michelle Gomez’s stylized performance as Ms. Wardwell but Kiernan Shipka, Lucy Davis, Miranda Otto, and Chance Perdomo are all perfectly cast.  (Kiernan Shipka simply is Sabrina.)  Ross Lynch also deserves a lot of credit for making Harvey into a compelling character.  I’m looking forward to seeing where this show goes in the future.

Oh — and, of course, I absolutely adore Salem!

(photo credit: Stewart Cook/REX/Shutterstock)

Chilling Adventures of Sabrina 1.5 “Chapter Five: Dreams In A Witch House” (dir by Maggie Kelly)


They say you can tell a lot about someone by what they dream about.  I certainly believe that to be true.  (In fact, I’ve got an entire site dedicated to that very concept.)  That’s certainly the argument made in episode 5 of Chilling Adventures of Sabrina.

The plot, simply enough, is that Sabrina has unleashed a sleep demon named Batibat.  Years ago, Sabrina’s father trapped Batibat in a puzzle box.  Unfortunately, it was the same puzzle box that Sabrina had to solve to earn her right to take conjuring classes.  As soon as Batibat gets out, she announces that she has two goals: 1) revenge on the Spellmans and 2) screwing stuff up in the outside world.  Zelda casts a spell to trap Batibat inside the house.  The spell works but then Batibat casts a sleeping spell and soon, Sabrina, Ambrose, Hilda, and Zelda are all having nightmares designed to cause them so much pain and anguish that they’ll reveal how to break the spell.

Ambrose’s nightmare is simple but effective.  The nightmare deals with Ambrose’s inability to leave the house.  The dream starts with him performing an autopsy on a corpse who looks just like him.  Ambrose even eats the corpse’s heart, leading to Hilda asking him what it tastes like.  “Bitter,” is the reply.  The self-cannibalism is interrupted by Father Blackwood announcing that Ambrose’s sentence has been commuted and he can leave the house.  However, before Ambrose can walk through that front door, he’s stabbed by Batibat and finds himself in morgue, being cut open by himself.  Agck!

Hilda’s nightmare is finding herself sewn to her Zelda.  Meanwhile, Zelda, in his nightmare, jealousy kills Hilda and then can’t bring her back to life.  It’s an interesting dynamic.  Hilda’s greatest fear is never escaping from Zelda’s shadow.  (She’s also apparently worried that Principal Hawthorne will ask her out, just to reveal that he absorbed his twin brother in the womb.)  Zelda’s greatest fear is losing Hilda.

(It’s also interesting that Zelda’s dream opened with her mocking the biblical version of Adam and Eve’s expulsion from the Garden of Eden but then quickly turned into a retelling of the story of Cain and Abel.  Just as with Cain, Zelda’s anger was sparked by her God’s preference for her sibling’s offering.  After Zelda killed Hilda, she even asked, “Am I my sister’s keeper?”)

And then Sabrina — oh my God, poor Sabrina.  I felt bad for her because I’ve had nightmares like the one that she had.  After dreaming that her school has become a combination of Baxter High and the Academy of the Unseen Arts, she also dreams that Harvey has asked her to marry him.  Even though everyone tells Sabrina that witches and mortal can never marry, Sabrina is convinced that things will work out with Harvey.  (Though, interestingly enough, Nick Scratch shows up pretty prominently in her dream, as well.  Considering that she only met Nick three days ago, it’s telling that Sabrina is already dreaming about him as a possible rival for Harvey.)  Sabrina even tells Harvey that she’s a witch and Harvey says he doesn’t mind.  Sabrina’s father comes back to life to walk Sabrina down the aisle.  However, as soon as Sabrina and Harvey marry, Harvey’s family turns on her.  While the mortals in the church scream at her, Sabrina sees that her side of the family, the witches, are resentfully refusing to come to her aide, leaving her with no one.  Sabrina is dragged away from the altar and tossed in an iron maiden!

Fortunately, for Sabrina, Ms. Wardwell is wandering through everyone’s dreams and she gives Sabrina some advice on how to escape.  Even more fortunately, Sabrina has a familiar named Salem….

Look, I’m as disappointed as anyone by the fact that we don’t actually get to hear Salem speak in Chilling Adventures of Sabrina.  That said, this was a great Salem episode.  Salem not only bravely distracted Batibat but he also gave Sabrina good, if unheard (by us), advice.  I have to admit that, considering how dark this series tends to get, I was a bit worried when Batibat started chasing Salem through the house.  Well, fear not!  Salem lives!

In fact, everyone lives, Batibat is once again imprisoned, and Sabrina finally figures out that Ms. Wardwell is more than just a reclusive teacher.  At the end of the episode, Sabrina is at Wardwell’s house, demanding to know “who and what” she is.

This was the best episode that I’ve seen so far.  Not only does this episode do a great job of capturing the twisty logic of dreams but it also provides insight into whose these characters are.  Of course, we already knew that Sabrina is conflicted over being half-human and half-witch but now, we know that she’s worried that the other witches will abandon her and that Harvey wouldn’t be strong enough to stand up for her if her secret got out.  We knew that Hilda felt inferior to Zelda but now, we know just how desperate Hilda is to escape her sister’s shadow.  And, at the same time, we now understand why Zelda will never allow Hilda to escape.  Zelda needs Hilda even more than Hilda needs Zelda.  And finally, this episode was elevated by Batibat, a frightening creation if there ever was one.  Batibat not only gave people nightmares but she was a nightmare herself.

Next episode: Sabrina confronts Ms. Wardwell!

Chilling Adventures of Sabrina 1.4 “Chapter 4: Witch Academy” (dir by Rob Seidenglanz)


Witch Academy opens with Sabrina (Kiernan Shipka), Harvey (Ross Lynch), Roz (Jaz Sinclair), and Susie (Lachlan Watson) debating just what exactly The Fly was about.  Harvey just thinks it was just a film about a guy who turns into a fly.  Ros says that it’s about body dysmorphia.  Sabrina points out that Cronenberg said that the film was about STDs.

(Actually, they’re all wrong.  The Fly was actually a pilot for a Canadian TV series about a sarcastic fly and an earnest tabloid journalist who team up to help people, solve crimes, and battle climate change.)

It’s the weekend and that means that it’s time to debate horror movies and get ready for three days of terrifying drama in the lives of Sabrina Spelmman and her friends.  Ros is desperate to get out of having to do church stuff so she agrees to spend the weekend hanging out with Susie.  Harvey would love to spend all of his time with Sabrina but it turns out that Sabrina is going to be gone for the entire weekend.  She tells Harvey that she’s going to a farm expo with Hilda.  But we all know that she’s actually starting as a part-time student at The Academy of the Unseen Arts!

Unfortunately, the Academy turns out to be a fairly unfriendly environment.  Sabrina is not even allowed to bring Salem with her and she’s immediately bullied by Prudence Night (Tati Gabrielle) and two other witches.  Sabrina is put through the harrowing, which is a witch version of extreme hazing.  Sabrina even meets the ghosts of several children who, over the years, have died during the harrowing.  They want revenge but, in a rather sweet twist, they can’t pursue it unless someone gives them permission to do so.  Fortunately, despite having been excommunicated last episode, Zelda (Lucy Davis) still comes to the school and gives them permission to do what they want.

(At one point, Sabrina points out that the witches are treating a fellow witch as cruelly as the mortals once treated them.  Unfortunately, Prudence and her witches fail to appreciate Sabrina’s point.)

Perhaps even worse than the hazing is the fact that Sabrina isn’t being allowed to take any conjuring classes.  Father Blackwood (Richard Coyle) says that he needs to make sure that Sabrina is capable of handling conjuring but could it be that he secretly suspects that the only reason Sabrina agreed to attend the Academy was so she could learn how to defeat Satan.  Father Blackwood gives Sabrina a puzzle and says that, if she can solve it, she can take conjuring classes.  It turns out that the puzzle was made by her father and, with the help of a student named Nicholas Scratch (Gavin Leatherwood), Sabrina does solve it.  Of course, as soon as she does, a demon shows up and things end with Sabrina screaming in terror.  Nothing’s easy when you’re a witch.

While Sabrina was dealing with Witch Academy, her friends were dealing with Susie’s Uncle Jesse.  Apparently, Jesse used to work in the mines and he hasn’t been the same ever since he saw the same monster that Harvey saw when Harvey was a child.  In fact, Harvey’s attempts to tell Uncle Jesse about his experience led to Jesse going crazy and attacking him.

Meanwhile, Ambrose violated the terms of his sentencing by using astral projection so he could go on an extremely awkward date and Madam Satan (in the form of Ms. Wardwell) managed to get into the Spellman house.  It was a busy three days in Greendale!

This was a pretty good episode.  If I’m not as enthusiastic about Witch Academy and I was about The Trial of Sabrina Spellman, it’s just because the whole hazing subplot was a bit predictable.  That said, Kiernan Shipka continues to impress in every single scene in which she appears and Lucy Davis had some great moments in the episode as well.  After watching this episode, I’m a bit concerned that Sabrina and Harvey are heading for heartbreak because 1) the Witch Academy is a huge part of Sabrina’s life that she won’t be able to tell him about and 2) she’s going to have to keep coming up with excuses for why she can’t spend the weekend with him.  Add to that, she seems to have a lot more in common with Nicholas Scratch than with Harvey Kinkle.

But for now, Sabrina’s main concern has to be with the demon that’s just been conjured up in her bedroom.  We’ll see how she deals with that in episode 5!