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REVIEW: For Chilling Adventures of Sabrina, Fearless Ambition Pays Off

It's difficult to envision an alternate universe in which Chilling Adventures of Sabrina aired on The CW as a companion to Riverdale, as originally planned. Sure, they're both mature reimaginings of beloved Archie Comics characters, but whereas on Riverdale that translates to sometimes-inappropriate relationships, drugs and the occasional murder, on Chilling Adventures of Sabrina that means cannibalism, human sacrifice and declarations of "Hail Satan," by protagonists, no less. It's a dark -- dark! -- coming-of-age story that feels right at home on Netflix, where it's unlikely to be mistaken for its much safer broadcast cousin.

Basking in the influences of such 1960s and '70s horror films as Rosemary's Baby, The Exorcist, The Blood on Satan's Claw and The Wicker Man, Chilling Adventures of Sabrina is a glorious mess that, by all rights, shouldn't work, and yet it does -- even as it often feels as if it could spin out of control at any moment. It's frequently manic, occasionally frightening, and always entertaining.

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Mad Men actress Kiernan Shipka stars as Sabrina Spellman, a half-human, half-witch teenager who lives with her doting aunts, Hilda (Lucy Davis) and Zelda (Miranda Otto). That much of the premise will be familiar to anyone with a passing knowledge of the comics or the 1990s television comedy. There's also Sabrina's human boyfriend Harvey Kinkle (Ross Lynch), her cousin Ambrose (Chance Perdomo) and her feline familiar Salem. Beyond that, though, everything about Sabrina's hometown of Greendale is viewed through a fun house mirror, smeared with blood. That's because, on her 16th birthday, Sabrina is expected to renounce her human life, and sign her name in blood in the Book of the Beast, pledging her life to the service of the Dark Lord (hail Satan). However, that's not exactly what Sabrina has in mind, a decision that sets into motion a series of events that threatens not only her and her family, but the entire town.

Torn between her love for her human friends and her devotion to her family, the quick-witted Sabrina is determined to find a way to outsmart the Devil, and Father Blackwood (Richard Coyle), the High Priest of the Church of Night, and live with one foot in each world. But every step of the way, she's manipulated by forces as disparate as her loving aunts, the trouble-making Weird Sisters, and Ms. Wardell (Michelle Gomez), a Baxter High teacher who's secretly possessed by Satan's handmaiden. What's a teenager to do?

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