This Chilling Adventures of Sabrina articles contains nothing but spoilers. We have a spoiler-free review right here if you prefer.
Like Riverdale before it, Chilling Adventures of Sabrina is a series steeped in popular culture. Creator/show-runner Roberto Aquirre-Sacasa has gone on record with his love of the horror genre several times, and a series like this one is a supernatural playground of allusions and references. More than just tipping its hat to fright flicks however, the series also has some surprising connections to the Archieverse at large…both on TV and in the printed page.
This guide is a monster, but it is not yet definitive. So if you catch a reference that I didn’t, give me a holler on Twitter and I will update this article accordingly. Together we can make this the complete guide to Greendale and its spooky goings on!
Again though, a quick word of warning, spoilers abound below, so tread lightly — or watch the whole season –before diving into the depths of hell (i.e. this article).
Chilling Adventures of Sabrina Episode 1: October Country – Chapter One: October Country
“While Greendale readies for a Halloween eclipse, Sabrina faces a crucial decision and Harvey makes an unexpected declaration.”
– Let’s start off by discussing the jaw-dropping title sequence that brings Robert Hack’s incredible art from the Chilling Adventures of Sabrina comic (on which this series is based) to life. Hack is one of the best comic artists working today, so to see his work honored in such a manner is truly thrilling. His work is full of autumnal hues, and the show’s visual style is clearly influenced by his art,
– Fittingly, the series itself begins with the characters taking in a classic horror film, George Romero’s legendary 1968 effort Night of the Living Dead. That theater also is showing off posters for giant ants run amok classic, Them!.
– Sabrina and her gang like to hang at this show’s version of Pop Tate’s Chok’lit Shoppe – Cerebus Books, named after the hound of hell.
– I’m not going to mention every music cue used in the series, but you’ve got to admire the show really going for it by including such on-the-nose cues as “Bad Moon Rising” whenever possible.
– Mary Wardwell mentions taking the strange road child to see Dr. Saperstein in the morning…which just happens to be the name of Henry Winkler’s character on Parks and Recreation. Money pleeeeease!
– The portrait of Edward and Diana Spellman looks identical to their comic book counterparts.
– Ambrose is sporting an Aloha from Hell shirt, although its not clear if this is a reference to the now-defunct mid-aughts German rock group or Richard Kadrey’s novel about a character who is “trapped in the middle of a war between heaven and hell.” Both of these fit the character, to be honest.
– YOU GUYS, SABRINA HAS A VINTAGE THERMOS FEATURING THE ARCHIES ON IT. This is the first of many Archie Comics references that pepper the first season, suggesting that in this show’s universe, Archie and the gang are fictional characters. We’ll have more on this in a bit.
– The murdered witch in this episode is named Connor Kemper. Does anyone know of that name bears any signifigance?
– When Sabrina kisses Harvey to make him forget that she is a witch, it felt very much like the end of Superman II when Clark planted one on Lois so that he could erase her memory of his true identity.
– Among the posters on Sabrina’s walls are one of David Bowie (natch) and an original movie poster for Häxan, an infamous 1922 Swedish film about witchcraft that is deeply unsettling…and should be a regular part of your Halloween viewing.
– Like Riverdale, this series features an end credits Archie Comics production card…one that morphs from a classic image of ‘America’s Typical Teenager’ into a Robert Hack drawing of Sabrina. It’s delightful.
– Want to know more about Salem the cat? We’ve got you covered.
Chilling Adventures of Sabrina Episode 2 – Chapter Two: Dark Baptism
“A legendary guest visits Spellman Mortuary, Ambrose explores a grim revelation, and Sabrina stuns the coven with a shocking announcement.”
– Although the pilot episode was named, it doesn’t seem like the subsequent nine installments of the series were. If this proves not to be the case I will update this article.
– Hilda mentions that Edward “could have been a movie star like cousin Montgomery.” My best guess is that this is a reference to the tragic Hollywood star Montgomery Clift of the 1950s and ’60s, arguably best known for his work in The Misfits and immortalized in R.E.M.’s 1992 song “Monty Got a Raw Deal.”
– When the title card announces that the date in Halloween, it features the words “Sabrina’s birthday” in orange font. This brings to mind the title sequence of John Carpenter’s original Halloween film, as well as its current sequel.
– The goat to be used in Sabrina’s dark baptism is named Black Narcissus, after Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger’s mind-bending 1947 film. It also can be interpreted as a reference to Black Phillip, the horned scene-stealer from The Witch.
– Zelda and Hilda’s relationship, right down to Hilda rising from the grave whenever Zelda kills her in a fit of frustration, feels an awful lot like Cain and Abel, the “hosts” of DC’s classic 1970s horror comic, House of Secrets. They later made appearances in Neil Gaiman’s similarly classic Sandman series.
– Another obvious but perfect music cue: Electric Light Orchestra’s “Strange Magic.” I’ll take a dive with this song anytime.
Chilling Adventures of Sabrina Episode 3 – Chapter Three: The Trial of Sabrina Spellman
“As Sabrina confronts a long line of family secrets, Harvey faces turmoil at home — and shares a secret of his own.”
– The Baxter High bathroom door contains a sigh that reads “Conserve Water: Plug it up, plug it up, plug it up!” in reference to the Carrie film —which was the inspiration for last year’s musical episode of Riverdale and has a long and fascinating history in its own right.
– The book that Roz wants to read but the school has banned is Toni Morrison’s 1970 novel The Bluest Eye, a novel which has been frequently by schools banned due to its controversial subject matter.
– Daniel Webster was a real-life politician (he served as Secretary of State under three presidents) who inspired the fantasy story and film The Devil and Daniel Webster, chronicling his dark experiences with Old Scratch.
– A cover to an issue of the Archie’s Madhouse comic can be glimpsed on the walls in Harvey’s room.
– Did anyone else get a Kryptonian judges vibe from how the Infernal Three were lit in the courtroom sequence?
– At the 28:38 mark, a student hangs up a flyer for the Greendale Ravens’ bowling match against the Riverdale Bulldogs — marking the first Riverdale High reference in Chilling Adventures of Sabrina.
– Ambrose asks Luke if he’s a vampire, confirming that those supernatural creatures exist in this world too.
– Dr. Specter is Roz’s opthomologist. Har har.
Chilling Adventures of Sabrina Episode 4 – Chapter Four: Witch Academy
“Sabrina takes a weekend trip. Father Blackwood poses a pivotal question. Roz and Susie stage an impromptu — and unnerving — sleepover.”
– To comment on the discussion that opens this episode, David Cronenberg’s 1986 remake of The Fly can be looked at as both a parable about STDs and a story of body dysmophia. So both Susie and Sabrina’s interpretations of the film are correct.
– The secret exterior of the Academy of Unseen Arts is a disused train depot called Gehenna Station — with Gehenna being a biblical term for a hellish place.
– Roz and Susie watch the 1962 indie chiller Carnival of Souls and damn, these kids have impeccable taste.
– Susie’s Uncle is named Jessie and there’s no part of me that doesn’t believe this is some sort of wacky Full House reference.
– The Ackaron Configuration puzzle box created by Sabrina’s dad seems a wee bit Hellraiser, no?
– Although usually less menacing than portrayed here, psychopomps are guides to the afterlife in literature and folklore.
– Does anyone else find it hilarious that the Academy of Unseen Arts has a choir? You just know by season three they are going to get into a Pitch Perfect showdown with the River Vixens.
– Santana’s “Black Magic Woman” plays while somewhere a music supervisor phones it in…
– So the all night harrowing Sabrina endures basically consists of people Sabrina loves standing behind her, trying to get her to turn around, then she hears the sounds of them being devoured by monsters. This goes on all night. So at some point, she had to run out of people she loved and mild acquaintances like Bob the UPS Guy had to turn up. Hardly the most effective form of psychological torture.
– A poster of the cover art for issue 13 of Archie’s Madhouse also hangs on Harvey’s bedroom wall. This is the second Madhouse cover featured as set dressing in Harvey’s room and I think this dude might just be even a bigger fan of Archie Comics than I am (if such a thing is possible). At this point, it is worth mentioning that the Sabrina character herself — created by George Gladir and illustrated by Dan DeCarlo –debuted in the 22nd issue of this comic.
Chilling Adventures of Sabrina Episode 5 – Chapter Five: Dreams in a Witch House
“A mysterious demon wreaks havoc on Spellman Mortuary. Sabrina goes rogue and puts her powers to the test.”
– The “saucy” book that Hilda is loving and Zelda is annoyed by is Donna Thorland’s The Turncoat: Renegades of the Revolution.
– “Alas poor Ambrose, I knew him well…” This episode lays on the Hamlet stuff thick, eh?
– The story about Principal Hawthorne’s conjoined twin is very much a homage to Basket Case, Frank Henenlotter’s sleazy 1982 horror film that is perhaps the pinnacle of human achievement, no hyperbole.
– Batty Bat’s appearance seems largely based on the makeup design from the underrated 1990 Nicholas Roeg film The Witches.
Chilling Adventures of Sabrina Episode 6 – Chapter Six: An Exorcism in Greendale
“Harvey, Roz and Susie explore a mysterious force of evil. Sabrina digs deeper into Ms. Wardwell’s intentions. Hilda pursues a new beginning.”
– Ambrose’s outfit at the start of this episode is a callback to Johnny Depp’s first major on-screen role as a doomed teen in Nightmare on Elm Street.
– Hilda is very well versed in her knowledge of real life horror movie TV hosts, name-dropping Svengoolie, Count Gore de Vol and Vampira.
– Ambrose has a poster for that wild Bette Davis/Joan Crawford cult favorite Whatever Happened to Baby Jane?, the production of which was the focus of the first season of the excellent FX series Feud, hanging on his bedroom wall.
– “A map? To what? This isn’t The Goonies!” This reference is more than good enough.
– Apophis seems to be inspired by an actual Egyptian snake demon named Apep. The more you know!
– The shot of Hilda, Sabrina, and Ms. Wardwell arriving at the Putnam’s fog-shrouded home is a shout-out to an iconic shot from The Exorcist (one that was featured on the film’s poster). Most of this episode pays tribute to that William Friedkin frightfest, but this one moment is the most subtle…and memorable.
– During the exorcism, Sabrina invokes the names of several strong women with supernatural ties from throughout history — including Morgan Le Fay, King Arthur’s older sister who was an adversary for Jughead in the Jughead’s Time Police comic of the early 1990s.
– At Cerebus Books, Luke is clearly holding a copy of the Afterlife with Archie comic. This is interesting as at reinforces my suspicions that in this show’s universe, Archie is a fictional character (as also seen on Sabrina’s thermos and on the posters in Harvey’s room). This could also be a sly shout out to the fact that in the first issue of the Afterlife comic, Sabrina used the book of the dead to bring back Jughead’s pet Hot Dog… but the resurrection went wrong and she inadvertently kickstarted the zombie apocalypse. We see later in this season just how terrible Sabrina is at necromancy, but this moment is some deep dive foreshadowing that rewards fans of the Archie Horror comics.
Chilling Adventures of Sabrina Episode 7 – Chapter Seven: Feast of Feasts
“The coven prepares for an annual ritual as Harvey takes part in a Kinkle family tradition. Sabrina grows suspicious of Lady Blackwood.”
– This Feast of Feasts nonsense is some real Shirley Jackson/Suzanne Collins-flavored bullshit.
– Roz’s Nana Ruth (played by Lost‘s L. Scott Caldwell) possesses a sixth sense known as “The Cunning,” this show’s take on “The Shining” from the Stephen King novel and its subsequent adaptations.
– Man, the use of The Velvet Underground’s “Venus in Furs” in this episode is perfect and a rare example of the show not using music to bonk you over the head with obviousness.
– Prudence makes the best Prince reference of 2018 when she tells Sabrina that “Darling Nikki here is jornier than a toad.”
– The isolated witch Desmerelda has a Carol Kane in The Princess Bride thing happening, and I ain’t made.
– The ceiling of the Spellman’s parlor is decorated with a pattern that looks identical to that featured in Suspiria‘s window death scene.
– Well, I was wondering if there was going to be any direct crossover with Riverdale on this series, and that question was answered when none other than Ben Button (Moses Thiessen) showed up at Ms. Wardwell’s to deliver become dinner. Seeing how Ben recently committed suicide on Riverdale, this, um, raises some questions. Whatever is going on here, Ben has now died in both Archieverse shows. (We will have much more on this elsewhere on the site).
– After Mildred sacrifices herself, the witches attack her body in a feeding frenzy straight out of George Romero’s zombie films…or a food court adjacent to any comic con.
– Luke and Ambrose bond over a viewing of Tod Browning’s Freaks. One of us! One of us!
Chilling Adventures of Sabrina Episode 8 – Chapter Eight: The Burial
“A disaster rattles the Greendale community. Desperate to help, Sabrina attempts a new kind of dark magic — with the assistance of an unusual ally.”
– Ambrose inadvertently cribs the best moment from Our Town when he muses “do any mortals really realize life while they’re living it?”
– Harvey’s dad telling him that it should’ve been him who died instead of Tommy echoes Gordie’s experience in Stand By Me, which was, don’t forget, based on a Stephen King story.
– There’s an issue of Vertigo’s American Vampire: Lord of Nightmares comic on Harvey’s bedside table.
Chilling Adventures of Sabrina Episode 9 – Chapter Nine: The Returned Man
“Sabrina recruits Roz for a crucial mission. Susie reconnects with her past. Lord Blackwood challenges Aunt Zelda’s authority.”
– A newly resurrected Tommy gets the once over by the unseeen Doc Phibes — a doctor who shares his name with a very popular (and quite twisted) Vincent Price character from 1971’s The Abominable Dr. Phibes and 1972’s Dr. Phibes Rises Again.
– The UPS driver in the Kinkle neighborhood is named Mr. Bateman, which we are just going to go right ahead and assume is an American Psycho reference since Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa wrote the book to that Broadway musical.
– Susie is attempting to shoplift Virginia Woolf’s Orlando, a book which is considered a must-read for those interested in stories about gender fluidity.
– In this episode, Zelda is settled into her role as new Choir Director at the Academy of Unseen Arts. Hilariously, she has her charges singing the unrelentingly upbeat “Do-Re-Mi” from The Sound of Music as opposed to something more appropriate, like say any death metal song ever recorded. Way to read the room, Aunt Zee.
– Does anyone know the name of the zombie movie that plays on the television when Mr. Kinkle and Undead Tommy have their dust-up?
– Sabrina’s journey into human limbo is so reminiscent of the efforts to recover Carol Anne in Poltergeistthat I half-expected Zelda Rubinstein to make an appearance.
Chilling Adventures of Sabrina Episode 10 – Chapter Ten: The Witching Hour
“A revolutionary attack divides the witches and mortals of Greendale, and Sabrina braces for a life-changing choice.”
– A character of Steve Loomis is mentioned, with Loomis being the surname of Donald Pleasance’s character in the Halloween films.
– “I’ve spent the better part of 30 years sitting in this chair, I don’t see any reason to leave now” – Nana Ruth, speaking for binge watchers the world over.
– “Let Greendale cast a spell on you” is the town’s motto, and really, how could it not be?
– The Red Angel of Death is obviously modeled as a hybrid of the Headless Horseman from Washington Irving’s The Legend of Sleepy Hollowand the Red Death from Edgar Allan Poe’s “Masque of the Red Death.” Albeit, the way they talk about “the horseman rides” sounds like it intentionally echoes Tim Burton’s Sleepy Hollow too.
– Apparently, devoting yourself to Satan and using your new superpowers also comes with free styling from the Hair Cuttery? How does everyone feel about Sabrina’s more comic-accurate do that debuts in this episode?
What did we miss? Let us know in the comments!
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