REVIEW: The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina Part 3 Packs Turns up the Horror

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Sabrina Part 3

The Netflix Original Chilling Adventures of Sabrina is an adaptation of the Archie Horror comic series of the same age. Now, in season three, or Part 3 as Netflix dubs it, the series is a dark coming-of-age story that has used the occult, witchcraft, and spookiness to tell its story. Over the last two parts, we’ve watched Sabrina Spellman (Kiernan Shipka) fight back against the patriarchy of the Church of Night and Faustus Blackwood (Richard Coyle), and her identity as the literal spawn of the Dark Lord himself (Luke Cook). Now, in Chilling Adventures of Sabrina Part 3, we see her dealing with the world-shaking events of Part 2. Though she defeated her father Lucifer, the Dark Lord remains trapped within the human prison of her boyfriend, Nicholas Scratch (Gavin Leatherwood).

After returning to the surface, Sabrina can’t live with herself, knowing that Nick made the ultimate sacrifice and that Madam Satan is suffering. With the help of her mortal friends, Harvey (Ross Lynch), Rosalind (Jaz Sinclair), and Theo (Lachlan Watson), that has been dubbed “The Fright Club,” Sabrina makes it her mission to free her boyfriend. But, there is a catch, Lucifer’s unseating has shaken Hell and with Madame Satan (Michelle Gomez) only able to act as Regent, no one is on the throne. It is because of this that Sabrina must assume the title of “Queen” to defend it against Caliban, the Prince of Hell. But, the throne of Hell isn’t the only thing in trouble. Keeping with its goal of both centering a story in the world of witches and the world of humans, Greendale is put in danger when a mysterious carnival rolls into town. Creepy enough by itself, “The Fright Club” and the Spellmans learn that it may be a bigger threat than the Prince when it turns out to be a tribe of pagans looking to resurrect an ancient god.

Now, this doesn’t mean that the Chilling Adventures of Sabrina Part 3 has left biblical myth at the door, on the contrary. This batch of episodes focuses on putting Sabrina through the satanic gauntlet by having her complete a series of tasks in order to win the crown from Caliban. In doing such, Sabrina must retrieve artifacts of great biblical significance that mark some of the most “evil” deeds in the bible. While the leaning into this is explicit, they balance the over Judeo-Christian mythology with other elements. Using titles instead of biblical names, the Nazarene for Jesus and working in newer concepts like vampires into the mix to keep it from becoming a CCD class. This is aided by the inclusion of the Pagan storyline which brings gods and goddesses from multiple areas of the world as well as the tertiary story beats that form the potential for Part 4.

While the two main plots take shape, Prudence (Tati Gabrielle) and Ambrose (Chance Perdomo) pursue Father Blackwood, looking to kill him and rescue kidnapped twins. While this is wrapped by midseason, both characters remain at the forefront of the show in a larger way than the series has done before. In fact, the Chilling Adventures of Sabrina Part 3 not only centers the two, using their bond and relationship to give each character more depth and emotion than shown before. Additionally, the two characters seek help from other magic users in the world, expanding the world of witches and magic beyond the mostly white and eurocentric practices specifically by introducing Haitian Vodou.

Sabrina Part 3

By using terms from Vodou and embracing its American veneration in New Orleans, through the character of Mambo Marie, the show pushes past what its gotten wrong about indigenous magic in previous seasons. By centering the exploration of Vodou around the two Black witches on the show, the series showcasing the importance of separating magic from whiteness. While I was worried about the series pairing them together, there was no other way this story has the impact it does if they’re not the ones leading it. Plus, we see the acceptance of Marie within the Church of Night, in the end, Part 3, which has me excited for how much we can see of her and Vodou next season. Marie commands every scene she is in. She is never anything but loving and powerful. While we don’t see too much of Vodou, the introduction of the validity of the magic, and setting it as a part of the world of the Chilling Adventures of Sabrina helps add to the lore of the show. The exploration of it in Part 3 is surface level but it’s clear it won’t fall to the wayside, but we’ll see.

Between this introduction and the Pagans, for the first time, the series feels big. For the first two seasons, the series’ focus on biblical mythology to describe where the Spellman’s coven get their powers from has felt stifling given the wide variety of magic seen across the world. I for one, have been waiting for brujeria, Palo, Santeria, curanderismo, or some form of Latinx magics to come into the show given Perdomo’s identity as the only Latino on the show. That said, the introduction of Vodou and the validation of its power through Mambo Marie gives me hope to see more magic come into play for Part 4 while also showcasing the power of Vodou as equal to and in some case stronger than the Eurocentric Church of Night.

After picking up a sword at the end of last season, we get to see Prudence use it and see her dedication as a sibling as she attempts to find and kill her father, Father Blackwood. For Ambrose, he is a guide, a scholar, and the crux of almost every major plan in the season, propelling the story forward and keeping in the forefront during pivotal moments of the season. Truthfully, I would watch a spin-off show of just them as they explore new and non-white expressions of magic across the globe — but that’s for fanfic, not a review.

Moving onto the new characters this season, Caliban (Sam Corlett) is my favorite. The Prince of Hell, he was made out of the clay of the underworld and is cunning, manipulative, and entirely charismatic. But, most importantly Corlett’s performance reminds me of the most underrated performances of the last five years, Chris Hemsworth, as the cult leader in Bad Times at the El RoyaleOpen shirt, drawn-out sentences, dismissive attitude hiding brutality and of course the dreamy hair, Caliban seems plucked out of the El Royale which works to his advantage, adding levity and eye candy with a dose of evil.

Sabrina Part 3

But the shining star of the Chilling Adventures of Sabrina Part 3 is the horror. While each previous special and part has been spooky, none of them have been truly horrifying throughout the entire season. While they use tropes and dark humor, the series has by and large lived in the land of spooky, save a few notable scenes. This changes this season and to be honest, the series is better for it. By embracing the horror toybox and using it construct monstrosities and new lore around existing biblical myth and Pagans as a whole, the series is able to create something unique.

Additionally, my horror heart was tuned into the series because of Endgame, of homage, easter eggs, and direct recreations of horror classics and imagery. While some of these are overt like The Wickerman’s death of a character, imagery right out of The Fly, and a very Midsommar Sabrina, there are smaller moments like lines from Clive Barker’s Hellraiser that fly under the radar for some. For me, Part 3 does the job of catering to a horror audience even its overt borrowing and also creating a story that is special in its own way. One of the reasons that this succeeds is the season’s use of practical effects. From the Kings of Hell, to plant creatures that look like they serve the Floronic Man, the use practical was a wonderful choice.

Practical effects offer a more tactile nature to the world we see on screen, and when that world is so detached from our own this can be the portal to immersion. While there are campy elements, the prosthetics used on the Sex Demons and Kings of Hell are truly stunning. When coupled with the timeless costuming that blends the 1960s with our current generation, the special effects and costumes on the series deserve many, many kudos.

With all of that said, it pains me to write the lows of Part 3, namely it’s ending. When it comes to a series that deals with death, resurrection, and magic, its hard to keep the stakes high when the chosen one in your story keeps beating all odds – hello Supernatural syndrome. And despite a stellar season that improves on the last, Part 3 loses its edge and momentum in the last two episodes by writing itself into a corner and then refusing to commit to its choices. It’s truly some of the laziest writing to close a season that when the credits rolled I was so frustrated I wasn’t even thinking about a Part 4. Now, this isn’t to say that the Chilling Adventures of Sabrina Part 3 isn’t a good continuation of the story. Instead, it’s a great follow up to a lackluster part 2 that chooses to walk back many of its bold choices. And don’t even get me started how the girl who refused the power of Hell for two seasons is now, embracing it in the grandest of ways.

Overall, the Chilling Adventures of Sabrina Part 3 is a treat for horror fans and Sabrina fans alike. While I recommend the series as a whole, I do think you should be prepared for a dull finale for a fairly thrilling arc. That said, outside a character that deserves his own think piece so much so that I didn’t mention here – Nick, each and every piece of the world that has been built up gets time to shine and interact with each other as side characters get more chances to be important to the pot and new enemies arrive.

The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina Part 3 is now streaming exclusively on Netflix.

The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina, Part 3
  • 7/10
    Rating - 7/10
7/10

TL;DR

Overall, the Chilling Adventures of Sabrina Part 3 is a treat for horror fans and Sabrina fans alike. While I recommend the series as a whole, I do think you should be prepared for a dull finale for a fairly thrilling arc.