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Spells, Sisterhood, and a Cat Named Salem: Rue Morgue Visits the Set of “Chilling Adventures of Sabrina”

Thursday, October 11, 2018 | Exclusive

By: MADDI MCGILLVRAY

There’s a chill in the air this Halloween season. It might be the spell of Netflix’s newest binge-worthy series, Chilling Adventures of Sabrina (CAOS), which premieres October 26th. Rue Morgue got the exclusive opportunity to visit the set in Vancouver, British Columbia this summer, and although the powers that be prevented media from taking any pictures, we did get our hands on some bewitching behind-the-scenes details.

Starring Kiernan Shipka (see interview here), CAOS follows high school student Sabrina Spellman wrestling to reconcile her dual identity as half-witch and half-mortal as she approaches her sixteenth birthday. Based on the Archie Comics of the same name, this coming of age story is much darker in tone than the sitcom many will remember from the 90’s. Creator Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa has cited films like Rosemary’s Baby and The Exorcist as key influences for the look and feel for the series… and it shows. Horror fans will also be able to spot an almost endless array of easter eggs as they watch, including 150 pieces of artwork by Clive Barker.

Stepping foot onto the set is like accepting an apple from a serpent: it’s filled with hidden secrets. Production designer Lisa Soper, a practicing pagan, was responsible for visually creating the world of CAOS. Every detail is purposeful, with elements of the show’s characters built into each and every room—from the walls created with Sacred Geometry to a hall of hexed shoes. While much of it may get lost in the background, the Spellman house is particularly impressive. It was designed as a spiral, which allowed the cast to move freely between rooms during filming, but also because “it’s a sacred pagan symbol for life, death, and rebirth,” explains Soper.

The series will include some familiar faces: Sabrina’s oblivious boyfriend Harvey (Ross Lynch), her aunts Zelda (Miranda Otto) and Hilda (Lucy Davis), and her loyal sidekick Salem. “The original series was a comedy and this show definitely has comedic elements, I myself am one of those characters, but there’s also a lot of darkness,” Davis explains. “This darkness”, Lynch adds, “is something I really think that people are going to love.” However, some may be disappointed to know that we will be seeing less of the wise-cracking Salem in this adaptation. As Shipka admits, “I’m allergic to cats… so we’re working around it!”

Fans will also get to know a number of new faces when the series debuts. One of most interesting being Sabrina’s pansexual cousin Ambrose (Chance Perdomo), who is placed on house arrest by the Witches Council. “I can’t say too much about it,” says Perdomo, “but in his past he’s been a naughty boy.” Other exciting new additions to the story are the Weird Sisters. The trio of the powerful teenage witches—made up of Agatha (Adeline Rudolph), Prudence (Tati Gabrielle), and Dorcas (Abigail Cowen)—are “frenemies” to Sabrina and consistently ridicule the titular witch because of her half-mortal background.

Despite being loosely set in the 1970s, the series could easily take place in 2018. The show addresses many social and political issues such as toxic masculinity, human rights, acceptance, and intersectionality that feel particularly relevant today. The connections made between covens and sisterhood—Sabrina and her friends create a high school club named the Women’s Intersectional and Creative Association (W.I.C.A)—is particularly compelling

CAOS  is a spinoff of Netflix’s highly popular Riverdale series, so viewers can expect plenty of teen drama. The show takes place in the neighbouring town of Greendale, which opens up the potential for crossover episodes down the line. There are also several Riverdale easter eggs subtly hidden throughout the show. For example, during the set tour Soper quickly pointed out a school library bookshelf that features a carving of a Jughead crown with the words “was here.” 

Just in time for Halloween, Netflix will be releasing the entire first season (totalling 10 episodes) of CAOS  on October 26th.

Maddi McGillvray
Maddi is the Editorial Assistant at Rue Morgue Magazine. She is also a PhD student in Cinema and Media Studies at York University, where she writes extensively on the horror genre. Maddi is completing her doctoral dissertation on women working in horror. She is also currently writing book chapters titled "Fleshy Female Corporealities: The Cannibal Films of the New French Extremity" as well as "To Grandmother’s House We Go: Documenting the Aging Female Body in Found Footage Horror Films."