Netflix’s Chilling Adventures of Sabrina
Chapter Four: “Witch Academy”
Directed by Rob Seidenglanz
Written by Donna Thorland
* For a recap & review of Chapter Three, “The Trial of Sabrina Spellman” – click here
* For a recap & review of Chapter Five, “Dreams in a Witch House” – click here
More horror movie talks at Cerberus Brooks, dipping into David Cronenberg’s version of The Fly. Roz (Jaz Sinclair) wants to plan a girls night with Susie (Lachlan Watson) and Sabrina (Kiernan Shipka). The young witch has to get inducted into the Academy of the Unseen Arts, so she’s got to head off for the weekend, lying to her friends about going to an expo with her aunt. Sabrina plans to conjure, bind, and banish the Dark Lord himself by learning everything she can at the academy.
Aunt Zelda (Miranda Otto) and Aunt Hilda (Lucy Davis) have quite different conceptions of the academy, each going through quite different experiences while there. Hilda’s currently dealing with excommunication, too. In the meantime, Sabrina heads to Gehenna Station – interesting name, Gehenna, as it refers to a ‘destination of the wicked’ – where the academy’s located, built according to “sacred geometry.” A nice Baphomet statue is situated in the foyer. The young witch meets with Father Faustus Blackwood (Richard Coyle), then heads to choir practise, meeting the High Priest’s wife, choir leader Lady Constance Blackwood (Alvina August).
Sabrina meets Nick Scratch (Gavin Leatherwood)— another stellar reference in the writing, this time to Old Scratch, a.k.a the Devil, originating from the Middle English ‘scrat’ referring to a demon/goblin. This dude’s working his charm. Prudence (Tati Gabrielle), Agatha (Adeline Rudolph), and Dorcas (Abigail F. Cowen) arrive soon to call Sabrina a “cock tease” and poke at her for not undergoing the Dark Baptism. Magic school’s no different than any other real high school!
Beautiful inclusion of another classic horror, Carnival of Souls, as Roz and Susie watch the flick together late at night, eating popcorn. Susie’s uncle is ill, so he calls for help with a bell. The girls go check on him, only to run downstairs when they get a look at Uncle Jesse (Jason Beaudoin) in the dark. Supposedly Jesse saw “a monster” while working in the mines. Poor Susie’s frightened by her uncle now. When Harvey hears about this he’s spooked bad, considering what he’s seen himself.
Sabrina’s experiencing “the harrowing“— a way of putting witches through what the original Greendale witches experienced, stuck in a cell with nothing. A weak witch would go insane in that place. The Weird Sisters are hoping that’s what will happen to young Ms. Spellman in there. When the girls come back to check on her, they see Sabrina’s fine, and Salem has come to keep her company.
At the dorm, the Weird Sisters further bully Sabrina. They force her into a near fight, but Father Blackwood breaks it up, calling the young witch to his office. Aunt Zelda is there to take Salem back home. No familiars allowed! The aunt thinks Sabrina could be doing things at a higher level like she wants to, convincing Faustus to give her a test. He produces an “Acheron configuration” – named after the Acheron, one of the rivers to the Greek Underworld – giving it to the girl to master. First, he wants a private chat with auntie, asking if she’d be midwife to Constance. A little later, Nick tells Sabrina this specific Acheron was her “father‘s thesis,” and Blackwood has tried figuring it out for years. Nobody believes Ms. Spellman can conquer it.
A familiar’s spying on girls in the shower. It’s Madam Satan’s (Michelle Gomez) raven. She’s got to keep an eye on EVERYTHING for the Dark Lord’s surveillance. She and Father Blackwood continue an antagonistic relationship, as they’re both working for the same boss but to different ends. Despite that, he suggests she has fun with those left unprotected back in Greendale.
Hilda helps Ambrose (Chance Perdomo) “astral project” to a coffee shop for a date with Luke (Darren Mann), seeing as how the young man’s confined to the house for witchy plots. He can’t touch the guy, only talk to and see him. If he’s out there too long, psychopomps will find him. If so, they’ll assume him dead, taking him to a final death, or alerting the “dweller in the abyss” a.k.a Choronzon. This stuff is great, bringing in all kinds of influences, again including Aleister Crowley and Thelema, as well as Edward Kelley and John Dee. Hilda gets pulled away when the doorbell rings, and it’s the possessed Ms. Wardwell. The devious woman collects personal things from around the house to use for horrible purposes. When Zelda returns home she heads to the basement as Ambrose returns from his journey.
The Weird Sisters take Sabrina on the next length of her harrowing. They come to where the witches died, next to a huge tree. She has to stand there until dawn, barefoot in the mud, and without turning to look behind her. She hears horrible things, refusing to look. Eventually the morning comes, and she’s greeted by dead children who were harrowed. It’s a parallel of real life hazing. Like real life, nothing’s being done.
“Be gone, demon.”
Sabrina takes her aunts to see the children. The aunts are devastated by the witch-on-witch murder. Hilda figures the best remedy for the children is revenge, knowing how it was to be harrowed once upon a time.
Harvey insists on seeing Jesse. The young man asks about his time in the mines and says he also saw something down there. Uncle Jesse is MOST DEFINITELY POSSESSED, just about killing Harvey before Susie stops it. Holy shit! They tie him down so he won’t get loose to murder.
The Weird Sisters take Sabrina for more of her harrowing. They put a noose around her neck. This is a setup by Ms. Spellman to put them in her place, scaring them with her own bit of harrowing on behalf of the children, who repeat the old “Light as a feather, stiff as a board” chant while the sisters choke. Sabrina makes clear she’s to be left alone, or things will get fatal. Looks like Blackwood’s minions didn’t get things done, yet again.
Sabrina’s able to get her hands on a journal belonging to her father, via Nick. She takes it home and reads through, looking for clues not only about the Acheron configuration, but about her dad in general. She soon opens it and red dust falls from inside. In the hall, hooves appear, and a hideous creature walks through the door.
Damn, Father Gore can’t get enough of this series!
Chapter Five: “Dreams in a Witch House” is next.