[Editor’s Note: The following contains spoilers from Season 1 of “Chilling Adventures of Sabrina.”]
A love of horror runs in series creator Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa’s blood, and it comes out in “Chilling Adventures of Sabrina,” his dark take on the classic Archie Comics title “Sabrina the Teenage Witch.” In adapting his comic book for Netflix, he discussed some of those horror influences with Lee Toland Krieger, who would be setting the tone of the series by directing the first two episodes.
“He arranged a screening of clips from some of our favorite movies,” Aguirre-Sacasa said. “The three great witch movies are ‘Rosemary’s Baby,’ Dario Argento’s ‘Suspiria,’ and Robert Eggers’ movie ‘The Witch,’ that came out a few years ago. And then even more recently, Ti West’s movie, ‘House of the Devil,’ and Oz Perkins’ ‘The Blackcoat’s Daughter,’ starring Kiernan [Shipka] actually. In terms of devil movies, we talked about ‘The Omen,’ we talked about ‘The Exorcist,’ the original Sam Raimi’s ‘Evil Dead.’”
Nods to these and other pop culture are scattered throughout the series, in addition to references to the Salem Witch Trials of 1692 and 1693. Sabrina Spellman (Kiernan Shipka) and her family of witches live in Greendale, which was also touched by the moral panic of that era.
Here’s a breakdown of each of all the homages and Easter eggs, episode by episode:
“Chapter One: October Country”
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- ”The October Country”: Ray Bradbury’s 1955 horror anthology is the inspiration for the episode’s title. Two of the collection’s 19 macabre short stories center on the Elliotts, a family of supernatural people, much like the Addams Family or Spellmans.
- Classic Horror Films: At the Paramount theater where Sabrina and her friends are watching George A. Romero’s “Night of the Living Dead,”, four posters advertise the other Horrorthon offerings: the ants sci-fi gem “Them,” pre-Code horror flick “Freaks,” and the 1970 British film “Taste the Blood of Dracula.” Later, Harvey (Ross Lynch) quotes a line from the zombie film they watched: “They’re coming to get you, Barbara.”
- ”Thriller” Sabrina parallels Michael Jackson’s character in “Thriller” at the movie theater as both wear red and are happily munching on popcorn while the rest of the audience is visibly disturbed by the horror on screen. “Thriller” is a music video masterpiece directed by John Landis, with a creepy voiceover by horror legend Vincent Price.
- “Halloween”: When Sabrina greets her teacher, Mrs. Wardwell (Michelle Gomez) in the lobby of the Paramount, she is surprised the woman likes scary movies. Mrs. Wardwell replies, “Who doesn’t enjoy a good scare every now and then, especially this time of year?” The line echoes one of the most famous lines in John Carpenter’s 1978 film, when, after startling Laurie Strode (Jamie Lee Curtis), Sheriff Brackett (Charles Cyphers) says, “It’s Halloween, I guess everyone’s entitled to one good scare.”
- Dr. Cerberus: Aguirre-Sacasa wrote a play of the same name about a teenager who is obsessed with the host of the Saturday Night Horror Movie TV show, Dr. Cerberus. In “Sabrina,” this is also the name of the store owner of Cerberus Books (played by “Battlestar Galactica” alumni Alessandro Juliani), where Sabrina and her friends hang out after the movie. Cerberus is also a three-headed dog Greek mythology that guards the gates of the Underworld, and an image of the creature can be seen on the signage. Could this be why Dr. Cerberus’ eyes flash in the final episode?
- Putnam Family: Sabrina’s friend Susie (Lachlan Watson) shares the same name as the Putnams, two of whom were prominent accusers at the Salem Witch Trials.
- Wardwell: Sabrina’s teacher Ms. Wardwell (Michelle Gomez) is most likely named for Samuel Wardwell, a man accused of and subsequently executed for witchcraft during the Salem Witch Trials in 1692.
- Dr. Saperstein: Ms. Wardwell says she’ll bring the girl she found in the road to see this doctor, who shares the same name as the evil doctor recommended in “Rosemary’s Baby.”
- ”Hellraiser”: Elements of Ms. Wardwell’s house, from the wallpaper to the stained glass windows, are inspired by the Cotton family’s house in Clive Barker’s 1987 film.
- ”Suspiria”: When a bat flies through Sabrina’s window, she crushes it with a book in a scene that echoes Suzy killing a bat with a stool while she’s staying at the dance academy.
- ”The House of Seven Gables”: The exterior of the Spellmans’ home is modeled after the house in the 1940 gothic horror film adapted from Nathaniel Hawthorne’s novel of the same name. The front door even sports the signature iron spikes. The book references a man who had been executed for witchcraft in the 17th century.
- Vinegar Tom: Aunt Zelda (Miranda Otto) references her deceased dog Vinegar Tom, who had acted as her familiar. “Vinegar Tom” is Caryl Churchill’s 1976 British play that examines gender and power relationships through the lens of 17th-century witchcraft trials in England.
- Principal Hawthorne: The name of Sabrina’s principal (played by Bronson Pinchot) is a nod to John Hathorne, one of the leading judges in the Salem Witch Trials. His descendant, author Nathaniel Hawthorne, added a “w” to the spelling of the name.
Courtesy of Netflix
- The Archies: Sabrina carries a vintage thermos with the Archies on it.
- Stolas: Ms. Wardwell’s raven familiar shares the same name as a demon listed in the Ars Godetia who is a Great Prince of Hell, depicted as either being “a crowned owl with long legs, a raven, or a man.”
- Sabrina’s decor Some of the clever touches seen in Sabrina’s bedroom include a “Nosferatu” poster, a witch’s bottle on her vanity, and a poster of David Bowie, a chameleon who had presented himself in a gender fluid way and embraced images of the occult. His music video for “Blackstar” shows him holding a book with a black star – or perhaps a pentagram – on it, and includes images of what looks to be a ritual involving women and a skull.
- ”The Witch”: In trying to convince Sabrina to sign the Dark Lord’s book, Zelda says that it’s the price to pay for the “extraordinary, delicious gifts he bestows on us.” This is reminiscent of the line in “The Witch” when Black Phillip asks Thomasina, “Wouldst thou like the taste of butter? A pretty dress? Wouldst thou like to live deliciously?”
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- Gibson Girl wallpaper: The Spellman home is adorned with feminist imagery, but one of the most prominent is the head of the Gibson Girl repeated in an eye-catching wallpaper in the main sitting room. The Gibson Girl was initially conceived by artist Charles Dana Gibson as the ideal of feminine beauty in the late 1800s, and throughout her use, she has sent mixed messages that would either undermine or support women’s sociopolitical change. The black and white backdrop also mimics the black and white floral wallpaper seen in the roommate’s flat in “Suspiria.”
- “Zodiac”: When Ambrose (Chance Perdomo) brings the body of Connor Kemper to the morgue to embalm him, Donovan’s “Hurdy Gurdy Man” is playing, complete with slow-motion action and a yellow filter. This echoes the opening scene of David Fincher’s “Zodiac,” where the song plays during the brutal attack on Darlene Ferrin and Michael Mageau. Connor’s last name is that of another serial killer, Ed Kemper.
- ”Wizard of Oz” and “Snow White”: As a demonic scarecrow pursues and attacks Sabrina through a hay maze, it’s shown that Ms. Wardwell is controlling the scarecrow from afar through a poppet — a doll made to represent a person for casting spells. She says, “There will be no apple-picking for you, my dear.” This sequence appears to channel both the Wicked Witch of the West, who tried to throw problems in Dorothy’s path through magic, and the Evil Queen in “Snow White,” who transformed herself into a crone and offered the princess a poisoned apple.
- “The Shining”: The hay maze Sabrina finds herself in is similar to the garden hedge maze Danny runs through while trying to escape from Jack in Stanley Kubrick’s take on the Stephen King novel.
- Malum Malus: Literally translated as “apple of evil,” this fruit will supposedly give Sabrina a glimpse of the future if she eats it. This is akin to Eve biting into the apple from the Tree of Knowledge.
- Faustus Blackwood: The High Priest (Richard Coyle) is most likely named for Faust, a legendary German character who made a deal with the devil for unlimited knowledge and worldly pleasures.
“Chapter Two: The Dark Baptism”
- ”Witches’ Sabbath”: A print of Goya’s mural appears in the Spellman home and depicts a coven of witches cowering in front of Satan, who has the head of a goat.
- The Dark Lord: When Sabrina uses the term The Devil and says he is the embodiment of evil, Father Blackwood corrects her and says The Dark Lord is actually the embodiment of free will. This falls in line with Anton LaVay and the Church of Satan’s interpretation of Satan as a symbol of enlightenment, as well as the “False God” being a source of oppression.
- “Haxan”: A poster for the 1922 Swedish-Danish silent horror film can be seen hanging on the wall in Sabrina’s bedroom. The film is part documentary, part fiction, and explores the history of witchcraft, demonology, and satanism in high stylized vignettes with horror elements.
- Comic book artists: Sabrina’s cousin Ambrose (Chance Perdomo) geeks out with Harvey over their favorite comic book legends, including Alan Moore, Neil Gaiman, and Grant Morrison.
- ”Macbeth”: When summoning Prudence, Agatha, and Dorcas (Tati Gabrielle, Adeline Rudolph, Abigail F. Cowen), Sabrina chants a spell that includes the lines:
Thrice to thine and thrice to mine
And thrice again, to make up nine.
Peace! The charm’s wound up.
This is a direct quote from one of the witches’ chants in “Macbeth,” in which they also refer to themselves as the Weird Sisters.
- “Rosemary’s Baby”: Sabrina’s red dress with a Peter Pan lace collar appears to be inspired by the dress Mia Farrow wears in the 1968 horror classic.
- “Riverdale”: When Sabrina and the Weird Sisters lure the football players into mines, they ask if they attend Baxter High. Sabrina says she does, but the Sisters go somewhere else. One of the football players asks if they’re from Riverdale, Greendale’s neighboring town where Archie and his pals live.
- Cain and Abel: When Zelda hits her younger sister, Hilda, in the head with hammer and kills her (temporarily), it echoes the famous fratricide in the Bible, where Cain murders his younger brother, Abel.
- “Kill Bill: Vol. 2”: When Hilda finally does come back from the dead, she is covered in dirt and blood, looking similar to The Bride (Uma Thurman), when she escapes from being shot in the chest with buck salt and buried alive.
- ”Auntie Mame” and “Whatever Happened to Baby Jane?”: Ambrose calls the two aunts at “Auntie Mame and Baby Jane” in a fit of pique. While Auntie Mame is a free-spirited but beloved character, Baby Jane is an aging, has-been child actress.
- Black Narcissus: The goat that is obtained as a sacrifice for Sabrina’s dark baptism is a reference to Black Phillip, Satan disguised as a goat from “The Witch.” However, the name itself is derived from the 1947 Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger film about nuns who set up a school and hospital in the Himalayas, but are seduced by the sensuality of their surroundings. The nuns, like Sabrina, are tempted by a more tantalizing life.
Moviestore Collection/Shutterstock; Netflix, Archie Horror
- Eddie Munster: Susie dresses like the son from “The Munsters” for Roz’s Halloween party. This is also a sly reference to the “Chilling Adventures of Sabrina” comic book Issue No. 7, which delves into the backstory of Sabrina’s father Edward Spellman. As a young boy, he’s drawn to resemble Eddie Munster, down to the old-fashioned ensemble and extreme widow’s peak.
- ”The Ruins”: When Sabrina flees her dark baptism and is captured by bespelled vines, this scene mimics the one where Laura Ramsey’s character tries to escape predatory vines in the 2008 horror film set in a Mexican jungle. It is also similar to the infamous tree scene in 1981’s “The Evil Dead.”
- ”Poltergeist”: When Principal Hawthorne calls for Sabrina over the intercom, Roz (Jaz Sinclair) says, “He’s ba-ack!” in the same sing-song manner that Carol Anne says, “They’re here!” and “They’re back!” in the “Poltergeist” films.
“Chapter Three: The Trial of Sabrina Spellman”
- ”The Devil and Daniel Webster”: Stephen Vincent Benét wrote this short story that put a courtroom twist on the classic Faustian tale, about a farmer who makes a deal with the devil and hires real-life lawyer Daniel Webster to defend him. In this episode, Sabrina is on trial for not going through with the dark baptism and the lawyer she hires is also named Daniel Webster. It turns out that he also made a deal with the devil at one point. Later, it’s revealed that Sabrina’s father also made a deal with Satan in order to marry a mortal.
- ”Carrie”: In the girls’ bathroom at Baxter High, a flyer reads, “Conserve Water: Plug it up, plug it up, plug it up!” This is a reference to the opening of “Carrie” in which the girls harass taunt and throw feminine products at Carrie when she freaks out for getting her period for the first time.
- The Dishonors: The judges during Sabrina’s witch trial mirror the Cenobites from Clive Barker’s “Hellraiser” series.
- “A Nightmare on Elm Street”: When Sabrina is in class, she looks into the hallway and sees Daniel Webster’s dead daughter, and begins to follow her in a dreamy sequence. This echoes the famous scene in “A Nightmare on Elm Street” when Nancy (Heather Langenkamp) is in class and sees her dead friend, Tina (Amanda Wyss), in a body bag in the hallway of her school.
- ”Hellraiser”: An accent table in Father Blackwood’s office is designed to look like the “Hellraiser” puzzle box.
“Chapter Four: Witch Academy”
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- ”The Fly”: Sabrina’s friends debate the subtext in both versions of the horror film: the classic 1958 sci-fi film and David Cronenberg’s body horror version starring Jeff Goldblum in 1986.
- ”Stand by Me”: On her first day at the Academy of Unseen Arts, Sabrina walks along railroad tracks, echoing how the boys traveled in “Stand by Me,” the coming-of-age film based on Stephen King’s short story, “The Body.”
- Gehenna: The Academy is labeled Gehenna Station. Gehenna is a small valley in Jerusalem where some of the kings of Judah sacrificed their children by fire, according to the Hebrew bible. That bodes well for Sabrina’s education. Gehenna can also be a synonym for Hell.
- Creepy kid: Quentin (Liam Hughes) is the kid who greets Sabrina at the school, but his old-fashioned attire is a tip-off that something else is afoot. He’s dressed almost like the nephew of the headmistress in Dario Argento’s “Suspiria.”
- Clive Barker: The master of horror loaned 150 original paintings to the series to line the walls of the Academy.
- Baphomet: The giant goat-headed Satan sculpture in the center of the Academy is modeled after Baphomet, a deity that the Knights Templar were falsely accused of worshipping. It has become a symbol of the occult. Trivia: “Baphomet” (actually, “Baa-phomet”) is also the name of the goat Sabrina sacrifices in the “Chilling Adventures” comic book.
- Charles Manson: The choir is singing “I’ll Never Say Never to Always,” one of the songs written by Charles Manson. Here are the lyrics below:
Always is always forever
As long as one is one
Inside yourself for your father
All is none all is none all is one.
It’s time we put our love behind you
The illusion has been just a dream
The valley of death and I’ll find you
Now is when on a sunshine beam
So bring us the young perfection
For there us shall surely be
No clothing, tears, or hunger
You can see you can see you can be.
- Nicholas Scratch: Sabrina’s new Academy schoolmate has a name that works as nicknames for the devil – Old Nick and Mr. Scratch – but he also shares the name of a warlock supervillain from the “Fantastic Four” comics.
- ”Carnival of Souls”: Roz and Susie war watching Herk Harvey’s 1962 independent horror film that has inspired the likes of David Lynch and George Romero.
- ”The Blackcoat’s Daughter”: Kiernan Shipka also starred in Oz Perkin’s 2015 horror film in which her character uses a pay phone at her boarding school, just like Sabrina does at the Academy.
- Acheron Configuration puzzle box: The blue puzzle box that Sabrina must solve is named for Acheron, one of the five rivers of the Underworld in Greek mythology.
- Light as a Feather, Stiff as a Board This levitation game dates back to the 17th century and has been seen in “The Craft” and the Hulu series “Light as a Feather.” Quentin and the other kids killed by harrowing chant this is part of a levitation spell.
“Chapter Five: Dreams in a Witch House”
- ”The Dreams in the Witch House”: The episode’s title is inspired by an H.P. Lovecraft story about a man who rents an attic apartment in a house that once harbored a person accused of witchcraft but disappeared from jail in 1692. The man has bizarre, disturbing, and increasingly violent dreams each night.
- Batibat: The name of the Sleep Demon is inspired by a demon in Ilocano folklore that is modeled after the demon Bangungot, meaning “nightmare” in Tagalog.
- “A Nightmare on Elm Street”: Batibat haunting everyone’s dreams, turning their worst fears into deadly nightmares is similar to Freddy Krueger.
- “Buffy the Vampire Slayer”: The plot of the episode is very close to the Season Four finale, “Restless,” which finds Buffy and her friends trapped in their dreams after the accidental summoning of The First Slayer. Batibat also looks similar to The First Slayer.
- ”Suspiria”: Zelda opens a secret door in the wall that is painted to look like the mural in “Suspiria” that opened into a secret passage by turning the blue painted iris.
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- Sabrina’s nightmare: She dreams that Harvey proposes to her in school, and in the original comic book, Harvey actually proposed in real life.
- “Sleepy Hollow”: When Sabrina is forced into the Iron Maiden and blood pours out, it recalls the flashback scene from Tim Burton’s “Sleepy Hollow,” where Ichabod Craine (Johnny Depp) remembers the death of his mother, who is believed to be a witch, at the hands of his own hyper-religious father.
- ”Hamlet”: In the embalming room in his dream, Ambrose paraphrases part of Hamlet’s speech about a dead comrade: “Alas poor, Ambrose, I knew him well.”
- Parasitic twin: In Hilda’s nightmare, she imagines Principal Hawthorne confessing to having a parasitic twin named Bob, whose exists as part of the principal’s torso. “I absorbed him in the womb, ate him, my very own brother. I gobbled him up like greedy little piggy.” This trope has been seen in science fiction, including a story by Philip K. Dick, and in horror. Hawthorne’s wording also plays off of the cannibalism that the witches partake in throughout the series.
- “Suspiria”: The living room Zelda is reading to the children in has the same infamous stained glass window featured in the first death scene in “Suspiria.”
- Cain and Abel: In Zelda’s nightmare, she kills Hilda yet again, expecting her to resurrect in their special plot in the cemetery. But when the Dark Lord questions her about Hilda’s whereabouts, she puts a twist on Cain’s words after he killed Adam: “Am I my sister’s keeper?”