The third season of Chilling Adventures of Sabrina is an ambitious leap forward for the Netflix series. While the first two seasons are strong in their own right, the latest installment has opened up a world of interesting possibilities that the show’s creators could very well explore for years to come. Long may it continue.
Part of the show’s charm is its embrace of pop-cultural, historical, and mythological influences, and that invites viewers to go and check out what came before. The following list highlights some of Season 3’s most notable homages and also includes a few personal picks that make for complementary viewing. Enjoy.
The Wicker Man (1973) and Midsommar (2019)
The latest season of Chilling Adventures contains a strong streak of folk horror, as the main antagonists are very much one with nature. Of course, given that this show wears its influences on its sleeves, it’s unsurprising that Season 3 includes nods to two of the most popular folk horror flicks out there.
In “The Hare Moon” episode, Sabrina and her coven perform a ritual in which they are clad in white dresses and crowns made out of flowers. It’s clear that the show’s creators were inspired by the cult in last year’s Midsommar, as Sabrina looks almost identical to the film’s May Queen. This episode also contains a musical number, and when it comes to folk horror fare with singing, The Wicker Man is the trendsetter.
That isn’t the only homage to Robin Hardy’s 1973 masterpiece. In “The Judas Kiss,” there is a clear reference to the classic British horror movie in the form of the pagans’ Green Man, which looks like the iconic statue that the cult uses for the purpose of sacrificing human beings.
Clash of the Titans (1981)
Season 3 of Chilling Adventures is littered with Easter eggs to all kinds of mythology, literature, and history. The show also combines its array of influences in fun and interesting ways that complement each other rather splendidly. There are some allusions to Greek legends, as one of the pagan clan’s members, Nagaina, is a copycat of the serpent goddess Medusa.
When it comes to movies about Greek mythology, Clash of the Titans is arguably the pinnacle of them all. In addition to boasting some legendary stop-motion effects courtesy of Ray Harryhausen, it also features a memorable scene with Medusa, who is defeated after she sees her own reflection. In Chilling Adventures, Harvey steals this approach in an effort to defeat the show’s own snake-haired goddess.
Something Wicked This Way Comes (1983)
The new season of Chilling Adventures revolves around a carnival of evil pagans that arrives in Greendale to unleash the apocalypse. When it comes to spooky carnivals entering small towns to cause chaos for the inhabitants, Something Wicked This Way Comes immediately springs to mind.
Professor Carcosa — who leads the pagans in Chilling Adventures — is also reminiscent of Mr. Dark, the main antagonist in the Ray Bradbury adaptation. There is also a scene in the show where the Academy is attacked by the pagan’s snakes, which is eerily similar to a moment in Something Wicked This Way Comes where the child protagonist’s bedroom is invaded by spiders.
Return to Oz (1985)
The first episode of the new season sees Sabrina and the gang enter Hell to rescue Nicholas from Pandemonium. The journey towards the Underworld’s capital city is an arduous one, as the teenagers are forced to confront gruesome demons and dead family members. Their battle with the Tin Man is by far the most memorable moment of the trip.
The creature is an obvious reference to The Wizard of Oz, which is one of the most beloved fantasy movies of all time. But if you want some Oz-themed entertainment that’s more in line with the show’s dark sensibilities, Return to Oz is the way to go. The Disney sequel is more horror-centric and portrays the magical realm as a hellscape that’s been destroyed by a witch and a Gnome King. The film is a lot of fun, and a little bit disturbing.
Back to the Future (1985) and Avengers: Endgame (2019)
The final episode of the season centers around the titular character going back in time to save her friends and family. Before her mission commences, a second version of Sabrina appears and explains that the mission will be like Back to the Future. And it is, to an extent. Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa also told The Wrap how the show’s own time time-travel concept was inspired by the classic Michael J. Fox movie.
“I love ‘Back to the Future,’ and to me that’s my kind of time travel or time paradox movie. I know there is ‘Black Mirror’ and ‘Doctor Who’ and all that stuff. So when we started to play with ideas of time magic, I was like, ‘OK, but we’re never gonna do a time paradox.’ And sure enough, at the end of Episode 8, we went, ‘OK, here we are — we’re literally doing a time paradox.’”
The creator didn’t mention Avengers: Endgame being an influence on the show, but the episode does revolve around a hero traveling back in time to put a stop to an apocalyptic threat and bring her friends back from the dead. That’s basically the same plot as Endgame, and there’s nothing wrong with that.
Hellbound: Hellraiser II (1988)
The first episode of the new season of Chilling Adventures is called “The Hellbound Heart,” which is the name of the Clive Barker novel that the original Hellraiser is based on. However, the episode is more inspired by the film’s ambitious sequel, Hellbound: Hellraiser II, which sees the protagonist enter Hell and explore the demonic labyrinth.
The episode features moments where Sabrina and her friends must deal with figures from their lives whose deaths have affected them in some way. For example, they come face to face with their old principal, who is now an evil Edward Scissorhands-esque creature that wants to teach them one last lesson…in pain.
The grotesque wonder that is the principal wouldn’t look out of place among the Cenobite creatures in Hellbound: Hellraiser II. But it’s also a movie that depicts Hell as a place where people must confront the demons that exist in their own minds. Chilling Adventures explores this idea while establishing its own Hell dimension.
Little Nicky (1999)
Before Chilling Adventures featured a storyline about two parties competing for the throne of Hell, the silly Adam Sandler comedy Little Nicky did so in a wackier way.
In the film, Sandler plays Nicky, the son of Satan. His siblings are tired of serving the Dark Lord you see, so they decide to try and create their own version of Hell on Earth, which causes Lucifer to deteriorate. Thus, Nicky must travel to Earth and bring them back to the pit before time runs out.
Much like the latest season of Chilling Adventures, Little Nicky also scores points for spending a lot of time in the Underworld. It’s an original depiction of Hell as well, with Adolf Hitler walking around in a French maid’s outfit and perverts being chased around by big horny birds.
Dracula 2000 (2000)
Don’t listen to anybody who says that Dracula 2000 is a bad movie. In fact, Dracula 2000 might be the most underrated movie about the bloodsucking fiend in the history of cinema. The film gave the lore a fun update for the new Millennium, with the indelible Gerard Butler in the title role, and a rocking soundtrack that boasts some of the best metal bands of the era.
Furthermore, the movie loosely connects to the Chilling Adventures as it explores the relationship between Dracula and Judas. In the film, Dracula is Judas, cursed to spend eternity as a vampire for betraying Jesus. In the show, however, Vlad the Impaler — the figure who inspired the Dracula legend in the first place — is depicted as a real vampire, as well as the son of Judas. All in all, both the film and the show associate Judas with vampirism to some degree, and that’s a neat idea.
Bring It On (2000)
Whenever Sabrina isn’t dealing with her supernatural duties, she tries to find some semblance of teenage normality by joining the cheerleading squad. This essentially involves her and the team performing impressive routines to tunes like Run DMC’s “It’s Tricky,” but it’s an important subplot for reminding us she’s also a high school student with a life.
The cheerleading storyline isn’t explored too much in Season 3, but that’s understandable considering that Sabrina has a lot going on in her witch life. At the same time, when the storyline does receive some focus, it makes for an interesting counterbalance to the spooky weirdness that dominates every episode.
When it comes to cheerleader movie recommendations, Bring It On might seem like an obvious choice because it’s so popular. However, it’s also similar to Chilling Adventures as both are about characters racing against time to achieve a goal. Granted, coming up with a routine for a cheer competition and saving the world are entirely different scenarios, but the pressures that come with both are similar.
For more horror-centric fare about cheerleaders, check out Satan’s Cheerleaders (1977), Jennifer’s Body (2009), and the All Cheerleader’s Die (2001, 2013) movies.
The Impaler: A Biographical/Historical Look at the Life of Vlad the Impaler, Widely Known as Dracula (2002), Pilate: The Man Who Killed Christ (2004), The Real King Herod (2004), and In the Footsteps of Judas (2016)
Chilling Adventures depicts Vlad the Impaler, Pontius Pilate, King Herod, and Judas in a supernatural light. The most entertaining incarnation of one of these figures is Herod, who is shown as a zombie-like creature that lives in a tree. Of course, it’s also worth bearing in mind that these people are also some of history’s most fascinating figures, and this selection of documentaries chronicles the real human beings that inspired the show’s myths.
In the show, each figure is synonymous with an artifact that Sabrina must obtain in order to become the undisputed ruler of the abyss. For more context on the significance of these objects, these documentaries will provide some informative insight. But if you only watch one of them and you can find it, go with In the Footsteps of Judas, as it presents a more nuanced take on one of Christianity’s biggest villains.
Reaper (2007 – 2009)
Chilling Adventures is a show that’s been compared to Buffy the Vampire Slayer, and rightfully so. It’s arguably the spiritual successor to Joss Whedon’s iconic supernatural saga. But there’s also Michele Fazekas and Tara Butters‘ Reaper, a short-lived gem of a show that felt like Buffy’s funnier slacker cousin.
Reaper follows a department store employee and his friends as they round up escaped souls and send them back to Hell. And like Sabrina, the protagonist in Reaper is also Satan’s child, as his parents sold his soul before he was born. Both shows center around heroes whose destinies are linked to the Underworld, but they still strive to keep their humanity intact while finding a balance between their supernatural adventures and living regular lives.
What makes Chilling Adventures most reminiscent of Reaper is the brief subplot in which she must send souls to the Underworld. This includes dealing with an evil ice cream man, who tries to escape his fate by sacrificing a child and trapping Sabrina in a freezer. Very naughty.