‘Chilling Adventures of Sabrina’ Episode 5 Creeps Into Your Nightmares (RECAP)
The series takes a break from the Academy and Dark Lord machinations for a beastly bottle episode that will be sure to give you nightmares.
It’s obvious that Chilling Adventures of Sabrina takes inspiration from Buffy the Vampire Slayer — and why the hell not? When it comes to subversive female-fronted shows about demons and monsters, Buffy is the queen of that slays them all. It would be disingenuous of Sabrina not to be influenced by Joss Whedon’s dark fantasy classic.
“Dreams in a Witch House,” written by Welsh screenwriter Matthew Barry, is the most Buffiest of Buffy-inspired episodes yet. The “trapped in a dream” concept bearing a striking similarity to Buffy‘s season four finale “Restless,” with a little bit of Doctor Who‘s “Amy’s Choice” sprinkled on top. That’s not a bad thing. The episode is an enjoyable horror romp and delivers enough scares and character moments to stand as its own entity.
Sabrina’s (Kiernan Shipka) completion of the supposedly-impossible Acheron Configuration has unleashed a sleep-demon called the Batibat (Megan Leitch) on the Spellman household. Sabrina and her aunts Hilda (Lucy Davis) and Zelda (Miranda Otto) and her cousin Ambrose (Chance Perdomo) quickly gather to put a sealing spell on the house, trapping the hellspawn to stop it from escaping into the world outside.
Previously captured by Sabrina’s father, Edward, the Batibat feeds on the nightmares of her victims by inducing a dream state. A Google search tells me the Batibat comes from Ilocano folklore and is a tree-dwelling demon that causes insanity via nightmares and can literally scare a person to death in their dream. Here it takes the form of a grayish goblin-looking creature with a voice not too dissimilar to Gollum.
The episode is broken up into four separate nightmares as the Batibat psychologically tortures the sleeping Spellmans until one of them spills the spell to set her free. Between spiked coffins, bloody autopsies, and stitched-up sisters, this is by far the most gruesome episode of Sabrina yet. But beyond the grisliness, each nightmare also gives us an insight into the insecurities and fears of each character.
Sabrina’s dream-come-nightmare sees her set to marry her high school sweetheart Harvey (Ross Lynch) after he proposes in front of her classmates. On the day of the wedding, Sabrina tells Harvey she’s a witch, and during the ceremony, he begins choking her, as chants of “Kill the witch!” echo from the congregation. “Why’d you have to tell me you were a witch, Sabrina?” Harvey yells before closing her in coffin walled with metal spikes.
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The Batibat preys on Sabrina’s doubts about her dual life and the guilt she feels about keeping secrets from her closest friends. Her worst fear is losing her mortal life, and so this warped wedding is the sleep-demon’s best chance at getting the young sorceress to spill the beans.
Ambrose’s nightmare plays on his anxieties to do with loneliness and his disconnection from the outside world. By breaking his housebound hex, the Batibat tempts him with freedom, only to have him stabbed to death and forced to perform his own autopsy, keeping him trapped in a perpetual loop of “existential solitude.” Perdomo steals the show in this episode when bickering with his dream doppelganger.
When it comes to the aunts, the Batibat uses their tumultuous relationship to infect their psyche. Hilda is tired of living in her sister’s shadow and is looking for a sense of purpose and personal happiness. This is seen earlier in the episode when Hilda floats the idea of getting a job at the local bookstore, only to be cruelly shot down by Zelda (not literally, but that wouldn’t be surprising).
In her nightmare, Hilda is charmed by Principal Hawthorne (Bronson Pinchot), who invites her over for a romantic dinner. She’s never had someone cook for her before and is bursting with excitement, only to be cruelly insulted by her sister. “You can’t polish a turd,” Zelda laughs as Hilda tries on dresses for the occasion. Hilda finally snaps at her sibling. “I’m sick of being the joke,” she states. “You will never be happy,” Zelda tells her. “Who could ever love you?”
Hilda’s dream date ends with Hawthorne confessing that he absorbed his twin brother in the womb. He lifts up his shirt to reveal the mangled (but very much alive) face of his brother Bob, submerged in his skin (surely an homage to Frank Henenlotter’s body horror Basket Case). It’s then that Hilda realizes she too has become one with her sibling, literally sewn hip-to-hip with Zelda; forever tied to her sister and unable to seek a life of her own.
Zelda, on the other hand, loses Hilda for good in her nightmare. Hoping to impress the Dark Lord, who makes a house call in the form of Father Blackwood (Richard Coyle), Zelda roasts a plump child to serve Satan at supper. However, Zelda is admonished for killing a Child of Night, and the Dark Lord asserts he will only eat Hilda’s vegetable pie.
The devil is clearly smitten with Hilda, and so in a jealous rage, Zelda murders her sister by smashing her over the head with a shovel. While Zelda expects Hilda to resurrect herself, as per usual, the Dark Lord informs her that this time she is gone forever. The revelation breaks Zelda, who becomes emotionally distraught and finally acknowledges her spiteful treatment of Hilda.
The Spellmans are saved by an unlikely hero in the form of Miss Wardwell/Madame Satan (Michelle Gomez). The demon-controlled teacher sees the Batibat through Sabrina’s bedroom mirror and astral projects herself into the dreamscape. The episode’s macabre tone is wonderfully undercut by Wardwell interrupting the various nightmares as she creeps around searching for Sabrina. Wardwell eventually finds her gifted student and informs her that she’s dreaming and is going to help her wake up.
Ignoring Wardwell’s advice to get out of the house and save herself, Sabrina takes on the Batibat face-to-face. After her banishment spell fails, she self-induces a snooze so that she can lucid dream through the nightmares and help wake up her aunts and cousin. Sabrina is unable to get through to Zelda, who continues to lament over Hilda’s death, but thankfully has a little more luck with Ambrose and Hilda.
While the two Ambroses distract the Batibat, Sabrina heeds Hilda’s advice and uses her aunt’s pet spiders to cast a Dream Catcher spell over the demon. “Sometimes the oldest, simplest magic works best,” Sabrina says as she binds the Batibat in a cocoon of webs and then trapping it inside a jam jar for safekeeping.
“Dreams in a Witch House” works a stand-alone piece and a great character outing for the Spellman family, but it does contain one revelation which moves the series forward. By helping the Spellmans, Miss Wardwell has exposed herself as having magical powers, and you know that Sabrina is not going to let that slide by without finding answers.
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– The Academy of Unseen Arts is put on the back burner this episode, but we do see some of those characters pop up in Sabrina’s dream. The Weird Sisters (Tati Gabrielle, Abigail Cowen, and Adeline Rudolph) continue to taunt Sabrina while charming warlock Nick Scratch (Gavin Leathwood) tries to convince her to leave Harvey and fly away with him on his broom and never look back.
– Megan Leitch revealed in an interview that the Deadpool make-up team did her special effects for the Batibat and that some days it took 15 hours to get her ready.
Chilling Adventures of Sabrina, Streaming, Netflix