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Soundtrack review: The witch (Mark Korven – 2016)

Film scores

Soundtrack review: The witch (Mark Korven – 2016)


“The Witch” (stylized as The VVitch) is a 2015 horror film written and directed by Robert Eggers, his directorial debut. New England, 1630: William and Katherine lead a devout Christian life, homesteading on the edge of an impassible wilderness, with five children. When their newborn son mysteriously vanishes and their crops fail, the family begins to turn on one another. ‘The Witch’ is a chilling portrait of a family unraveling within their own fears and anxieties, leaving them prey for an inescapable evil. The score was written by Mark Korven.

This is the first composition of his that I hear and an introduction like “What went we” is the warmest musical hug I could get from a composer. The way that solo cello plays gets to me from the first seconds and drops a veil of darkness around me. I am in and ready to hear the whole story. “Banished” continues very quietly but so poignant, like a wind that chills me to the bones. This is a brand of scary that always works for me; the music has almost no melody and constructs a world of sounds around me that keeps expanding and it expands so widely that it doesn’t need to scare me straight up with sudden noises because it knows I can’t escape.

“A witch stole Sam” is simply amazing with its constant clanking and shrieking. This is how you write a horror cue, scary and exciting in the same time. I can’t walk away and I want to listen to it again. I like how the composer experiments and cuts the sounds midway through for a better effect. I am so curious about how this score was recorded because the studio must have been a mighty interesting place.

The lack of melody is forgotten when the cello returns. I love those moments because they balance the pure and palpable fear from the rest of the score. Those dissonant strings, twisted and tormented cut away and make me feel alone and naked. I guess my loneliness mirrors that of the instruments. Very rarely I can hear more of them in the same time. The music Mark Korven wrote just buries me slowly and implacably and the darkness has no end.

Don’t mistake a score being quiet with it not being alive. There are moments when the music just explodes with strange sounds. “The goat & the mayhem” is like a scene from the movie itself with everything that’s going on inside it. I will let you discover what lies between the claws of this score for yourselves. If you want to listen to a proper horror score that will send shivers up and down your spine from the first to the last second, look no further. Mark Korven scared the daylights out of me with this one.

Cue rating: 93 / 100

Total minutes of excellence: 26 / 38

Album excellence: 68%


What Went We

A Witch Stole Sam

I Am the Witch Mercy

Caleb Is Lost

Caleb’s Seduction

Caleb’s Death

William And Tomasin

The Goat And The Mayhem

Isle Of Wight (traditional)

Standish (traditional)


Mihnea Manduteanu

I have been listening to film music for 25 years and writing about it since 2014. I've written over 1000 reviews and I can't imagine myself doing anything else. I am also a member of IFMCA (International Film Music Critics Association).

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  1. Dirty Harry 2nd May 2016

    “Witch’s Coven” is definitely the most memorable and scariest track from this movie’s musical score. Not mentioning it as one of the highlights is almost a sacrilege!


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