The 13th Floor

Talkin’ Tracks: An Interview With THE WITCH Composer Mark Korven

There’s evil in the wood’  – William (THE WITCH)

I only think of one film in recent history to garner the same kind of buzz as THE WITCH, that being IT FOLLOWS. Never being one to buy into hype, I sat down in the movie theatre fully expecting IT FOLLOWS to let me down – it didn’t. In fact it did quite the opposite. IT FOLLOWS was and is a remarkable film that still causes a chill down my spine whenever I think of it. Aside from having an original story, one of the key elements that really worked for me in IT FOLLOWS was the spectacular score, composed by DISASTERPEACE. At several times during the film, the score takes over and becomes a character. In a similar but very different way MARK KORVEN has managed to do the same for THE WITCH.

On the surface you have a score that plays on your emotions and puts you in a tense state, underneath that, there is just pure terror. IT FOLLOWS aside, I cannot think of any other musical score to create such an environment, all inside of 40 minutes. The score for THE WITCH sets a new standard in horror film composition. Too many horror films over the past five or so years have gone down the route of ‘80s slasher synth score’. THE WITCH avoids almost all of the pre-conceived notions of what a horror film should sound like and because of this I believe we will be talking about it for a long time to come.

I recently spoke with THE WITCH composer MARK KORVEN and Milan Records label head JC CHAMBOREDON about the project and why they were attracted to it.


Blumhouse.comHow did you come to be involved in THE WITCH?

Mark Korven – My agent sent me the script to read and I loved it. So very unusual, a horror movie with fully realized characters set in a world that we’ve never seen before.  I knew right away that it was special. So then it was a composer lottery with 12 other composers trying for the job.  Robert (Eggers – Writer /Director) chose me I think, because I was into unusual things, such as using Swedish Nyckelharpa’s – a 14th century keyed violin. He loved the sound of it, and that became the voice for the score.  He really didn’t want a traditional score in any way, shape or form.

When I first met Robert, I knew that I had to score THE WITCH.

He’s quite inspiring to be around. So single minded and focused. I think we first clicked on a personal level, and then on a musical level.  I really understood what he was going for.

BHHow far into the film making process were you brought on?

MK – Before it was shot. And then we didn’t talk too much about music until well into the editing stage.

BH – You’ve scored fantasy/drama/sci fi before but this is your first straight horror movie – was your approach to scoring The Witch any different?

MK – My first horror movie was a sci-fi horror called CUBE. It begins with one of the characters actually being sliced and diced into little cubes.  So I guess that make it horror!

Yes, the approach was very different.  Robert had the entire film, and the music as well in his head before it was even shot. I was really in the position (as most of us were) of helping Rob realize his creative vision.  Which I was totally fine with, since his vision is so clear.

BHHas the reaction to the film surprised you?

MK – Yes!  I knew that it was good movie, but I thought that a lot of people might not get the story because of the Middle English that the dialogue is spoken in. But the story is still there for people even if they don’t understand many of the words.  It really is essential to the unique mood the film creates.

BHAre you a fan of the horror genre?

MK – Story driven horror yes. LET THE RIGHT ONE IN, and ROSEMARY’S BABY are two of my favorites

BHWhat are some of your favorite horror scores?

MK – I’m going to go a little traditional with this answer. I’ve always liked Jerry Goldsmith’s score to ALIEN, also, the score for PSYCHO.

I’m not much of a slasher music kind of person, and I like these movies and scores because the storytelling is so strong.

BH – What attracted you to the score for THE WITCH?

JC Chamboredon – When I first heard about THE WITCH, the film seemed to have similar qualities to films such as UNDER THE SKIN and IT FOLLOWS: unique and masterfully crafted. I heard great things especially about the score when the first reviews came in.

BHAre you a fan of the film?

JC – Yes, I love the film very much. To me this is much more than a horror film. It is a gripping drama about the unraveling of a family when facing an overwhelming evil force. The filmmaker’s reverence for the time period, the attention to details and the respect he has for his characters are moving to me. In the hands of 90% of current filmmakers out there, this film would have turned into a cliché critique of religion and Puritanism with a stereotypical violent and crazy father figure driven by his faith. THE WITCH avoids all these traps. I don’t want to sound precious, but when I watch THE WITCH, I think this is the type of film Ingmar Bergman would make today. So I am very honored to have Milan Records being involved with the soundtrack release.

BHCan you give us any details on the album’s release?

JC – Mark Korven, the composer, delivered a beautifully scary score performed by a small ensemble. It is a great score that you can enjoy without having seen the film. We are putting it out digitally on 2/19 in conjunction with the film’s release. The CD release will follow on March 4. We are currently working on the vinyl for a May 20th release. It will feature original artwork by MIDNIGHT MARAUDER [who] did our LP design for IT FOLLOWS and WHILE WE’RE YOUNG.

We will also have a 100 copies of the LP signed by Mark Korven exclusively available through the Milan store.

I urge you all to not only see the film but to check out the score for THE WITCH. I have a feeling you’re going to enjoy it as much as I do.

To get you started, here are two sample tracks:

You can hear me talk all things soundtrack on a weekly basis on The Damn Fine Cast, available on iTunes & Soundcloud or hear my chat with Junkie XL about the DEADPOOL score over on The Milan Records Podcast.