This movie focuses squarely on a family as they struggle to survive in the America’s during the 1600’s. In a way it’s a lot like a stage play in that, save for the first few minutes, the cast consists solely of these 6 people. As a rule of thumb, when writing film music for small or intimate scenes you should use minimal instruments and keep the melodies fairly simple or else you stand to disrupt the scene. This score handles this with great elegance and care. Even during the scenes of intensity where someone is frantically running through the woods, the music still keeps to it’s sparse elements which gives everything a sense of urgency. If the music were large and bombastic, even during scenes of violence, it would make itself far too noticeable and distracting.
Composer Mark Korven definitely had a few hurdles to overcome when writing music for a movie about a Witch. There have been so many different theatrical interpretations of what a “Witch” really means to the world at large. Most people usually go into these movies already having an idea of what the music will sound like. Because of this, the composer runs the risk of making something cliched and predictable to the point where it would cause even the casual movie-goer to roll their eyes in boredom. This is where Korven’s score truly sets itself apart. Though he primarily conveys the Witch’s menace through the use of violins and cellos, which most would expect from a period film such as this, the melodies are placed in such an articulate way that it gives a fresh and new approach to the usual “horror music” style that we’re all familiar with.
One thing that I was particularly impressed with was the unorthodox way in which Korven uses orchestral instruments to mimic the sounds of farm animals within the music. Normally you’d just throw in a sample of a real animal making the sound, but by imitating them in this way it triggers a feeling of familiarity while at the same time it causes a sense of unease because you know somethings not quite right about it. Subconsciously this gives you the impression that there is something seriously wrong with the “animals” making these noises. This psychological trickery only serves to intensify the disturbing imagery that takes place on screen.
However there is one instance where I feel Korven’s score seems to loose it’s footing and that is on the track “Witch’s Coven”. The chanting women really take away from everything that he’s established thus far. Up until this point we’ve been treated to expert subtly that has given us all sorts feelings of tension and unease. But when we get to this piece everything kinda falls apart. As I said earlier Korven had some major hurdles to overcome when taking on something like this. So it’s somewhat understandable that he might fall into the usual cliches from time to time. However it’s still a bit disappointing to have come this far with such a fresh approach to a familiar concept, only to be hit with something so over the top that it sounds like the music you’d hear walking through a haunted house at a shopping mall.
“The Witch” Original Motion Picture Soundtrack is available March 4th on Amazon.