Even before the first people saw the theatrical performance of Faust, the demonic pact has held multiple levels of symbolism in the history of horror. As a writer who specializes in horror history and horror symbolism, I have been asked about the meanings and symbolism of a demonic pact from time to time. After reading this, you will be tuned into the messages that are left unsaid in horror movies and horror literature about the symbolism of a demonic pact.
I have discussed the symbolism of prayer in horror movies and horror literature in the past (read about that here), and a demonic pact can easily be considered as the antithesis of prayer. Instead of asking God for an intercession, a person makes a deal with the Devil. Instead of taking the chance that God will not answer favorably, a person who has made a demonic pact knowing that the darker forces will be more likely to grant the wish.
Throughout the Middle Ages, the Church taught that anyone who made a demonic pact had turned his or her back on God, and became as evil as the darker forces that he or she made a deal with. Remember that the Church actively hunted down people during this time frame that, “might,” have made a demonic pact. The slaughter of supposed witches, warlocks, werewolves, and vampires centered on the belief that anyone who made a demonic pact was inherently evil to the core.
So to with characters in horror movies and horror literature that have made a demonic pact. Only the most evil creations of many writers and directors are the ones that create demonic pacts. We will usually find this out very early in the story so that we have a long time to hate them as the story progresses to his or her eventual demise.
We grow up with stories that tell us that a person who makes a demonic pact will eventually have their comeuppance. In the previous paragraph I pointed out that, “the story progresses to his or her eventual demise.” We know throughout the story that the person will be served a just dessert. Horror movies and horror literature try to make the demonic pacts come to a very bloody end to show that we should not entrust ourselves to the darker forces of the universe.
Redemption Through Hope
There is the occasional case in which a person who has made a demonic pact wants redemption. Many writers and directors have come up with creative ways to try to break a demonic pact. It is sometimes pointed out in horror movies and horror literature that a person wants to come back to the light, and the demonic pact itself becomes the antagonist of the story.
The next time that you see a person in a horror movie that has supposedly gone into league with the Devil through a demonic pact, think about what is trying to be put across by the director. When you read about a demonic pact in a horror story, think about what the writer wants you to feel about the character. You might find that these categories are spot on.