Satanic Bargain Horror

What is the Satanic Bargain Horror Subgenre?

A subgenre of satanic horror that was popular enough to get its own subgenre, satanic bargain horror is filled with tales of human protagonists who are ambitious or desperate or just looking to make a deal with demonic forces who are only too happy to oblige. Though often associated with satanic horror and the devil as seen in Christianity, any sort of demon or trickster god can stand in for Satan's side of the bargain.

This subgenre will always involve the plot element of a satanic bargain, which can be known by many names, most notably, a deal or pact with the devil or a Faustian bargain. This refers to the legendary character of Faust, a scholar who sells his soul to a demon named Mephistopheles for unlimited knowledge and worldly pleasure. Often, there is a catch to these bargains that acts in favor of the evil entity, as well as a steep price that the human protagonist must pay. As in the legend of Faust, that price is generally the soul of the human protagonist who is making the bargain, but other prices can include loved ones, children, eternal servitude, or a service to be provided in exchange. The human protagonist will often trade these precious items as a means of improving or prolonging their time on Earth.

The deal in this subgenre is often deceptively one-sided as the supernatural entity will always pay up, though not necessarily in the manner that the protagonist expects. Often, the plot will revolve around the human character's realization of the terror of their arrangement as well as their attempts to escape it. Themes such as "be careful what you wish for" are extremely prevalent in this subgenre.

Satanic Bargain Horror Characteristics

Level of Plot: The level of plot in satanic bargain horror is generally low to moderate as the plot revolves around the Faustian bargain and its consequences.


Level of Characterization: Expect moderate amounts of characterization in this subgenre. Pride is often a defining characteristic of the protagonists, and character development is generally brought about by the realization that the bargain is flawed.


Level of Supernatural: The level of supernatural in satanic bargain horror is high as an evil supernatural entity is necessary to strike the bargain.


Level of Scary: Scares will be moderate to high in this subgenre depending on the level of involvement of the supernatural entity.


Level of Violence: Violence is generally moderate to low in satanic bargain horror as the aim of the evil protagonist is often only the soul of the protagonist, and not a high body count.


Typical Setting: In this subgenre, the setting is not a main focus of the work. As such, settings are typically varied.

Related Horror Subgenres

Satanic horror is related to satanic bargain horror because the latter is an offshoot of the former. Also related to satanic bargain horror are witchcraft horror, supernatural horror, and religious horror which often deal with similar evil and supernatural antagonists.

Don't Read Satanic Bargain Horror If You Dislike…

Deals with the devil. As a main element of this subgenre is a deal or pact with the devil, if this is something that you dislike or are uncomfortable with, this may not be the subgenre for you.

The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde- A young aristocrat maintains his youth while engaging in years of evil and debauchery. Meanwhile, his portrait shows the ill effects of his lifestyle. The bargain in this story is implied rather than explicitly stated.


Needful Things by Stephen King- Leland Gaunt has a special shop in Castle Rock, Maine where the town's inhabitants can get anything they want from rare baseball cards to charms that relieve arthritis pain. The only price is that the customer play a little prank on their neighbor, but Gaunt knows what dark secrets lurk in the town of Castle Rock, and his pranks escalate until the town erupts into violence.


The Damnation Game by Clive Barker- A tale of a gambler caught between his millionaire employer and the supernatural forces that pursue him.


Rosemary's Baby by Ira Levin- Rosemary Woodhouse and her husband, Guy, get a lot more than they bargained for when they try to start a family in their new home, an apartment building with a disturbing and gory history.


Johannes Cabal, the Necromancer by Jonathan L. Howard- When Johannes Cabal sells his soul for the ability to bring back the dead, he realizes that he needs his soul to do just that. Satan offers to return his soul if he collects one hundred others in this series opener.


Jack Faust by Michael Swanwick- A modern retelling of Goethe's Faust, except in this version, Mephistopheles is seeking to destroy not only Faust but also all of humanity, and only Jack Faust can stop him.


Me and the Devil Blues- Taking its title from a popular Robert Johnson song, this manga follows the legend that the blues idol gained his talent by selling his soul to the devil.


The Monkey's Paw by W. W. Jacobs- When the Whites acquire a magical monkey's paw, it grants them three wishes, but at an enormous price. Though the horror of the results of these
wishes is implied, it is never explicitly shown.


Falling Angel by William Hjortsberg- In 1950's New York, a private investigator takes on what he thinks is a routine missing persons case, only to find himself embroiled in a disturbing world of black magic.


The Price by Alexandra Sokoloff- When Sydney Sullivan is diagnosed with stomach cancer, her parents are devastated. There seems to be no cure or comfort for the family until miraculous recoveries begin taking place at the hospital, and a mysterious man tells Will Sullivan that Sydney can be cured… for a price.

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