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A specific type of Call Back wherein a previously humorous or light-hearted moment in the continuity is called back to and takes on a much harsher tone. For example a previously funny catch phrase will be repeated on someone's deathbed or a light-hearted memory will be referenced, making the memory take on a darker tone.

Compare Cerebus Retcon when a comedy plot element is deconstructed and played straight and Dark Reprise when it's a song. See also Funny Aneurysm Moment for an unintentional version of this. Note that it only counts when the previous moment is actually referenced. When it's a form of dialogue reversal, see Ironic Echo. When the thing being called back to seemed like more of a throwaway than anything, that's Meaningful Echo.

Examples of Cerebus Callback include:
  • In Coraline, Mr Bobinski's circus is one of the things that wows Coraline on her second visit and is the sight of some amusing moments. When she looks for the second ghost child's eyes she ends up getting attacked by everything in the circus. And the cute jumping mice turn out to be rats in disguise.
  • In Tangled as Flynn lies dying he whispers to Rapunzel "You were my new dream" referencing a light-hearted song from earlier in the film "I've Got A Dream".
    • Also referencing Flynn and Rapunzel's conversation while waiting for the lanterns. When Rapunzel asked what would happen to her after her dream of seeing the lanterns was fulfilled, Flynn answered, "Well, that's the good part, I guess. You get to go find a new dream."
  • During the number "A Guy Like You" in The Hunchback of Notre Dame the gargoyles give Quasimodo the Ace of Hearts card while they're trying to convince him that Esmerelda would love him. Shortly after this when he sees Esmerelda kissing Phoebus, he pulls out the card and rips it up.
  • In Thelma and Louise, Thelma and Louise take a polaroid photo of themselves at the start of their trip and stick it to the rear view mirror in the car. The photo flies off the mirror just as the car goes plunging into the Grand Canyon.
  • In the Angel episode "A Hole In The World" there is a Running Gag early on about the characters arguing on who would win in a fight - cavemen or astronauts. Towards the end of the episode as Fred lies dying, infected with the spirit of an ancient demon she whispers "cavemen win, cavemen always win" as a reference to the plot parallel of their modern technologies being unable to stop the ancient demon.
    • The same episode has a light-hearted flashback scene of Fred packing up her things preparing to move to Los Angeles. At the end of the next episode when Fred has died they show another scene of her waving goodbye to her parents and driving off to Los Angeles.
  • In Suburban Knights, The Nostalgia Critic gives Ma-Ti the "important mission" of getting him a coffee to keep him out of the way. In the end, after Ma-Ti sacrifices his life to defeat Malecite, the Critic goes back home to find Ma-Ti got him the coffee after all. Cue tears.
    • Remember all that funny Becoming the Mask and Critic refusing to get into character? Well, Ma-Ti dies, he rips off his always-present tie while running to him, loses his glasses and looks like he can't bear to wear his full Critic costume when he's depressed at home.
  • In Everyman HYBRID, A Day In The Life was a Breather Episode of sorts, until hidden clips in future videos paint a more sinister tone on the whole day.
  • A Knight's Tale has a scene where William first arrives in London, he imagines that a young boy cheering him on is himself as a child. Later on as he sits in the stocks the same boy runs up to him and slaps him in the face.
  • The Hole has a really dark example. In Liz's version of events the group make up a fake scenario to fool Martyn. The scene is done comically but then when we see the real story the same things they used appear again such as Frankie getting sick (and eventually dying), the water going off and everyone ganging up on Liz.
  • The Breakfast Club has Brian talking about how he failed shop because he couldn't make a ceramic elephant, which leads into a bit of joking on the part of the others. A few minutes later when the entire discussion has gone a bit more dramatic, Brian reveals he brought a gun to school because he couldn't get the elephant to work, implying he wanted to kill himself. It gets subverted when they all end up laughing about it anyway.
  • The group picture the girls in The Descent take of themselves the morning of the caving trip shows up at the end with the credits rolling over it.
  • The Charmed episode "Vaya Con Leos" opens with a humorous scene of Leo trying to persuade Piper to buy an old van. At the end of the episode when he has to be taken away to save his life Piper is seen in the garage tearfully looking at the van.