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Cosmic Horror Reveal
A mundane, fantasy, or science fiction setting is unexpectedly revealed to be a CosmicHorrorStory.
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(permanent link) added: 2009-12-12 06:20:37 sponsor: Noimporta edited by: morenohijazo (last reply: 2014-07-21 10:04:27)

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REBOOT.

"Never bring Time Travel, the Cthulu Mythos, or Giant Robots into an established setting, because if you do, all it will ever really BE about from then on, is Time Travel, or the Cthulu Mythos, or Giant Robots. Or Giant Robots traveling through time to fight the Cthulu Mythos."

"Dear Diary:
Well, this summer has been one headlong dive into whirlwind romance for me. Ha! I wish! As You Know, I've spent most of the summer trying to run into Percy Marlborough (sigh!), the handsome young industrialist I met the day I snuck into the country club on a lark.
[...]
OH GOD OH GOD OH GOD. He's not human.
If anyone finds this, I beg you, call the police. Tell them our city is full of insect-lizard creatures that walk invisibly among us and feed on our emotions, an ancient eldritch race that see all our efforts and strivings as the caperings of monkeys."
How NOT to Write a Novel, "'And One Ring to Bind Them,' Said the Old Cowpoke"

The plot seemed to be going has been abruptly overshadowed by the revelation that the setting you thought you were reading about is merely an infinitesimal fraction of an universe that actually teems with overwhelming otherworldly menace.

The threat this reveals is likely to virtually overshadow all the more mundane players you already knew about; at the very least, it substantially alters both the reader's and the characters' understanding of their world. The rebellious factions in The Federation are actually being controlled by an unusual artifact, just shipped back from recent excavations in a fringe system. The Corrupt Corporate Executive and Professional Killer are its cultists. The Evil Overlord you just defeated was the Cosmic Keystone keeping it out.

The plot probably didn't completely Genre Shift into Cosmic Horror Story, but at the very least it just received a very noticeable transfusion - it could almost be seen as the Cosmic Horror Story genre itself invading the more traditional settings we know, parasitising them, and altering their realities to one that suits it better.

This can be either a very cheap or very shocking way for things to get worse.

Subtrope of Outside-Context Villain, and sometimes The Man Behind the Man. Compare Genre Shift, Genre Blending and Going Cosmic. Contrast Giant Space Flea from Nowhere and Diabolus Ex Nihilo, wherein the unexpected threat is not necessarily a thing from beyond, and whatever it is is completely unrelated to the extended plot.


Examples:

Video Games
  • Final Fantasy seems to be very fond of this:
    • Final Fantasy I. The Four Fiends are upstaged by by Garland who becomes Chaos
    • Final Fantasy III. Xande's doings bring Cloud Of Darkness around
    • Final Fantasy IX. The final boss is Necron despite Kuja being the main antagonist throughout the game.
  • In Persona 2 Hitler turns out to be Nyarlathotep in disguise.
  • In Mass Effect, you're initially in pursuit of Saren, a secret agent bent on using synthetic organisms to wipe out humanity. Surprise, he's really working for the Reapers, an ancient race of machines who have wiped out all galactic civilizations several times over.
  • In Discworld Noir, the first part of the game seems like a normal mystery story, with a detective, a murder, suspects... The final part, however, involves a plan to release an Eldritch Abomination, and once it's released, finding a way to kill it.
  • The Chzo Mythos does this at the midway point: The first two games were straight slasher horror stories with the single central antagonist, but starting with Trilby's Notes the series' focus shifts to the Cosmic Horror possessing the previous games' antagonist, the titular elemental god of pain. (This is because Yahtzee was making up more story elements as he went along.)
  • Earthbound tells you vaguely about Giygas throughout, but it takes almost the entire game to find out he's an Eldritch Abomination.
  • Not the main plot, but Oracle Of Tao has a bounty hunting sidequest that is relatively calm and relaxing, until you get to about the last monster, who turns out to be an Eldritch Abomination. Losing the battle against this last bounty results in a Mind Rape ending. For a Side Quest, this is still pretty heavy... and there are actually a number of these practically immortal destructive beings roaming about.
  • Halo 2 revealed that the answer to many of the driving questions of the setting - why the Haloes were made and where the Neglectful Precursors went - was the Gravemind, aka when a Body Horror Zombie Apocalypse acquires sentience, becomes a Hive Mind, and overruns its local galaxy and begins spreading to others nearby.
    • It was known that the Halo rings were built to kill the flood (or more precisely, their food—which is essentially all life in the galaxy— and starve them out) since Halo 1. The Eldritch Abomination Gravemind however didn't show up until Halo 2, so they were more or less space zombies until the giant iambic-pentameter speaking venus flytrap came onto the scene. And it should be noted that the Flood shifted the focus from a war with Scary Dogmatic Aliens to themselves.
    • The Gravemind turns out to be behind prehistoric galactic mysteries like the disappearance of the Neglectful Precursors, similarly to Mass Effect, though. I mean, the Gravemind is able to corrupt Cortana...the AI. That's a pretty scary thing for an organic being to do without using a computer. But the fact that it is basically, recognisably, definitely a biological organism as we know them rather keeps it out of the Eldritch Abomination category. :P
  • Assassin's Creed is a perfectly normal game about an evil organisation forcing the PC to relive the genetic memories of his ancestors, tied in to an ancient-evil-conspiracy plot. Suddenly, Abusive Precursors arrive and the world's about to be destroyed by some sort of horrible thing.
  • This has happened to Eggman how many times now? That is, the point is that Eggman suddenly finds himself out of his league when his schemes provoke godlike horrors, such as Perfect Chaos, Dark Gaia, and Solaris, and Sonic has to go Super to bail Earth—and Eggman—out of the mess the doctor had caused.

Non-Video Game Examples

Anime and Manga
  • Towards the end of Romeo X Juliet, it becomes clear that the true enemy isn't the murderous Lord Montague, who is slowly descending into cackling, city-burning madness, but rather the death of Escalus, which is what's holding Neo Verona in the sky: the earthquakes that become much more frequent and ruinous towards the series' climax are the result of Escalus slowly perishing.
  • Gonna have to put Digimon Tamers in here, considering how the D-Reaper turned it into this.
  • Puella Magi Madoka Magica: It starts as a typical Magical Girl anime and after a few Wham Episodes, we find out exactly how big a problem is...

Film
  • The Cabin in the Woods would also be a good example for this trope, with the run-off-the-mill horror/slasher story being revealed as a setup to please the Old Gods slumbering below us. They're not cosmic though, they just "ruled the earth before man".
  • The World's End begins as a story of five childhood friends reuniting for a pub crawl in their old hometown. They struggle to come to terms with their problems, their friendships, and their pasts. It's a strong character development piece that gets hijacked about halfway through with the sudden revelation that the townspeople have been replaced by alien robots.

Literature
  • Mistborn by Brandon Sanderson. The entire novel is spent with the protagonists struggling to overthrow the Evil Overlord, only to discover that said Evil Overlord is personally holding back a nasty Eldritch Abomination from destroying the world.
  • The first three books of Venus Prime are about a young female detective who solves mysteries in space while trying to discover The Conspiracy that caused her to lose three years' worth of memories. In the fourth book, she pretty much wipes out the conspiracy. And then, suddenly, the Starfish Aliens start to show up, and the rest of the series is about her and her allies trying to prevent one faction of the aliens from attempting to re-write history so that Earth becomes more like their homeworld - which would make it uninhabitable to humans.

Web Original

Western Animation
  • South Park: The episode "Pinewood Derby" begins with Stan competing for the derby and his father Randy cheating to win, which catches the attention of cosmic beings who subject humanity to a morality test.
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