Sad news today for fans of the Universal Monsters and adherent to kitsch as it has been revealed that the iconic Monsters Café at Universal Studios Orlando has met its maker… and it isn’t Dr. Frankenstein, either.
Landon McReynolds of Click Orlando has published that as of this morning, Universal Orlando’s Monster Café has been closed permanently ahead of an upcoming new dining experience.
The Experience of the Monsters Café
The Monsters Café was a relatively simple restaurant that opened in 1998 in Universal Studios Orlando. The restaurant included food such as ribs and rotisserie chicken platters with the items bearing no real connection to the monster theme beyond names. A famous example of this was a towering soft-serve cone named after The Bride of Frankenstein.
The main appeal, however, was the embracing of the Universal Horror icons in the decore and theming of the restaurant. There were some fun, deep cuts, such as the presence of an Interocitor from This Island Earth (1994) set against one of the diner’s walls. This video of a walk-through now serves as one of the only ways for monster fans to experience the location.
Where else can you have some chicken in the presence of the Gill-Man?
But if you expected to enjoy a fine dining experience amidst castle corridors and props, well, think again.
The Visitors Were Less-Than-Thrilled
That being said, the consensus from online reviews is that you were not necessarily paying for the food when you went to the Monsters Café. The restaurant had a troubling two-and-a-half-star rating on Yelp, for example.
One of the more positive reviews, from user Raegan L. opens with the following: “Finding semi-decent places to eat in the Universal parks can be a real struggle. But I think Monsters Cafe does a solid ‘okay’!”
In an incredibly neutral review by user Shannon B., she wrote:
Pro’s: ambiance is cool with classic Halloween music piping through, busts of well-known monsters (Dracula, Frankenstein), and portraits of old horror memorabilia (portraits of Bela Lugosi in costume). The staff was helpful and friendly, especially when I needed bbq sauce to help my pitiful rendition of rotisserie chicken.
Con’s: the half rotisserie chicken I ordered was dry and flavorless and the roasted potatoes were old and as wobbly as a newborn baby calf.
Perhaps I came here too late in the evening, but I will not come back here when visiting Universal again.
Indeed, it seems between the cost, the limited menu items, and the bland nature of the food, the restaurant didn’t have much going for it beyond the decor. How much of that was attributable to COVID-19 is hard to tell, but clearly, the Monsters Café had some issues.
It’s the Principle of the Thing
Though the food might have been outright mediocre, the outcry among the horror community has been swift. Some Tweets express some sadness about a strange bit of horror culture vanishing, while there are jokes as well.
Beware the Minions
Though Universal Studios’ publicists have declined to reveal what dining experience will be replacing the Monsters Café, online rumors are suggesting there will be a new restaurant themed after the Minions of the Despicable Me franchise from Illumination.
Given the restaurant’s proximity to the Despicable Me: Minion Mayhem attraction, this seems likely. Only time will tell, however, if the Minions will continue their assault on the horror community.
So, how do you feel about the loss of this dining experience at Universal Orlando? Are you comfortable with this Universal Monsters erasure? I for one had never been, but I am absolutely livid now that I never will. It’s enough to make me want to rampage through a small Transylvanian village.
Your thoughts in the comments?
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#ChadGetsTheAxe Coming Out September 1st
But sometimes there comes a film that’s smartly written, full of humor and social commentary, plus great acting. Oh, and scares that actually scare the shit out of me.
Almost a year to the date, I got to watch such a film called #CHADGETSTHEAXE that I saw as a screener for FilmQuest Fest in October, 2022. And I was blown away by the talents of director/co-writer Travis Bible and co-writer/producer Kemerton Hargrove; starring Spencer Harrison Levin (Black Jesus), Michael Bonini (New Amsterdam), Taneisha Figueroa (Duck World), Cameron Vitosh (Walker), Brandon Doyle (Murder Made Me Famous), and Shun Hagins (Snitch).
Mini-Review, I swear it’s short:
And, I know, I know, I know. ‘But Brannyyyyk, isn’t livestreaming horror movies just a flash in the pan? Hasn’t it been done beforeeee?’ For one, stop saying it like that, it’s weird. For two, not like this. The care and attention that went into #CHADGETSTHEAXE is wickedly clever with such tongue-in-cheek humor of influencers, humanity, and the toxic culture of fandom. It’s the shining example of live-streaming movies because it’s so f-ing smart.
Case in point, the characters are living up to their personas. However, even when the personas are ragged and driven to the edge of life and death, we never see them as people, fully dimensional people, because we never see them break away from their devices. There’s never a shot that shows us ‘hey, this is a film, now let’s see them as the real character they are’. The actors are really carrying dual roles as the personas and the real people underneath; as they are struggling to keep up appearances in front of the millions of viewers.
Plus, don’t get me started on the characters within the livestream feed, along with running jokes and clues to the haunted house.
Anyway, I don’t want to give too much away as I’m going to be covering it on Streamin’ Demons soon. But I wanted to also tease about the fact that I’m going to be interviewing some VIPs from the movie for What’s Kraken? So, shhh, only tell your closest friends because it’s going to be incredible.
Join the Hype Train:
Adapted from an award-winning short with the same title, #ChadGetsTheAxe follows four social media influencers as they live-stream their trip to Devil’s Manor, former home to a Satanic Cult. Things don’t go well. And as the violence ramps up… so do the views.
The film premiered at FilmQuest in October 2022 and Internationally at FrightFest Glasgow in March 2023 where it was well received by critics. #ChadGetsTheAxe was produced by Travis Bible, Eric Gibson, Kemerton Hargrove, and Frances O’Hanlon, while Dream Big Group serves as executive producers.
The Horror Collective is the genre label of Entertainment Squad — a production and distribution company founded by veteran producer Shaked Berenson (TURBO KID, TALES OF HALLOWEEN). The label’s latest releases include the Daytime Emmy nominated Limited Series DOOMSDAY, the killer-pants Shudder Original SLAXX, and the critically acclaimed horror-comedy SUMMONING SYLVIA.
June Title for Arrow Streaming
Welcome to June! There’s so much on the hopper for Arrow that I just have to give you, my friends, the hot goss.
June 2nd: Paul Joyce Documentaries
June 2nd kicks off the month with ARROW’s latest curation of Paul Joyce documentaries, this time looking at legendary filmmaker John Cassavetes, straight from the mouth of his friend and collaborator co-star Peter Falk (Columbo) in Out of the Shadows: The Films of John Cassavetes.
After a six year directing hiatus, Monte Hellman sat down with Paul Joyce and just talked for an hour while Joyce filmed. The result is Plunging on Alone: Monte Hellman’s Life In a Day.
June 2nd: the wild world of Ero Guro
What is Ero Guro? Well, the Japanese sub-genre of horror and pink films Ero Guro combines the erotic (ero) and the grotesque (guro) to deviant, decadent and unforgettable effect. ARROW’s Ero Guro collection features the unholy trinity of core Ero Guro films, Teruo Ishii’s Shogun’s Joy of Torture and Horrors of Malformed Men and Yasuzo Masumura’s Blind Beast, plus plenty more exciting, explicit and enticingly depraved delights to delve into.
Titles Include: Shogun’s Joy of Torture, Blind Beast, Irezumi.
June 6th: Warriors Two (US/CA)
After making his directorial debut with the intense The Iron-Fisted Monk and firmly solidifying his worth at Golden Harvest, Sammo Hung would be given more creative control behind the camera. Now able to inject more of his own personality, Hung would bring to life the more upbeat (yet only slightly less violent) Wing Chun cult classic: Warriors Two!
Predating the Ip Man tetralogy by three decades – as well as Hung’s own The Prodigal Son (starring Yuen Biao as the younger incarnation of Leung Tsan) by a few years – Warriors Two is one of the earliest films to authentically portray the teachings of Wing Chun while also delivering the kind of kinetic and pulse-pounding fights synonymous with the name Sammo Hung!
June 16th: Eli Roth Selects (UK/IRE/US/CA)
Splatter icon Eli Roth takes a stroll through the archives with Eli Roth Selects (UK/IRE/US/CA). “I absolutely love Arrow and have been a collector of their editions for years, and Arrow Player is the most streamed channel in my house. I’ve seen a lot of Select lists, and while I agree with them, I wanted to highlight some that people might have otherwise overlooked.”
Titles Include: Basket Case, Contamination, Madhouse.
June 19th: Toru Murakawa’s Game Trilogy (UK/IRE/US/CA)
Made at the end of the 1970s, Toru Murakawa’s Game Trilogy launched actor Yûsaku Matsuda as the Toei tough guy for a new generation. Matsuda was the definitive screen icon of 1980s until his career was tragically cut short by cancer at the age of 40, following his Hollywood debut in Ridley Scott’s Black Rain.
The Most Dangerous Game (UK/IRE/US/CA): In this career-defining triptych, Matsuda is Shohei Narumi, an ice cool hitman of few words, a steely trigger finger, and a heart of stone, hired in The Most Dangerous Game by a company bidding for a lucrative government air defence contract to take out the competition.
The Killing Game (UK/IRE/US/CA): Narumi finds himself caught in the midst of violent yakuza gang warfare, while his own brutal past catches up with him in the form of two beautiful women still bearing the emotional scars of his past assignments.
The Execution Game (UK/IRE/US/CA): Narumi falls for a mysterious saloon bar chanteuse who may or may not be part of the same, shadowy underworld organization as the rival hitmen he is employed to rub out. (I’m assuming the tough-guy way and not the sexy way)
June 23rd: SHAAAARKS!!!
Yessss, Cruel Jaws is coming to Arrow!
ARROW heads to the beach for some terror with shark attacks.
Cruel Jaws (US/CA): A huge shark terrorizes a beach in Florida, and the locals try everything to kill it.
Deep Blood (US/CA): Several young men have to stop an ancient native American evil in the form of a killer shark which is attacking a small beach community.
June 23rd: Sci-fi Stunners (UK/IRE/US/CA)
For the penultimate Season, ARROW boldly goes to the stars on June 23, seeking out new life and new cinema.
Sci-fi Stunners (UK/IRE/US/CA): There are other worlds than these. Come and explore them in this collection of cybernetic, planet-probing, time-travelling, cosmos-trotting, aliens-zapping, virtual and far-too-real adventures in Sci-fi Stunners – ARROW’s home world for the coolest Cult science-fiction films in the galaxy.
Titles Include: No Escape, Donnie Darko, Crimes of the Future.
Last but not least
Cosa Nostra Collection (UK/IRE/US/CA):
The most American of directors according to celebrated critic Paolo Mereghetti, Damiano Damiani (A Bullet for the General) nevertheless surveyed his own country’s mafia history unlike anyone before him, to critical and box office success.
Full of twists and a fascinating meta-commentary on cinema, Damiani points the camera at himself and the genre as he investigates the social impact of mafia violence, a fitting end to this survey of Damiani’s Cosa Nostra.
Titles Include: Day of the Owl, The Case is Closed, Forget It, How To Kill a Judge.
From Arrow Films, a recognized world-leader in curation and creation, ARROW is a premium platform giving audiences an unparalleled viewing experience across multiple devices, so fans can explore the films and TV shows that the Arrow brand is famous for.
Specially curated by members of the ARROW team, ARROW is home to premium film and TV entertainment, exclusive new premieres, cutting edge cinema, international classics and cult favorites – such as the works of Lars Von Trier, Brian De Palma, Dario Argento, David Cronenberg and Park Chan-wook, and brand-new short films from both new and established filmmakers.
In the coming months, ARROW will be adding Oscar-winning hits, European classics, Asian cinema masterworks, rediscovered Westerns, offbeat gems and much more as part of ARROW’s international strategy to support and celebrate the medium of film.
A horror author goes to Nebula Con
The Science Fiction, Fantasy Writers Association is one of the most prestigious organizations in America for speculative fiction writers. While horror is not specifically mentioned, we all know that it’s nearly impossible to discuss fantasy and science fiction without the shadow of horror creeping in.
Each year, SFWA hosts a convention for writers called Nebula Con. I have virtually attended the convention for the past two years. And if you’ve never attended, you might want to consider it. Even if your writing, like mine, is long in the shadows and short on the elves.
First off, I do want to be clear that Nebula Con is a convention for speculative fiction writers. There are some fan panels, like the one on the works of Robin McKinley, this year’s Grandmaster. But the majority of the panels and events are for writers.
That being said, there are panels for writers at every stage of their careers.
For writers interested in crafting better stories, craft panels abound. My favorite panel was the one titled For The Love of Short Fiction. This panel started with a reading of some of the best short works from 2022. Then, each panelist dug into what made that piece work for them.
There were several other terrific panels, including one all about constructing a realistic legal system in your fictional world and writing fictional podcasts. (Like I do.)
But, you might say, these are panels for sci-fi and fantasy writers. No, these are panels for speculative fiction writers. Horror authors who want to have any kind of career would do well to master the short story. And if you don’t think there’s room for some legal horror in the market, you are wrong.
While the craft panels were wonderful, the career and marketing panels were probably the most useful and valuable of the whole convention. Are you, like many other online creatives, worried about the effects AI-generated writing is going to have on our field? There were two informative panels regarding that. Are you wondering how writers’ relationships with agents have changed now that self-publishing is so prevalent? There’s a panel for that.
A lot is going on in the publishing world. It’s confusing as hell, my friends. And one of the ways we keep each other up to date is with conventions like this. What I got out of the panel most was that having a career in writing is possible. My fellow participants and I learned from writers who are doing the thing. It’s hard, but it’s possible.
Of course, a convention is more than just panels. There’s the chance to meet with other authors. This might be where a virtual convention seems to have a deficit. And while I’ll admit that meeting online isn’t the same as meeting in person, there are certainly perks. I was able to meet, chat with and share stories with other writers in a Zoom chat room. And I came away feeling much like I did as a kid, having met new friends at summer camp. Even if I wasn’t sitting across from them, it was great to be surrounded by other people who want to make a living scaring the hell out of other people.
All of this writing joy culminates with the Nebula Awards Ceremony. If you’re interested in catching the awards but didn’t make it to the convention this year, you can watch it all on Youtube. Each year speculative fiction authors of all kinds of honored, from written work to gaming to television. This year’s toastmaster was Cheryl Platz, an author, and actress. As a critic, awards ceremonies are usually something I usually force my way through. The Nebula Awards are a rare treat in that scene. Partially because there’s a chance I’ve met the people up for the awards. But also because the people involved are, first and foremost, writers. It’s amazing how much more entertaining events are when the people being honored are, you know, talented storytellers.
If you’ve been on the fence about attending Nebula Con virtually, I suggest giving it a try. The world certainly needs more stories that go bump in the night.