July 21, 2024

Dark Universe Monsters Land at Universal’s Epic Universe: Restaurant & Ride Reveal!


Universal Orlando Resort has shared a deep look into ‘Dark Universe’ the new classic monsters land at Epic Universe, their third theme park in Florida that opens in 2025. This sneak peek shares concept art

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Universal Orlando Resort has shared a deep look into ‘Dark Universe’ the new classic monsters land at Epic Universe, their third theme park in Florida that opens in 2025. This sneak peek shares concept art & info about rides, restaurants, retail and everything else in the upcoming area of the park.

An expansion of 750 acres, Epic Universe is Universal Orlando Resort’s third theme park, just down the road from Universal Studios Florida and Islands of Adventure, as well as Volcano Bay Water Park. Once fully built out, the new theme park campus would essentially double Universal Orlando Resort’s existing footprint. It won’t be that big in 2025–that build out is years, if not decades, down the road.

Epic Universe will transport guests to expansive worlds featuring more than 50 experiences that include attractions, entertainment, dining and shopping to create an unforgettable adventure located at Universal Orlando Resort. For a big picture overview of the entire park, see our Universal’s Epic Universe Preview, which unveiled all of the lands and much more. Against that backdrop, let’s introduce the latest land at Epic Universe: Dark Universe.

“It’s Alive! It’s Alive!” Next year, Universal will bring its timeless monsters to the present day in Dark Universe, one of the five immersive worlds featured at the all-new Epic Universe. The most mysterious world of Universal Orlando’s newest theme park, this captivating new land will envelop guests in monstrous adventures across various attractions, shops, restaurants and character meet and greets that will thrill everyone from families to classic Monster fans alike.

Created by the award-winning Universal Creative team in partnership with Universal Pictures, Dark Universe blends the iconic stories of unearthly legends like Dracula, The Wolf Man, Frankenstein’s Monster, the Bride of Frankenstein and more with a new generation of monsters and characters, including Dr. Victoria Frankenstein – the great-great-granddaughter of the infamous Henry Frankenstein who has continued his misguided experiments.

As guests venture through Darkmoor – the ravaged village within Dark Universe – they’ll encounter the characters and subjects of those experiments within a first-of-its-kind theme park environment that offers family-friendly fun while also pushing the boundaries on intensity in a way that only Universal could achieve.

Guests will enter Dark Universe from Celestial Park via a coil-topped portal crackling with electricity, representing the eternal struggle of science against death. The tone is set immediately, with the portal itself being a spooky one and containing a foreboding message: The Air Itself is Filled with Monsters.

Those who are brave enough to enter Dark Universe will find themselves in a decaying, foggy cemetery on the edges of the village of Darkmoor. If that tingling down your spine isn’t hint enough, the upended tombstones and twisted roots confirm what you already might suspect: things don’t stay buried for long here.

As guests step foot inside, that same energy will pulsate throughout the entire village and connect at the top of Frankenstein Manor – the towering focal point of Dark Universe. Nestled within the blackened stone walls of the town, guests will embark on unique adventures where they can get made up to look like their favorite monsters, spin through the woods aboard a thrilling family coaster, enjoy unique dining establishments, enter Frankenstein Manor to brave Universal Orlando’s most chilling ride ever, and more.

Once guests make their way through the cemetery–the closing chapter in life, but a fitting opening act for Dark Universe–they’ll find themselves in the village proper, where misbegotten scientific experiments scar the land and unnatural creatures lurk in the shadows. This is Darkmoor, home to monsters, monster makers, monster hunters and the welcoming villagers who are just trying to survive.

Here’s a preview video from Universal Orlando introducing Dark Universe:

We’d highly recommend watching this 6 minute introduction to the new monster land at Universal’s Epic Universe, as it contains concept art and simulated flythrough footage, as well as what appears to be actual on-ride video of the marquee attraction.

“We created a village and a world beyond it where not only can these stories come together, but new stories can come in as well,” explains Pete Carsillo, senior creative director for Dark Universe. “Now you’re in the same place where all those stories come together, but it’s the current day.”

Dark Universe Rides

Dark Universe is home to two attractions, alongside meet and greets with some of Darkmoor’s most (in)famous inhabitants. Since the world of Darkmoor exists in the present day, that means there’s a new Dr. Frankenstein in town — and you’re about to meet her.

Monsters Unchained: The Frankenstein Experiment

Looming in the distance over the village of Darkmoor is Frankenstein Manor. Deep below this decrepit estate, guests will experience Dark Universe’s thrilling dark ride: Monsters Unchained: The Frankenstein Experiment.

Dr. Victoria Frankenstein, Henry’s great-great-great granddaughter, resides in the manor, and she’s inviting you to witness her latest experiment. Victoria has already brought her own creature back from the dead, and now she’s seeking to rehabilitate all the monsters that are plaguing the village — and restore her family name to glory.

As Victoria’s guests, you’ll witness her attempt to tame the most dangerous monster of all, Dracula, backfire spectacularly. Chaos erupts as you’re pursued deeper and deeper into the catacombs by a rogue’s gallery of Universal Monsters.

“We see a maniacal side of her even though she’s our hero,” says Greg Hall, Dark Universe’s creative director. “The monsters are released and it’s up to her, Frankenstein and Ygor to help save the day while we’re stuck in the middle of this chaos.”

Racing through the darkness, you’ll come across all the monsters who have been subjected to Victoria’s experiments, including the Brides of Dracula, the Creature from the Black Lagoon, the Wolf Man, the Mummy and the Phantom of the Opera. As you witness the results of Victoria’s unnatural experiments, you’ll have to confront a question: who’s really the monster here?

“What I want guests to say is, ‘That was one of the scariest things I’ve ever done in my life — and you have to try it’,” says Greg. “It’s hard to scare people these days. We want to make sure they have fun, and they see something they’ll never forget.”

Curse of the Werewolf

Deep in the woods that border the village of Darkmoor, you’ll find Dark Universe’s other attraction: Curse of the Werewolf. This family spinning coaster can be found in the colorful encampment of The Guild of Mystics. Maleva, the guild’s all-knowing seer and leader, will warn visitors that they bear the mark of the werewolf.

While Maleva does make an appearance in the 1941 film “The Wolf Man,” her Dark Universe version is updated to reflect the fictional culture of the Guild of Mystics–a group rich with beauty, violence and, (un)naturally, werewolves.

“It feels really updated, but you could literally trace this Maleva back to another Maleva back to the movie,” says Pete. “So now you experience Maleva and her Mystics, but it’s with a lot of richness and a lot of color — stuff you couldn’t get in the old black and white.”

With Maleva’s warning in mind, you’ll embark on your adventure under the light of full moon. As you speed through the forest, you’ll be pursued at every turn by the werewolves who lurk in the shadows. Eventually, you’ll come face to face with the beasts, spinning as you dodge gnashing teeth and razor-sharp claws in the old Darkmoor armory. When you make it back to the camp, you’ll be forever changed — and you’ll have to beware the full moon from now on.

Dark Universe Meet & Greets

There are plenty of close encounters to be had in Dark Universe! Some of the iconic Universal Monsters characters you can meet in Darkmoor include Frankenstein’s Monster, the Bride of Frankenstein, Ygor and the Invisible Man.

In addition, you might encounter one of The Hounds: monster hunters who have set up shop in The Burning Blade Tavern and (attempt to) defend the village of Darkmoor. A roaming musician will also wander the village, serenading guests with eerie tunes of old.

“There’s so much for guests to do and see and discover,” says Chris Frisella, executive producer of Dark Universe. “I really hope that the strokes that we’ve taken here feed the monster kids that are out there — the people who really love the legacy. And I hope that it starts a fire of passion for these characters in new audiences!”

Dark Universe Dining

By now, you’ve surely clocked the incredible attention to detail that Universal Creative has put into Dark Universe. The dining locations found in Darkmoor are no exception–these restaurants are to die for!

Das Stakehaus

Deep under Darkmoor, swarms of vampires make their homes in the ancient catacombs. Located atop these catacombs is Das Stakehaus (stake-house…get it?) , a fast-casual restaurant lorded over by the servants of said vampires. Classical artwork and relics hint at the dark opulence of vampiric culture.

At Das Stakehaus, you can enjoy kebabs, burgers, sandwiches and ribs, along with other offerings. And as for what the vampires are dining on? Well, you may want to wear a turtleneck to this meal.

The Burning Blade Tavern

Many years ago, an angry mob of villagers torched the old mill during the infamous “Frankenstein incident.” Now, the mill has become the favorite hangout of Darkmoor’s monster hunters. In addition to grabbing some tavern fare, guests can peruse the hunters’ trophies and hear tales from some of the village’s most esteemed and darkly quirky residents.

Why is it called The Burning Blade Tavern? Because the mill that stands atop this restaurant erupts into flames every 20 minutes. So, if you prefer your bratwurst extra crispy, it won’t be an issue.

Dark Universe Shopping

There’s no shortage of story in Dark Universe, and visitors to Darkmoor can continue to unravel that dark tapestry as they peruse the world’s merchandise.

Darkmoor Monster Makeup Experience

If you’re a fan of the Horror Make-Up Show in Universal Studios Florida, then the Darkmoor Monster Makeup Experience should be right up your alley. Here, monster makers have converted Dr. Septimus Pretorius’ old lab into a parlor where visitors can let their inner monster shine.

“If you want to be a monster, you can actually be made up like a monster,” says Pete. “Or if you want to be a little more meta, you can come in and get your whole family covered up in temporary tattoos. In Dark Universe, you can walk around with [temporary] tattoos on when you’re five!”

What Else to Expect at Dark Universe

When Universal Epic Universe opens in 2025, the classic monsters from your favorite movies will finally have a home in one incredibly immersive world, Dark Universe. The legacy of the Universal Monsters is hard to overstate, and the creative team behind the world has taken on this project with great reverence.

“It’s really about the care that has been taken, as we’ve crafted these stories and this land, to really respect the history of these films,” says Chris. “But we’re not being charged with creating a museum. We are being charged with creating a living, breathing world and experience.”

Far from being a museum, Dark Universe is world where all of the classic Universal Monsters stories really happened. Soon, guests will be able to venture into the shadows and experience what that world looks like today.

Turning to commentary, I am beyond excited for Dark Universe. It’s my most highly-anticipated new theme park land since Fantasy Springs, which really isn’t that long ago, so probably isn’t saying that much. But I’m looking forward to this way more than anything else in Epic Universe, or even Tropical Americas and Beyond Big Thunder at this point.

Now in fairness, that’s partially because I’ve already experienced two versions of Super Nintendo World, so only Donkey Kong Country will be new-to-me. (I am very excited for that–but not as much as I would be if we were getting Hyrule!) Also, we don’t know much about the Walt Disney World expansion, so there’s not much to get excited about just yet. But still, I’m really looking forward to Dark Universe.

I was also one of probably, like, a couple dozen people who were really hyped for Universal’s Dark Universe cinematic universe back in 2017. Remember that? If not, you’re not alone. It was the shared universe for reboots of classic Universal Monster movies with high-profile names were attached to several projects. Russell Crowe was Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde; Javier Bardem would appear in Frankenstein; Johnny Depp was to play the Invisible Man; Tom Cruise and Sofia Boutella starred in the Mummy. You probably missed it–unless you saw the memes–but that last one actually did come out. And was a massive flop.

Additionally, the Invisible Man reboot was released–albeit as a lower-budget, standalone Blumhouse film–and it was absolutely fantastic. Unfortunately, it also came out like two weeks before the pandemic and was largely overlooked as a result. But that doesn’t change its quality. (If you haven’t seen it, I highly recommend the Invisible Man, which is currently free to stream on Freevee.) An Invisible Man attraction could be pretty be pretty awesome–just think of all the ‘invisible’ effects–but I digress.

That’s one reason I love the (re-)animating idea of Dark Universe. I also love what Universal Creative has done with horror, and while I know this is a far cry howl from Halloween Horror Nights, it’s at least adjacent or in the ballpark. I’m really curious to see what these teams can accomplish when working with significantly larger budgets and more permanency. (The same reason I’m looking forward to Universal Horror Unleashed in Las Vegas.)

I also think it’s somewhat fair to call Dark Universe original theme park intellectual property (IP). Yes, I just spent a couple of paragraphs describing how Universal had plans for cinematic universe by the same name–and this was probably originally conceived of as a counterpart to that. Even setting that aside, this is based on classic Universal Monsters.

Still, you cannot point to a single recent film that has been a box office hit that provides the synergistic basis for Dark Universe. It’s more a theme park adaptation, and a loose one at that. The type that’s fairly common with literature inspiring movies and theme park attractions that aren’t based on movies. Very few lands or rides are invented out of thin air.

Turning to the substance of the land, I love the way Dark Universe looks. The foreboding atmosphere comes through even in the concept art–and although that can be deceiving or idealized, aerial photos and the model on display at Universal Orlando suggest this is how Dark Universe will actually look. It reminds me of a haunted Hogsmeade mixed with Resident Evil 4/Village (most of you probably won’t get the latter reference, but that’s high praise–two of my favorite video games).

Even after reading the description of Monsters Unchained: The Frankenstein Experiment, I’m still not sure what to expect…but I’m absolutely here for it. Universal describes it as a dark ride, but the attraction page lists it as a thrill ride with motion simulation, and a 48″ height requirement. (Also, I’ve seen photos of what’s believe to be the ride vehicles for this floating around social media…and they look wild.)

Monsters Unchained: The Frankenstein Experiment is the attraction I’m most excited for in all of Epic Universe, and I really hope it delivers. I’m confident the technology, whatever it is, will impress and there will be wow moment effects. What I’m really hoping for (and slightly nervous about) is that the character design on the monsters is well-done, giving them unique and iconic personality rather than having them be generic versions of the iconic Universal Monsters. I really, really hope the creative team delivers on that, making this an (essentially) original theme park IP that ends up spawning monster movies.

Curse of the Werewolf likewise looks cool, sorta like a downscaled Guardians of the Galaxy: Cosmic Rewind meets Expedition Everest. Big Bad Wolf was my favorite roller coaster at Busch Gardens Williamsburg as a kid and this also reminds me a bit of that. Obviously, both have wolves, so there’s that, but also because of the forest setting and idea you’re being chased by werewolves.

In general, I really love Universal’s approach to roller coasters in Epic Universe. Give guests what they want while thematically plussing them up–it’s a similar strategy to VelociCoaster and Hagrid’s, which are two world-class roller coasters that are also befitting of theme parks.

The bottom line is that Dark Universe looks fantastic–I hope it’s both as great as it looks and a huge hit so that we can get more like this. If Walt Disney World hasn’t already settled on plans for ‘Beyond Big Thunder,’ I’m sure they’ll also be watching, wondering whether a Villains Lair land in the spirit of Dark Universe would be viable for Magic Kingdom.

Need trip planning tips and comprehensive advice for your visit to Central Florida? Make sure to read our Universal Orlando Planning Guide for everything about Islands of Adventure and Universal Studios Florida. Also check out our Walt Disney World Vacation Planning Guide for everything about those parks, resorts, restaurants, and so much more. For regular updates, news & rumors, a heads up when discounts are released, and much more, sign up for our FREE email newsletter!


What do you think of Dark Universe? Impressed by the rides, restaurants, interactivity, etc. in this Epic Universe land reveal? Thoughts on the look and atmosphere of Darkmoor? Excited for Super Nintendo World, Harry Potter’s Ministry of Magic, Dark Universe/Classic Monsters, or the How to Train Your Dragon lands and/or attractions? Think Epic Universe will be a third gate that’s a worthy addition to Universal Orlando Resort…and potentially on par with Disney’s best lands? Expect Disney to “respond” with a big announcement of its own at the 2024 D23 Expo? Any questions? We love hearing from readers, so please share any other thoughts or questions you have in the comments below!

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