Breather Level: For the 2009 event, the "Leave It To Cleaver" house. Sure, it's set in a meat factory, but the mask is actually funny rather than creepy (and every single scareactor wears one), the intro video is borderline Black Comedy, the antagonist is cheerful, you get to see a nice restaurant at the end and the freezer looks like a dance floor. The only thing creepy is the rotting smell, but that's pretty much it.
The news that all of the scarezones at the 2013 event in Orlando would be based on The Walking Dead in some form. Some were excited about the idea of a full-on Zombie Apocalypse brought to life across a park, while others felt that the event was either sacrificing its creativity to make a quick buck and cash in on a popular show, or AMC prioritizing promotion of their show over Orlando's typical attention to cohesive theming. Not even Hollywood, with its focus on licensed properties, was excused from people who were either excited to see more Walking Dead or thought of it as more Product Placement that threatened to overshadow the event. For example, the Terror Tram usually operates under the pretense that characters from the properties that the Terror Tram is themed after have taken over the Backlot that's usually home to the Studio Tour. The Tram announcer and a convenient video help explain to guests what went down before they're unceremoniously dumped onto the Backlot to face the impending terror for themselves. For 2012's Terror Tram: Invaded By The Walking Dead? Merely promos for the show, both when you're entering and exiting the attraction.
In general, The Walking Dead breaks the base even further every year. Since 2012, not a single year in Orlando has passed without a Walking Dead house. These houses have often been centerpieces of the event, ranging from 2013's total scarezone theming to 2014's Walking Dead house being twice the size of any other. While fans of the show and comic have plenty of shout outs and Easter Eggs to spot in the houses and may just be happy to have a property they love being seen so often, others are upset at the prevalence of the show every year taking away a spot for an original creation or a more interesting TV show, movie, or video game.
Lack of Icons for 2012 and 2013. Putting more emphasis on the event as a whole instead of one single character, or a horrible mistake that gives the Orlando event nothing unique to differentiate itself from the licensed-property-focused Hollywood event?
The use of intellectual properties like films and TV shows to make houses and scarezones is probably the largest controversy in the entire event. Some want to see their favorite horror films get made into haunted houses, others want to see Art & Design stretch their creative muscles and turn out brilliant original houses, and still others don't care and want good houses no matter what they're based on.
Crazy Awesome: Any of the icons and characters who are legitimately insane and popular, like The Director, Jack, and the Shadybrook inmates.
Creepy Awesome: The Icons elicit this reaction when they're not eliciting screams.
Dork Age: Some feel that the event entered one around 2012-2014 due to the increased focus on licensed properties (especially The Walking Dead) and lack of icons in favor of "having the event represent itself" (which usually translated to a heavy emphasis on TWD in the marketing). With the 25th anniversary featuring the return of many popular characters, a more generous ratio of licensed to original content, and TWD being kept to one house, said Dork Age might have ended.
The Usher and The Storyteller get this treatment. Julian gets it for having the requisite detailed character backstory but getting completely shafted in the advertising for his event, while The Storyteller gets it for having nearly no backstory whatsoever yet having a prominent role in the advertising for her event and making reappearances at anniversary events since then.
H.R. Bloodengutz, the lead character in HHN 21's "H.R. Bloodengutz Presents: Holidays of Horror" has a small but dedicated following that really, really wouldn't mind seeing him as an Icon in the near future.
Memetic Mutation: The annual Bill & Ted's Excellent Halloween Adventure show at Orlando will inevitably find a way to make fun of Animal Kingdom's Pandora — The World of Avatar at their crosstown rival Walt Disney World, whether it's the Development Hell the area went through ("coming soon in 2085!") or the fact that the movie it's based on has been all but forgotten since. Cue the man dressed like a Na'vi wearing mouse ears screaming "THEY HAVE SEX! WITH THEIR TAILS!"
More Popular Spin-off: Horror Nights originally started off in Hollywood but ended up canned for several years after a scareactor got run over by the Terror Tram. It wasn't until Orlando tried to pull off its own Halloween event with "Fright Nights" that it eventually took on the Halloween Horror Nights name and ran with it. Universal Studios Hollywood would eventually reintroduce Halloween Horror Nights, with their version being more movie-centric, but it's the event in Orlando that most people are familiar with.
Hollywood even canceled their event for a number of years after the '90s, and only brought it back in 2006 after Orlando's event got even more massive.
Many feel the commercial for 2011 (Lady Luck's year) falls victim to this, due to the over-the-top acting and poor editing in it.
Lady Luck herself didn't fare much better in the actual event, as people generally agree that the monster mask she wore in her scarezone was hilariously bad.
One of 2013's taglines: "So this is what fear tastes like!"
The Meetz Meats queue video should have been scary, right? Unfortunately, the upbeat theme song, the jolly employees, and the fact that it's just a guy doing pretty awesome chainsaw fighting moves come off as a Breather Episode.
Nausea Fuel: With the amount of gore throughout the event, you will find it everywhere. Additionally, many houses throughout the event's history have made use of certain scents, meaning that some houses have had the smells of dead bodies, burning flesh, and extremely disgusting bathrooms pumped into certain rooms.
Praising Shows You Don't Watch: There are a good amount of people that follow and are impressed by the event that haven't actually gone to it, mainly due to not living near either park it takes place in and/or not having the cash. Those who do actually manage to go tend to have their opinions validated, however.
Shallow Parody: The annual Bill and Ted's Excellent Halloween Adventure shows can sometimes veer into this, occasionally settling for referencing the year's events and pop culture trends instead of making fun of them. The fact that they often have moments where they don't do this makes the parts that follow this trope stand out even more.
Universal will likely never be able to use The Joker or Harley Quinn at their parks (not with Six Flags holding the rights to use DC Comics characters), but for the time being, they have Jack and his sidekick Chance, the Monster Clowns who delight in terrorizing, torturing, and killing people with sick games. Chance's 2015 redesign especially is almost a dead ringer for Harley in the Batman: Arkham Series. This became even more apparent when Chance was made the icon of the event in 2016, the same year that Suicide Squad (2016) was released, making many fans believe the decision to make her the icon was done in part to capitalize off of Margot Robbie's popular take on Harley Quinn in the film.
Eddie. Originally intended to be a rival to Jack the Clown, the events of 9/11 led him to be retconned into Jack's brother then replaced entirely with Jack. He's gone from that to being given equal billing with other Icons in a house at HHN 14 (notable for being an Iconless year despite having an Icon house) to being given his own house yet treated as a sub-Icon at HHN 16 (where the website material implies he's very much aware of his status at this trope) and again given equal billing with the other Icons in a scarezone at HHN 20 (although technically, all the Icons were sub-Icons compared to the main Icon, Fear).
Due to a string of child kidnappings in the Orlando area, Cindy Caine was replaced with her father, Albert Caine aka The Caretaker, for HHN 12. She had made later cameos in houses when her father reappeared at the event, but eventually got her own house and appeared on an equal footing with other icons in a scarezone in 2010. This trope would have been averted if one of the initial concepts for HHN 20 had gone through: instead of Fear, Cindy was going to be the icon.
While Eddie and Cindy have made repeated appearances at Halloween Horror Nights after getting scrapped from their intended years, there are still many that would like them to become full Icons, complete with the fleshed out backstories and advertising focus that results in.
The Storyteller was used in event advertising for HHN 15 but only appeared in her own house and hadn't had much in the way of backstory revealed about her. If one was to ask her about it at HHN 20, she'd threaten to cut their tongue off!
Some feel this way about the Iniquitus, the mysterious demonic characters who raised the legions from their graves in 2012. Despite being original content and generally far more interesting than the houses (which are almost exclusively based on existing properties), the Iniquitus are relegated to the background except for the Horror Unearthed interactive game that took place online and in the park.
2008's house Creatures! was a fun, campy house inspired by EC Comics. Set in a Southern roadhouse called the Butchered Buck, the house chronicled the battle between a group of rednecks and goofy-yet-scary aliens◊. That's all well and good. The problem? The alien costumes were too large and cumbersome and were deemed to be a safety hazard shortly before the event begun. With the exception of one creature seen behind a fence, there were now nearly no creatures in the house called "Creatures".
The concept for Adaru aka Fear, an ancient god summoned by his heralds, (Jack, The Storyteller, The Director, The Caretaker, and the Usher) was interesting. Sadly, his characterization was lacking beyond "evil scary god" and to some, his existence as being an important character in charge of characters that acted on their own prior motivations came off as an Ass Pull. While he appeared in some of the advertisements, he was shown up at the event itself and some press appearances by the more well known Icons and other characters in the Fear Revealed scarezone like Eddie, Chance, and Cindy. There were even people who didn't realize that he was an Icon even when he appeared in the Fear Revealed icon scarezone. Unlike the other Iconsnote except for Bloody Mary, who hasn't reappeared at the event since 2008 due to copyright issues, all that has shown of Fear at the 25th anniversary was one of his Lantern minions, who were actually better received during HHN 25 than he was.
They Wasted a Perfectly Good Plot: Evil Takes Root was a framing device for hinting at the various houses of the year, furthered the Legendary Truth storyline, and had hinted at a mysterious evil that shouldn't be unleashed. Said evil was never expanded on and the campaign was mainly for diehard HHN fans. Instead of expanding the concept further into the park or the marketing, we got one of the most The Walking Dead heavy events in years when it came to in-park presence and promotion.
The Viral Marketing for the 2013 event featured a now-defunct blog called Evil Takes Root run by one "PS", who deliberately obscured their identity with baggy hooded clothing and an altered voice. PS slowly revealed items in a specific order from a backpack planted by some unknown group that gave PS a specific set of rules to follow while doing so, which lead to PS being purposefully vague in their early posts. When HHN fan forums, Youtube comments, and the HU fanpage started complaining about PS's vagueness, not revealing much about their identity, their failure to go to the authorities, and (most commonly) not just revealing all the contents of the bag at once, PS eventually got frustrated (either by the mysterious group or all those demanding contents faster) and started deviating from the rules.
Here's where things got unfortunate. Initially, HHN fan forums, YouTube comments, and the Horror Unearthed Facebook fan page mainly referred to PS as a he, a she, or a they. However, when these discussion places started getting frustrated with PS, they started to near exclusively refer to PS as a she and hoped that she would die. PS' gender hadn't been announced around the time those complaints started cropping upnote The least covered footage shown of PS around that time is a glimpse of their face in profile, possibly wearing a mask; it wasn't until the end of the event in November that the Legendary Truth campaign revealed that PS was actually Paige Steerington (the daughter of the former Legendary Truth head, no less). Over the years, HHN hype build-up from official sources and previous Legendary Truth campaigns have proven that being vague as all get out and having mysterious ways of operating is a Horror Nights tradition regardless of gender.
The Bill & Ted's Halloween Adventure show at the Hollywood park in 2013 was utterly rife with these, with a disturbing number of jokes indulging in racism, homophobia, and a thinly-veiled allusion to Date Rape. The park pulled the show after only a few days once word got out and protests started piling up. As of 2015, the Bill and Ted show still hasn't come back to HHN Hollywood.
The Orlando show isn't exactly free of these things either. The initial script of the the Bill & Ted show at HHN Orlando in 2012 included burning the Book of Mormon. Not really a smart move for Universal to have considered in the first place, especially since they host the Christian rock festival Rock the Universe just weeks before the start of Halloween Horror Nights.
Values Dissonance: In Singapore, having a storyline about a demonic "Minister of Evil" who deceives the human race into giving him power as the first ruler of a One World Order, only to reveal his true nature after a failed assassination attempt, was an awesome theme for HHN 4. In the United States, such an Icon at either the Orlando or Hollywood events would open a massive can of worms due to hitting too close to home and running the risk of attracting widespread controversy due to the hostile US political climate, even if any political figures involved, like Singapore's Minister, were 100% purely fictional. The United States has had several high-profile (and in some cases successful) assassination attempts on politicians, as well as a large contingent of the population who firmly oppose the idea of a one world government and/or think that it actually exists. The fact that Minister Jonah Goodwill's story bears many parallels to a common Christian conception of The Antichrist (albeit without making overt reference to Christianity) only makes the idea that much more untenable in the US.
Win Back the Crowd: So far, the 25th anniversary has been enough to bring back lapsed Orlando fans concerned about the previous years' lackluster theming and concentration on licensed houses.