Hellevator – Dread Central Visits the Set of Horror’s New Game Show
In “Hellevator” a team of three friends rides a haunted elevator into various levels of an abandoned slaughterhouse. One player must get out on each floor and conquer a frightening challenge in order to earn money for the team. If they don’t make it back in time, the elevator moves on without them. Participants can earn up to $50,000 by properly completing their challenges, including the final challenge – The Labyrinth – where the surviving contestants work together to face their most difficult and terrifying challenge in a mad-dash race to accumulate more money.
Horror film icons Jen and Sylvia Soska, aka the “Twisted Twins,” serve as masterminds behind the scenes, pulling the strings throughout the game, taking delight in the horror and leaving contestants struggling to remember: “It’s just a game.”
We caught up with the Soskas in Downtown Los Angeles at Willow Studios – which actually was once the site of a slaughter house – where they were filming an episode entitled “The Butcher, The Baker, and The Candlestick Maker.”
Dread Central: We know that you two have been in talks with Jason Blum in the past about making films together, but as it turns out, you’re collaborating on a TV series first. How’d that all come about?
Sylvia Soska: We have been after Jason Blum and Blumhouse forever because we’re fans.
Jen Soska: I’m going to add a little context to that because it sounded like you wanted to kidnap Jason Blum and throw him in a trunk. There isn’t a studio in the world that doesn’t want to be with Blumhouse and Jason Blum right now, and as soon as we knew we were working with Blumhouse, they were like, “So, how does Jason do it?” and I’m just like, “He’s got an eye for talent and weird stuff.” It’s always low budget, high concept and each pays off because it’s stuff that horror fans really want to see and there has been an absence of that in the industry for a really long time so that’s why he’s on top, I think.
SS: And the cool thing about how he made it is the contestants actually felt they were in an active Blumhouse horror movie. Well, I find towards the end of the show they don’t feel that they wanted it as much as they felt before the film actually started!
JS: Everyone, and I’m guilty of this too, watches horror films and is like, “Oh, I would like to be there” or “I wouldn’t go in there,” and it’s not so tough. Well, now you could put your money where your mouth is and guys who talk big don’t usually make it very far. Surprisingly, a lot of big guys being big and strong and dapper and handsome does not help you there.
SS: I don’t mind if they’re handsome.
JS: No, it doesn’t hurt.
DC: Did you ever think in your careers as directors you’d end up being TV personalities and game show hosts too?
SS: No, I never did. Because we’re not film actresses — but not because we’re not talented, just because the Olsen twins are popular and so [we never got hired].
JS: It’s definitely a dream job but I never thought we’d go into game shows per se but I’m a huge fan of Cassandra Peterson / Elvira and I do feel that we’re next in line of the proud evolution from Morticia Addams and Vampira, and now you get to this. Yeah, two is better than one.
SS: This is very much like Elvira because we do give a current commentary from our lair about exactly what we think the contestants are doing.
JS: The contestants wouldn’t hug us so much after knowing all the things we were saying about them, especially the gentlemen, but if you prove yourselves, we would give you props. We’d be like, “Gosh, she came in crying, and she left as the final girl!” But if a guy is like, “I hate them” (in his voice), we would be like, “You missed, sweetie; I heard that and you’ll pay for it.”
DC: Looking at the scene you guys just shot, with the creepy clown walking by, not to mention some strange toys on the shelves….. What’s it like to be here every day and see what they have in store for these guys?
SS: It is like some weird nightmare. You get your script and you look at everything and it’s amazing because everyone’s pushing themselves, and when you have that and everybody is on the same page, and the final product you want to deliver, it’s a really exciting opportunity because you get to make something; you actually do. There’s nothing that you’re fighting and everybody is like, “All systems go ahead!”
JS: It’s like Christmas morning everyday, then Halloween morning, then Halloween night, which is better than Christmas morning.
DC: Did you design these sexy costumes for yourselves?
SS: We had a lot of input with our costumes, but you know us; I like to wear something clingy and low cut once in a while. Every day.
JS: Sometimes I wear something low cut and sexy; that’s another thing I’m hacking from her.
DC: Did you grow up scaring each other? Or tricking other people as twins?
JS: We never messed with each other at a young age. Twins grow up in a weird social setting; it’s like that movie The Invention of Lying – we had to realize normal civilians lie to each other for manipulative reasons because I was like, “Why would I lie to my sister? I love my sister; she’s my best friend ever,” which is true. But other people, yeah, of course. My fear is the fear of being a single twin and having her die.
SS: That’s a bummer….
JS: I know.
SS: Nobody wants to hear something that’s depressing right now; you have to be up! You have to snap up, sweetie.
JS: But what I like to do is, I like to casually ask someone, “Oh, I have a snake; how do you feel about that? Oh, you don’t like snakes? What about spiders in the dark?” and then making a [note] in my head. So don’t tell horror directors what you’re afraid of, that’s just bad.
DC: How does this TV hosting schedule work out with your directing schedule?
SS: I’m in pre-production on our feature film Puppet Killer right now, so we go and terrify somebody and then I approve the cast list and then I set up interviews for the weekend. It’s interesting because I’m so used to being behind the scenes, but every time I oversee a production, I get overbearing and like, “I want to be in production,” but we have a wonderful director on this, and he heads the whole show so he doesn’t need me for that.
JS: You can never tell when opportunities are going to work out so you have to seize them. I think we started going after the whole thing in February and then we came down in March to shoot the pilot and everyone had such a fantastic time; it was a great team and everyone was so happy that we pretended it never happened because how many pilots are picked up, especially it’s our first time and it’s such a counter point to any game show or anything that’s ever done before so, we were like, “I’m never going to end up doing this,” and then when we started going into Puppet Killer and that day when we were meeting with actors, we got a call from one of the producers on “Hellevator” and [it all came together].
DC: How fun is it to watch everyone being afraid and watching the scenarios play out?
SS: I cannot tell you the child-like feeling that we get every time that one of our monsters hits something right on the head — and it’s usually a victim — it just makes us so happy.
JS: I’d like to speak more highly of our contestants, but when you’re afraid, it makes it easy to manipulate human beings so we will help terrify them and push them in the direction that we want to; maybe drop blood on them, maybe drop cow eyes on them, maybe throw a bucket of confetti and then a bucket of blood on them because when they say, “Ah, it’s just confetti,” no… the second one was blood.
SS: As a lab rat they have the opportunity to win $50,000, but it’s not easy to get. We have to see what people are willing to do for money and then it’s interesting like a social experiment, really. I’m like, “Oh my God, I can’t believe you did that.” If I’d win the money, I’d jump in there too.
JS: In order to defeat “Hellevator” or at least get through it properly, you have to face your fears. A lot of people think that’s it’s just a cash cow where you can do the challenges and succeed, but that’s not the way that it works. I’ve seen a lot of people lose their shit on the lab run and just like try and get through it, but it’s a lab that we set up. Sometimes, they’re just crying little bitches.
DC: Do you want to try any of the challenges yourselves?
SS: On the pilot, I tried one of the challenges and I felt like, “God, what have I gotten into?” I went through a jig-saw puzzle; you get through it and then… when I finished the challenge I felt like, “Oh, I can do anything” and it’s like, “No” because it starts easy and then gets harder and harder; it’s setting yourself up for a big fail.
JS: I love our featured co-stars, like the scorpions and snakes and tarantulas and the rats and the maggots and the cockroaches and the leeches…
SS: Continue, girl!
JS: Anytime I get extra snakes, I’m like, “Yes!”
SS: I’m also not afraid of them, so I’m able to get into the set, and I’m like, “Can I keep this scorpion?”
DC: Do you have any dream contestants that you really want to come on the show?
SS: So, we worked with Danielle Harris on See No Evil 2, where I found out one of her phobias is the elevators. Right after we had the first elevator scene, she just forgot to tell that and I was like laughing. And she was, “No, seriously. I’m terrified in there.” But the thing is, she’s become like an Amazon because she’s been trapped in an elevator so much that she knows how to kick out the top and get out. [She kicks ass] because Michael Myers has been chasing her. I would like to have real “final girls” episode.
JS: I absolutely agree. I would love to do a “final girls” edition. And villains, because they have phobias, and a lot of them are weird ones. They say, “I don’t like birds,” and I’m like, “You’re six-foot; what’s it going to do to you?” It would be really cool, and also we could adjust the challenges because it’s physically very dominated so we could have them having to pass through walls and go through walls again. How many walls can you pass through when such and such is chasing you?
DC: Did you like game shows, growing up? Or do you watch reality TV now?
SS: I always really liked “Family Feud,” but I was always afraid because I know my family is Eastern European so I feared we would look like we’re always arguing and swearing [if we got on that show].
JS: I like “Deal or No Deal” because I think I’m psychic; I think I’m good although I’m not. I like watching “Jeopardy,” but I like saying the answer after a smart person gets it right because I have no idea.
SS: It wasn’t a traditional straight game show, but I never missed an episode of “Fear Factor.”
JS: Evidently fear is not a factor for you.
SS: I wanted to do “Fear Factor” and win so if I had an online dating profile, it would be like, “I won ‘Fear Factor’!” and that would be it.
GSN, the leader in game shows and competitive entertainment, will premiere the horror-themed game show “HELLEVATOR” on Wednesday, October 21st, at 8 PM ET/PT.
The terrifying eight-episode genre-bending series from Blumhouse, the team that brought the world the Paranormal Activity, Insidious, Ouija, and The Purge franchises, dares contestants to survive a series of challenges from the depths of an abandoned slaughterhouse.
“HELLEVATOR” is produced by Matador and Blumhouse Productions in association with Lionsgate Television. Executive producers are Jason Blum, Jay Peterson and Todd Lubin of Matador (“Lip Sync Battle”), and Shye Sutherland (“Wipeout,” “Bullseye”).