A lot of people think they could survive a horror movie.
But the “Twisted Twins” Jen and Sylvia Soska, hosts of GSN’s horror game show “Hellevator,” think a lot of people are dead wrong.
“We’re all guilty of watching a horror movie and being like, ‘Don’t go in there’ or ‘I wouldn’t do that,” Jen says. “Everyone thinks they can survive a horror movie but let me just tell you, no. You can’t. I haven’t seen a lot of evidence of it on ‘Hellevator.’”
The second season of “Hellevator” premiers tonight at 9 on GSN, and the Soska sisters promise that they are back with a vengeance.
The new season is more cinematic, Sylvia says, likening it to a David Fincher movie. The new season is also, in the words of Jen, “mean-spirited and awesome.”
“It’s worse than you think. It’s much worse than you think and we’re taking it really personally.” – Sylvia Soska
“It’s worse than you think,” Sylvia says. “It’s much worse than you think and we’re taking it really personally. You will not expect the things that we’ve done.”
The last season of the game show—which is available on Hulu and Netflix—established the basic structure of the show. In each episode a team of three contestants would take turns surviving different challenges on different floors of The Slaughterhouse. The teammates would cringe every time the elevator’s heavy metal doors opened to another dark, ominous hallway, each time leading them to a grisly scene with a puzzle to solve.
Last year’s challenges involved being bound in chains and straightjackets, digging organs from corpses, rifling through (sometimes occupied) body bags for cash and braving live snakes and scorpions. Meanwhile, the camera frequently cut to Jen and Sylvia in the control room, laughing and taunting their latest victims.
Surviving each floor earns contestants an increasing amount of cash—the first floor’s challenge is worth $2,000, the second floor $3000, the third $5,000. Then the Hellevator rockets contestants down to their final, most difficult challenge—worth up to $40,000.
This season the basic structure of the show remains, with a few updates.
Last season that final challenge sent contestants to The Labyrinth, a dungeon full of maniacs. This season, The Labyrinth has been replaced with The Inferno. Surviving The Inferno will involve surviving seven challenges—one for each of the seven deadly sins—in seven minutes.
“I don’t know how many people are going to make it through the Inferno,” Jen says. “I don’t know if we’re going to see any competitor that can make it through all seven deadly sins. I’ll throw that down right now. If you think you can make it through all seven deadly sins in seven minutes I will—” she pauses and redirects. “Syl will go on a date with you.”
This season also features four contestants at once instead of three—though one will immediately be kidnapped and thrown into a cell in The Inferno. Many of the competitors this season will face challenges that relate to their careers—the twins noted models and competitive eaters will be among this season’s contestants.
As for the rest of the floors’ challenges, the Soska sisters say they were inspired by true crime stories this season, and based many of the show’s horrific storylines on the life and crimes of real-life serial killers. The Canadian twins teased that among those serial killers, Canadian murderer Robert Pickton will be involved in a featured storyline.
“Always beware of someone who owns a hog farm,” Jen jokes. “In unrelated news, we’re going to be getting a hog farm.”
“I like to do scary stuff in all different sizes, shapes and forms.” – Jason Blum
Jason Blum, producer and CEO of Blumhouse productions, which co-produces “Hellevator” with Matador, says the main goal for this season was to increase its scare-factor.
“Everyone always wants things scarier, for god’s sake, so we’re making it scarier,” he says. “We’ll let the audience decide if we achieved that goal but that was our goal.”
Blum has become known for hosting live events across the country to promote his movies. In October of 2013 the Blumhouse of Horrors led guests through an elaborate haunted house set in a haunted theater. Since then Blumhouse has created pop-up horror experiences like an escape room promoting “The Pruge: Anarchy” and a virtual reality experience for “Insidious 3” in Los Angeles and surrounding areas. Blumhouse also has a presence at Universal Studios’ Halloween Horror Nights event in Hollywood this year, filling the park with scare actors inspired by “The Purge: Election Year.” Blum says that his company’s experience with live-action scares has had an influence on “Hellevator.”
“It’s very different to scare people on a movie screen than it is to scare people in real life,” Blum says. “We learned a lot of lessons from our live events and we applied a lot of them here.”
But ultimately, everything that ends up in the show is a collaborative effort among Blumhouse, Matador and the Soska twins.
The show, Blum says, was an opportunity to make a game show scary. And Blum wants to make everything in this world a little scarier.
“I have always loved game shows and I thought it would be fun to do a scary game show,” Blum says. “I like to do scary stuff in all different sizes, shapes and forms.”
Survival of the Fittest
In the case of this game show, the real rewards for contestants may amount to more than just the cash prizes. Sylvia says surviving the challenges is comparable to surviving a horror movie—if you can make it that far.
“You know when Battle Royale actually becomes a real thing, like when The Hunger Games start, they’re going look at Fear Factor and Hellevator as little gradual progressions,” she says, grinning. “But you know, I’ve done the tests myself and the cool thing is, you actually feel like a victim surviving something huge and you get this adrenaline rush and you feel better about yourself. You have this sort of final girl or final boy mentality and you feel invigorated. And then when you go and do your normal life and something awful happens that would usually affect you, it won’t affect you because you’re like, ‘I was chained up in a Hellevator and there was a serial killer with a chainsaw and I made it.’”
Beside her, Jen in matching black (Sylvia points out that they are “#twinning” this season) shakes her head.
“I watch what the contestants have to do and I’m like, no way,” she says. “My seat is the best seat in the house and I’m not trading it for anything.”
From the control room, the twins can be seen not just taunting but tormenting their contestants, occasionally flicking buttons and switches to make the challenges more disorienting and horrific.
And the twins—known for a filmmaking repertoire that includes “American Mary,” “See No Evil 2” and the pending remake of David Cronenberg’s “Rabid”—know their horror tropes.
“I would also say this season is a lot darker and a lot harder and it’s a lot more mean-spirited,” Jen says. “So it’s funnier for us.”