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Horror movies have become so popular, they don’t just wait until October for Halloween to roll around anymore.These days, film producers make horror movies year round! Fans of scary movies may think they already know how to survive in a haunted house or avoid a hideous killer, so now one show is putting them to the test. Hellevator, premiering this month on, The Game Show Network makes contestants overcome their greatest fears to win a cash prize.

Jen and Sylvia SoskaContestants enter the Hellevator and ride to four different floors, each boasting a new scary environment to test them. The last contestant standing at the end, wins!

Hosting the contestants in the Hellevator are two horror icons themselves. Jen and Sylvia Soska are twin sisters who direct movies like American Mary, See No Evil 2 and The ABCs of Death 2.

“Everyone, and I’m guilty of this too, watches horror movies like, ‘Oh, I would make it  through there’ or ‘I wouldn’t go in there’ or ‘That guy’s not so tough,’” Jen said. “Now you put your money where your mouth is in Hellevator. You know, the guys who talk big usually don’t make it very far. Surprisingly, and a lot of big guys, being big and strong and dapper and handsome, does not help you here.”

Fans of scary movies themselves, which is why they dreamed of making them, the Soskas are impressed by what they see the producers of Hellevator create for every episode’s new batch of contestants.

“It is like some weird nightmare every time you walk to set,” Sylvia said. “You get your script and you look at everything, and it’s amazing what gets approved. It’s amazing because everyone’s pushing themselves, and when you have that and everybody’s on the same page of the final product, you want to deliver. It’s a really exciting opportunity because you get to make something you wouldn’t naturally do. There’s nothing that you’re fighting against. Everybody’s like.... all systems go ahead, let’s terrify these people.”

monitoring the contestantsMany people fear bugs, so you’re probably going to see a lot of creepy, crawly critters on Hellevator. “I love our creature co-stars like the scorpions and snakes and tarantulas and the rats and the maggots, the cockroaches and the leeches,” Jen said. “Any time I get extra snake time it is playtime. And also I’m not afraid of them, so I’m able to get through the puzzle and then be like, ‘Can I keep this scorpion? It likes me.’ They do. They seriously do, I hope.”

The Soskas sit in their lair watching the contestants on monitors, commenting on their progress. They’re proud of the Hellevator team every time they can make a contestant jump.

“I cannot tell you the childlike, almost gleeful joy I get when one of my monsters just hits something right on the head, and that’s usually a victim, with whatever item they’re supposed to hit them with,” Sylvia said. “It just makes us so happy.”

Once the contestants are already scared, the Soskas like to twist them further. “When you’re afraid, you’re an easy-to-manipulate human being,” Jen said. “So we help terrify them and push them in the direction that we want to maybe have blood pour on them, maybe drop cow eyes on them, maybe throw a bucket of confetti and then a bucket of blood on them ‘cause they’re like, ‘Oh, it’s just confetti.’ No, the second one was blood.”

The floors of the Hellevator lead up to one final test. The Labyrinth is the scariest challenge of all. That’s why they save it for last, but it also offers the biggest prize.

“At the very end, in the Labyrinth, the contestants have an opportunity to get an additional $20,000, but it’s not easy to get,” Sylvia said. “You really have to see what people are willing to do for money, and then it’s almost like an interesting social experiment. ‘Oh my God, I can’t believe he did that, but for $500 I think I’d jump in there, too.’”

By the time they reach the labyrinth, some contestants might already be too terrified to continue. If they’re too numb to appreciate everything set up for them in the Labyrinth, at least the folks at home will.

First contestant playing the game

“Really to defeat Hellevator or to at least get through it properly, you have to face your fears,” Jen said. “A lot of people think it’s just a cash grab and you can just do the challenges and succeed, but that’s not the way that it works. I’ve seen a lot of people lose their shit in the Labyrinth and just try and get through it. But it’s elaborately set up. There’s a lot of amazing moments in the Labyrinth and sometimes they miss them,because they’re just crying little bitches.”

The producers of Hellevator also do their research to find out what are each of the contestants’ greatest fears. That way, they’re confronted with really deep fears. The Soskas do their part too.

“But what I like to do is, I like to casually ask, ‘Oh yeah, I have a snake. How do you feel about that? Oh, you don’t like snakes? What about spiders and the dark?’ I’m making a little social list in my head. So never tell horror directors what you’re afraid of. That’s just bad.”

Sylvia and Jen don’t have the same fears as most people. In fact, some of the things that scare others are their favorite things. “I collect tarantulas and I find most people, when they come into my bedroom and they see the wall of tarantulas next to my bed, they don’t want to come in for some reason,” Sylvia said. “It makes me want to show them tarantulas. I’m that specific, sadistic kind of personality where I’m like, ‘Ooh, let’s see what happens if we put you and said fear together.’”


The Soskas’ job is to sit in their lair adorned with decapitated heads and creepy marionettes, commenting on the contestant’s progress. They did get to try their hand at some of the Hellevator challenges, just to have the experience themselves.

“I tried one of the challenges and I felt like a God when I got out of it,” Sylvia said. “But that’s also a mistake as a contestant on Hellevator, because you finish a challenge and you’re like, ‘Oh, I can do anything.’ No, because it starts easy and it gets harder and harder and harder, so you’re just setting yourself up for a big epic fail.”

Although their primary job is behind the scenes, the Soskas have appeared in movies too. They starred in their own first film, Dead Hooker in a Trunk, and cameoed in their second, American Mary. Now other directors like to cast them in cameos too, so hosting is their dream job.

“We’re failed actresses,” Sylvia joked. “We’ve been acting since we were seven but not because we were talented. Just because the Olsen twins were popular. So even through all of the processes of meeting the different networks and talking about horror movies, and how I would kill someone, literally kill someone for this job. I was like, ‘They’re going to hire someone else. All the real hosts are coming in any time.’ You kind of pinch yourself and then you watch the screen from your lair. What girl can say she has a lair? And you get to make people scream and that’s your job. You want to scare them.”

Hosting Hellevator also ranks the Soskas up with other horror femme fatales. “I’m a huge fan of Cassandra Peterson/Elvira,” Jen said. “I do feel that we’re the next in the line of the proud evolution from Morticia Addams and Vampira, and now you get to this. Two is better than one.”

Now, the Soskas are directing another movie, Plastic, as soon as Hellevator is finished. They’ve been working on pre-production during breaks on the game show. “So we go and terrify somebody, and then I approve a cast list, and then I set up our interviews for the weekend,” Sylvia said. “It’s interesting because I’m so used to being behind the scenes that every time I see a production meeting, I want to run over there and be like, ‘I want to direct it!’ We have a wonderful director, Neil. He heads the whole show so he doesn’t need me for that. He just needs me to torture the victims.”

They filmed the first Hellevator episode in March and waited all year to see if they’d get to do more. Now they are filming through October. “You can never tell when your opportunities are going to work out, so you have to seize them,” Jen said. “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 just [forgot about it] because how many pilots are picked up? Especially it’s our first pilot and it’s such a counterpoint to any game show or anything that’s ever been done before. And then we had Plastic going at the same time. It’s a lot of work to prep a feature and to shoot a TV show, but I would kill someone rather than let them sit in our mastermind seats.”


Hellevator Season 2 premiered Wednesday, October 21, 2015 on GSN. / Issue 186 - September 7857
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