My good friends and twin directing duo Jen and Sylvia Soskas are now the hosts of a horror game show on GSN. I visited the set of Hellevator with a group of reporters while they were in production and got to see the twins in costume and walk through some of the scary traps set up for contestants.
From Jason Blum, Hellevator is a game show where contestants face new fears on each floor, while Jen and Sylvia provide commentary from their lair, as well as orchestrate some of the terrors against the contestants. Here is the roundtable interview with Jen and Sylvia from one of the production breaks. Hellevator premieres on GSN tonight at 8 PM.
Q: How did you connect with Blumhouse?
Sylvia Soska: We have been after Jason Blum and Blumhouse forever because we’re fans.
Jen Soska: I’m glad that you added context to that because it sounded like you just wanted to kidnap Jason Blum and throw him in a trunk.
Sylvia Soska: Well, now that he hired us, we don’t have to anymore. No, I just love his style because Blumhouse is a tastemaker right now and every horror fan is excited to be a part of something like that.
Jen Soska: There isn’t a studio in the world that doesn’t want to be Blumhouse and Jason Blum right now. As soon as I knew we were working with Blumhouse, people are like, “How does Jason do it?” He’s just got an eye for talent and weird stuff. Case in point. It’s always low budget, high concept and huge payoff because it’s stuff that horror fans really want to see. There’s been an absence of that in the industry for a really long time so that’s why it’s on top I think.
Sylvia Soska: And the cool thing about Hellevator is the contestants actually get to go through an interactive Blumhouse horror movie, although I find towards the end of the show, they don’t feel that they wanted it as much as they did before the show actually happened.
Jen Soska: 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.” 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.
Sylvia Soska: You don’t mind if they’re handsome.
Jen Soska: No, that helps.
Sylvia Soska: It doesn’t hurt.
Nerd Report: Did you ever think in your careers as directors that you would be on air talent as game show hosts too?
Sylvia Soska: No, because we’re failed actresses. 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?
Jen Soska: I can.
Sylvia Soska: We both have a lair. It’s a joint custody lair.
Jen Soska: It’s a good one.
Sylvia Soska: And you get to make people scream and that’s your job. You want to scare them.
Jen Soska: 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. 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.
Sylvia Soska: And it’s very much like Elvira because we do give a color commentary from our lair about exactly how we think they’re doing.
Jen Soska: The contestants probably wouldn’t want to hug us so much afterwards if they knew all the things we were saying about them. Especially the gentlemen. If you prove yourself, we will give you props. We’ll be like, “Wow, she came in crying and she left like a final girl.” If a guy’s like, “I hate them” and he drops his voice, you’re mic’d, sweetie. I heard that. And you’ll pay for it.
Q: Has it been great to see all the new toys every day?
Sylvia Soska: It is like some weird nightmare every time you walk to set. You get your script and you look at everything and it’s amazing what gets approved. It is 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.
Jen Soska: It’s like Christmas morning every day but Halloween morning or Halloween night which is better than Christmas morning because it’s more selfish, right?
Nerd Report: Did you design new costumes for yourselves for Hellevator?
Sylvia Soska: We had a lot of input with our costumes but you know us. I like to sometimes wear something clingy and low cut like this once in a while every day.
Jen Soska: Not me, sometimes I wear something low cut and sexy.
Sylvia Soska: Oh yeah.
Jen Soska: That’s Elvira. That’a another thing I’m hacking from her.
Q: Did you grow up scaring each other and playing jokes on each other?
Jen Soska: We’ve never messed with each other. At a young age, twins grow up in a weird social setting. It’s kind of like that Ricky Gervais movie The Invention of Lying. We had to realize normal civilians lie to each other for manipulative reasons. 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. We will casually mention in conversation because we don’t have any irrational fears. My only fear is the fear of being a single twin and having her die.
Sylvia Soska: That’s a bummer. Nobody wants to hear something depressing right now. We have to be up.
Jen Soska: But what I like to do is I like to casually ask so and so, “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 social little list in my head. So never tell horror directors what you’re afraid of. That’s just bad.
Sylvia Soska: I actually wanted to study fear before I got into being a horror director, so I’ve always been really fascinated with what makes people tick. 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. 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.”
Jen Soska: The Spider-Man blankets probably throw them too. They know there’s a man already in your bed.
Sylvia Soska: Our home looks like a 12-year-old boy lives there.
Jen Soska: Only entirely.
Nerd Report: How does this schedule work out with your directing schedule?
Sylvia Soska: I’m in pre-production on our fifth feature film, Plastic, right now. So we go and terrify somebody and then I approve a cast list and then I set up our interviews for the weekend. 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.
Jen Soska: You can never tell when your opportunities are going to work out so you have to seize them. I think we started going after Hellevator in February and then we came down in March to shoot the pilot. Everyone had such a fantastic time and it was a great team and everyone was so happy that we just pretended it never happened. 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. So we just were like, “I’m never going to end up doing this.” And then we started going into Plastic. That day when we were meeting with actors, we got a call from Todd Lubin, one of the producers on Hellevator and he gave me this beautiful speech saying, “You know, there are a lot of pilots that are shot and they’re wonderful and they’re great, and for whatever reason they just don’t connect and they don’t go forwards. But that isn’t the case with Hellevator.” And I was like, “Are you f***ing kidding me?” I still thought he was messing with me. I’m like, “Haha, but this show’s not happening, right?” Then when we had Plastic going at the same time, it is 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.
Q: Since you only get one take, do you watch each setup hoping it works?
Sylvia Soska: I cannot tell you the childlike 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. It just makes us so happy.
Jen Soska: I’d like to speak more highly of our contestants but when you’re afraid, you’re an easy to manipulate human being. 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.
Sylvia Soska: And at the very end, in the labyrinth, they have an opportunity to get an additional $20,000 but it’s not easy to get. 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.”
Jen Soska: Really to defeat Hellevator or to at least get through it properly, you have to face your fears. 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.
Nerd Report: Would you want to try any of the challenges yourselves?
Sylvia Soska: On the pilot, I tried one of the challenges and I felt like a God when I got out of it. That’s like literally going through a Jigsaw puzzle. You get through it and then you have a new zest for life and you’re like, “I did it!” 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.
Jen Soska: I love our creature costars like the scorpions and snakes and tarantulas and the rats and the maggots, the cockroaches and the leeches.
Sylvia Soska: Like any girl.
Jen Soska: Like any girl, like diamonds, so any of those ones I would love to do because any time I get extra snake time [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.
Q: Do you have any dream contestants?
Sylvia Soska: We worked with Danielle Harris on See No Evil 2 where I found out one of her phobias is elevators. Right before she had her first elevator scene she decided to tell me that. I was like, “Haha, you’re kidding.” She’s like, “No, seriously, am I going in there?” I’m like, “Well, it’s in the script.” But the thing is, she becomes like an amazon. She’s been trapped in elevators so much that she knows how to kick out the top and get out. It’s obviously because Michael Meyers has been chasing her since she’s been like a wee little child, right? So her brain is just different than ours. I’d like to have a real final girls episode, like have Danielle Harris in there, bring Katharine Isabelle in. Who else? You know Ashley C. Williams from The Human Centipede?
Jen Soska: The middlepede?
Sylvia Soska: My girlfriend the middlepede because I know how to torture all of my actors and it’d be nice to do that once again.
Jen Soska: I absolutely agree. I would love to do a wrestler edition. WWE edition because they have phobias. And weird ones like, “I don’t like birds.” I’m like, “You’re six foot. What’s it going to do to you?”
Sylvia Soska: It thinks you’re a tree, run!
Jen Soska: So it’ll statue on you and poop on you? But it’d be really, really cool and also we could adjust the challenges because they’re physically very dominating. So we can have them have to bust through walls. We would make Kane go through walls again.
Sylvia Soska: How many walls can you bust through while such and such is chasing you?
Jen Soska: Oh, that’s good. And we talked to Mathew Gray Gubler also and he’s like, “I’d go on this one day.” We’re going to hold him to it.
Sylvia Soska: I’d love to do some charity episodes and maybe get some horror directors. Bring Eli Roth, bring James Wan, bring Scott Derrickson.
Jen Soska: James Wan doesn’t like bugs.
Sylvia Soska: Exactly, you bring James Wan.