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Series / Hellevator

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"It's just a game..."
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Hellevator is a horror game show that premiered on GSN on October 21, 2015, and is from the producers of Paranormal Activity. It is hosted by the Soska twins, who oversee a "slaughterhouse" from a hidden control room as a team of three players walk through a dusty office and onto the "Hellevator". Once onboard, they each individually take on three floors of horror challenges following a weekly-changing narrative that increase in difficulty and worth ($5,000, $10,000, and $15,000). If a player fails a challenge, that person becomes a "victim" of it, is eliminated from the game, and is not seen again for the rest of the episode. Any survivors confront the "Labyrinth" on the bottom floor where another $20,000 can be won, meaning a possible total of $50,000 for a perfect game ($55,000 in the fifth aired [first taped] episode).

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The second season premiered on October 7, 2016, and ran for four episodes. Each legend is based on one of the Seven Deadly Sins, with the three challenges based on a different one. The money for the challenges was reduced to $2,000, $3,000, and $5,000. The team brings a fourth player along who does not participate in the challenges, but is placed in a cell in an area called the "Inferno" at the start of the game. Any eliminated players are placed in this cell as well. The survivors then have to complete a series of shorter challenges to try to free their teammates. Up to $40,000 is available in the Inferno, so there's still $50K on the table for a perfect game. If the team fails the Inferno Run, their winnings would be forfeited and each team member will be trapped in a separate room and "tortured" in the Slaughterhouse.

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This series uses the following Game Show Tropes:

  • Bonus Round: Two different ones.
    • Season 1 featured the Labyrinth. 5 minutes, go through three rooms themed on the legend of the week, grab as much of the cash as you can and get back to the Hellevator, or lose the money.
    • Season 2 uses the Inferno Run. 7 minutes, go through up to seven rooms based on the Seven Deadly Sins (one is removed for each individual challenge beaten). Each room hides either cash or a key to free those of your teammates that failed their challenge. Complete the challenge in the room, you win whatever is inside. If it's the key, you can choose to free your team or try to do another challenge for more money. The moment you free your team, you have to get the hell out of Dodge with the money. (Oh, by the way, challenges in this part of the game have to be done individually, so if two or all three make it through, they have to take turns.) The whole team has to get back before the 7 minutes run up to keep the money. Fail, however, and... we're left to surmise, but it can't be good. The rooms are as follows:
      • Pride: In the operating room of a plastic surgeon, siphon fifteen pounds of fat from a body through a tube into a bucket, then weigh the bucket.
      • Lust: In the room of a corpse bride, search through holes in a wall to find a ring box, then place the ring on the finger of the titular bride.
      • Envy: In the Soska twins' childhood room, find several pairs of items, then take one from each pair and place it in the same position on the other side of the room.
      • Greed: In the vault of a bank, open safety deposit boxes, find split-up pieces of the safe code inside, and combine the pieces to open the safe.
      • Wrath: In the room of a wrathful Voodoo priest, find the different colored needles and put the right color into the right X on a life-size Voodoo Doll.
      • Sloth: In the room of a lazy mortician, use two pieces of pipe to complete connections to two pairs of pipes that are spewing bile and embalming fluid.
      • Gluttony: At a birthday party, search among the eight cakes using only your mouth to find the cash hidden inside.
  • Bonus Space: There's an item somewhere in the Labyrinth which supposedly can be used to defeat the show's Big Bad. Get this item for a bonus of $3,000 to $5,000. Averted in season 2, as the Labyrinth was replaced with the Inferno Run.
  • Deadly Game: Anyone who fails their individual challenge ostensibly dies really really horribly.
    • Subverted in season 2. While the Lights Off, Somebody Dies trope does apply, the losing contestant is then shown to be alive in a locked cell in the Inferno.
      • Although... not really, Considering what the Inferno is supposed to be...
      • Season 2 goes on to reveal that it's the collective fate of those who fail in the Inferno. Sure, you get to keep your winnings from the individual challenges anyway, but you're not gonna get to actually enjoy your money...
  • Mystery Box: Each of the challenges in season 2's Inferno Run has one either at the entrance of the room or built into it. Once you've completed the challenge, you can open the box and take what's inside. One has the key that'll free your teammates, the rest have cash amounts totaling $40K.
  • Personnel:
    • Game Show Host: Jen and Sylvia Soska.
    • Lovely Assistant: Averted hardcore. First off, the actors who try to scare the contestants are usually made up to look badly disfigured and/or decayed. And then there's the hooded and masked people who sometimes "kidnap" the contestant by sticking a bag over their head before escorting them to the challenge area or the Inferno cell, and who abduct one contestant at the beginning of every season 2 episode.

The series uses the following tropes:

  • And I Must Scream: Several of the cheerleader characters in episode 4 of season 2 are shown to have no mouths.
  • Anti-Frustration Features: After the Total Party Kill that happened in episode 2 of season 2 courtesy of Keshia overlooking the closed toybox containing a needed item in the Envy room of the Inferno Run, subsequent iterations of the Envy room challenge start with the toybox already open.
  • Black Dude Dies First:
    • Elysse in the third aired episode, "House of Trapped Souls," when she failed the hammer puzzle.
    • Andre on the fourth aired episode when he couldn't figure out a peephole puzzle.
    • Jermeel in episode 3 of season 2, who kept overlooking the eyeballs he needed to find for his puzzle.
    • Marchael in episode 4 of season 2, who was freaked out getting into the Hellevator, freaked out getting off the Hellevator, and too freaked out to focus on her challenge.
  • Bond One-Liner: The twins will often make a grim joke about an eliminated contestant's supposed demise. note 
  • But Thou Must!: In season 2's Inferno Run, you can't bail until you've found the key to free your teammates.
  • Catchphrase: Three that stand out:
    • "Open the door and exit the Hellevator."
    • "Your (final) nightmare begins... now!" Used to start the challenges and, in the case of "final nightmare," the Labyrinth/Inferno Run.
    • "You've survived, now get the hell out." Used to tell surviving players to leave with their winnings at the end of the game.
  • Creepy Twins:
    • The Soska twins who oversee the challenges from the control room.
    • The titular triplets of the fifth episode, "Triplets".
  • Cruel and Unusual Death: The (supposed) fate of any contestant who is unable to complete a challenge and return to the Hellevator before a time limit expires.
  • Damsel in Distress/Distressed Dude: The fourth contestant in each episode of season 2, who is abducted and locked in the Inferno cell as further incentive for their team to do well. Other season 2 contestants wind up as this if they fail their individual challenges, as they join their teammate in the Inferno cell.
  • Dead Guy on Display: Seen in most challenges. Not all of them are really dead, however....
  • Deadpan Snarker: The Soska twins, to the extreme.
  • Driven to Suicide: Two of the "House of Trapped Souls" victims, after they had already killed their loved ones.
  • Easter Eggs: If you look very carefully there are hidden Easter Eggs in the show. Sometimes pictures of the Twins as little girls will flash by when the Hellevator is going down. In the Envy challenge of the Inferno Run, there are two pictures of the Twins as little girls on the nightstand and their names are written in blood on the walls. The Soskas themselves lampshade the Envy challenge with comments that they don't like people touching their stuff and playfully arguing over items.
  • Epic Fail:
    • The fourth episode saw Andrea, who was freaked out of her mind, become the only player to reach the Labyrinth after communication breakdowns claimed her teammates, and after starting the level, got freaked and ran through the whole Labyrinth and back to the Hellevator without collecting a single dollar, something the twins mocked her for as she exited the building.
    • The sixth episode has Ashley in the third challenge so freaked out by snakes that she was not focused on the challenge itself, as both her and her teammates failed to remember that they were told that there were clues in the form of illustrations and attempted to brute force the challenge instead. As with Andre in the second aired episode who also failed to pay attention to clues and tried brute forcing the challenge, it did not end well for her.
    • The second episode of season 2 had two of the members getting locked in the Inferno cell, leaving two players still in the game. They found the key in the very first room, and decided to try for some more money. They got through the next room OK and got another $5,000, but when they tried to do the third room, they ran out of time and forfeited all the money they won in the Inferno Run. This episode was a first as it showed just what happened once someone lost the whole game. All four players were locked in separate rooms in the Slaughterhouse. Not sure exactly what was to become of them, but judging by the twins's sadistic laughter as the camera focused on the outside, we can only imagine it wasn't pretty.
    • Marchael of season 2, episode 4, who completely freaked out after her teammate was abducted and refused to get in the Hellevator. She then refused to get out of the Hellevator for her challenge, even running back into it at one point. She was so freaked out by the entire experience that she failed her challenge.
  • Exactly What It Says on the Tin: The show is taped at a facility known as the Slaughterhouse... which is, in fact, a genuine former abattoir. Several of the challenges used in the game took place in rooms in which animals were actually killed.
  • Eye Scream: In the third challenge of the seventh aired episode.
  • Final Girl: Lampshaded in two season 1 episodes where a female contestant is the only one to reach the Labyrinth, and in the second episode of season 2 where two girls reach the Inferno Run.
  • Flawless Victory: The fifth episode of season 1 saw all three teammates survive their challenges, then take on and complete the fourth challenge that replaced the Labyrinth, walking out with $51,000 total. This was the first taped episode; they ramped up the difficulty and redesigned the Labyrinth for future teams. This was the only Flawless Victory in the show's history, until...
    • In the fourth episode of season 2, a team of cheerleaders played a perfect Inferno Run to claim the full $40,000. They found the key in their third room with about three minutes to go, but continued on for more money. They completed the Greed room with about 80 seconds left, but decided to face the last room, Gluttony (find the cash in the cakes using only your mouth). The contestant who took this room on found the money in the first cake she tried and immediately freed the rest of the team. They made it back with just three seconds to spare to take home a total of $48,000 (the first contestant failed the $2,000 challenge). The twins were decidedly not pleased:
    Sylvia: Did my nightmare just begin now?
  • Four Is Death:
    • Four scary challenges total per episode: three individual challenges and then the Labyrinth, which itself has 4 opportunities to earn more money (three areas with loose dollar bills and a MacGuffin worth a predetermined amount of cash if brought back.
    • In season 2, where the Inferno replaces the Labyrinth, there will be at least four mini-challenges (since you can eliminate up to three by winning individual challenges) to choose from. Also, because the prize money was re-jiggered, there is $40,000 available in the Inferno Run.
    • This also applies to the fourth aired episode thanks to the team in that episode managing to pull off an Epic Fail; the first and third players couldn't communicate and were axed as a result, and Andrea lost any bravery she had and managed to bolt through the Labyrinth and back to the Hellevator empty-handed; they only earned $10,000 from the second challenge, a current series low. She finishes the episode in a Troubled Fetal Position.
    • Season 2 now has four players instead of 3, though one is taken away and put in the Inferno early in the game. The second episode had two of the members getting locked in the Inferno, leaving two players still in the game. They found the key in the very first room, and decided to try for some more money than what they had. They got through the next room OK and got $5,000 more, but when they tried to do the third room, they ran out of time and lost the $5,000 from the Inferno Run. This episode was a first as it showed just what happened once someone lost the whole game. All four players were locked in separate rooms in the Slaughterhouse, listening to sadistic laughter from the Twins before they do...we're not sure, but we can guess it's not pretty.
  • Genre Blending: Seriously, how many other scary game shows are there?
  • Gory Discretion Shot: Employed if a contestant runs out of time on a challenge.
  • Hellevator: Not literally one, but it sure can be seen as being like one.
  • Hell Is That Noise: The screams in the teaser trailer.
    • The show itself invokes it at least once an episode, with the noises usually tailored to fit the episode's theme.
  • Historical-Domain Character: The fourth aired episode of season 1 features H.H. Holmes, a famous real life serial killer, and his deathtrap hotel.
    • Each of Season 2's legends are purportedly based on a true crime story, so every villain in them counts as this.
  • If I Can't Have You...: The wife of the main villain of season 2, episode 1 threatened to leave him. In response, he murdered her with a meat cleaver and ground part of her remains into sausage.
  • I'm a Humanitarian: The main villain of the first episode of season 2.
  • It Is Pronounced "Tro-PAY": The Twins' last name is pronounced "SAW-ska."
  • Lights Off, Somebody Dies: When a contestant runs out of time on a challenge, the lights go out on them, sometimes when a killer is about to strike. Season 2 has the feed in the Hellevator cut off instead, before cutting to the contestant being placed in the Inferno cell.
  • Luck-Based Mission: The money and the key in season 2's Inferno Run are hidden in mystery boxes inside each of the available rooms. You can only open the box and take what's inside after completing the task in the room, and you must find the key in order to be able to cash out (and, of course, leave yourself enough time to free your teammates and return to the Hellevator). Winning the individual tasks does make it a little easier on you by removing possible rooms.
    • The Lust, Greed, and Gluttony rooms in the Inferno Run qualify as this, as well. You could find what you need (the ring, the safe combination, or the cash itself, respectively) in your first attempt, or you could have to try all of the possibilities.
  • Murder by Cremation: What happens to Reina in the second taped and first aired episode when she can't unlock herself from a gurney. She also happens to be the first contestant in a taped show to lose the game and not be around for the Labyrinth and the exit.
  • My God, What Have I Done?: Two of the people in the 'House Of Trapped Souls' episode, who killed themselves after realizing that they killed their loved ones while possessed by voices of dead criminals.
  • Nerves of Steel: In stark contrast to his teammate Jermeel mentioned under Why Did It Have to Be Snakes? below, Anthony of season 2, episode 3 does not let anything get to him:
    • He tries to calm down each of his teammates from within the Hellevator, even trying (and failing) to guide them through their challenges.
    • He is completely unfazed by the trip to his challenge, even reacting with more than a hint of Dull Surprise towards goo dropping on him from the ceiling.
    • He doesn't show disgust towards his challenge (popping boils on the backs of models and matching the pus color to the antidote which needed to be fed into their IVs) and works dilligently to complete it before making it back with seconds to spare, again unlike his teammate Jermeel, who had complained about not being able to find anything and failed as a result.
    • He then takes on the Inferno Run solo (his third teammate Christine having failed as well), completes three challenges with the same cool he'd displayed in his first challenge, and frees his team with plenty of time to spare, singlehandedly banking $23,000.
    • In stark contrast to their teammate Marchael who freaked out even before getting into the Hellevator, Erin and Jolene in episode 4 of season 2 invoked this, keeping their cool during challenges and displaying coordinated teamwork. Not only did it get them past both their individual challenges, but led to them dominating the Inferno Run as well!
  • Nothing Is Scarier: The teaser trailer is nothing but a Content Warning followed by a Scream Discretion Shot and it played as a Youtube ad.
  • Rain of Blood: One of the many things the Soska twins use to freak out contestants in both the Hellevator and the Inferno.
    • Also used during a challenge in the first aired episode of season 1. A woman named Sinead had to weigh out organs onto a scale to reach 15 pounds on the nose; each time Sinead put too much on the scale, it would dump all the organs on the floor; the first time this happened, she also got a spray of blood from the ceiling.
  • Rule of Three: There are three contestants who each take on three challenges total prior to the Labyrinth/Inferno Run. In addition, the Labyrinth has three areas where money can be picked up.
    • Season 2 appeared to subvert by having four contestants instead of three, but ultimately played it straight by abducting one contestant and placing them in the Inferno cell before the challenges, as further incentive to do well.
  • Sarcastic Clapping: The Twins do it at the end of Season 2 Episode 3 after the Models get back to the Hellevator with the money.
  • Screw This, I'm Outta Here!: Marchael in season 2 episode 4 is so freaked out after one of her teammates gets kidnapped that she wants to leave IMMEDIATELY and refuses to get in the Hellevator and start the game. The other two have to persuade her to do it. Not surprisingly, she takes forever to get to her challenge, even refusing to get out of the Hellevator, and loses it.
  • Screams Like a Little Girl: Quite a few of the male contestants, when subject to a scare of some sort, let out really high-pitched screams. Given that the whole premise of the show is terror, horror, and more terror, this is extremely justified. That said, it can - and often does - earn the contestant involved a round mocking from the Soska sisters.
    • Case in point from season 2, episode 1. For context, this contestant's name was Gabe, and his challenge involved putting a corpse back together; a couple actors ran through giving him a major Jump Scare, plus in the breadbox where the head was, there were several rats:
    Sylvia: Hey, Jen, who am I? AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAHHHHHH!
    Jen: Oh, Gabe, Gabe, is it Gabe?
    Sylvia: I can't get my voice that high, but it is Gabe.
  • Sequel Difficulty Spike: The second season reduces the values of the individual challenges, so that the absolute best you can do in the main part of the game is $10,000 (compared to $30,000 in the first season). What's more, while you can theoretically win more money in the Inferno Run ($40,000 vs. $20,000 in the Labyrinth), you have to do additional tasks to get that money rather than just finding it lying around. On top of that, there is more of a chance that you time out and lose the money because of the Luck-Based Mission nature of the game (the rule is no bailing out until you've got the key to free your teammates, and if you choose to do another challenge after that for more money, you have to play it out). Episode 2 demonstrates the consequences of timing out in the Inferno Run (no team ever ran out of time in the original Labyrinth).
  • Seven Deadly Sins: The main theme for season 2.
  • Spotlight-Stealing Squad: The Soska Twins's popularity has grown with this show. So much so that in the second season they're given just as much time as the contestants, actually interact with them in the beginning when they show up to kidnap one, the contestants actually see them on the monitor instead of just hearing their voices, and they're the ones introduced first in each episode, where as in season one the contestants were introduced first.
  • Squashed Flat: The supposed fate of Michael in the fourth aired episode when he doesn't communicate with his remaining teammate Andrea, after their other teammate Andre lost the episode's very first challenge. This was a fatal blow to her, since she was unable to handle the Labyrinth alone and returned to the Hellevator with no additional money.
  • Subverted Catchphrase: Happens during a team's perfect Inferno Run. See Flawless Victory above.
  • Time Keeps On Ticking: Once the Inferno Run starts, the time keeps running, even when the contestant(s) are between challenges putting their money in the bag/freeing their teammates.
  • Timed Mission: Every challenge in the game is played in a time limit of between three and seven minutes, with the later (and more difficult) challenges typically being less generous with the allotted time. Season 1's Labyrinth is played in five minutes; season 2's Inferno Run gives seven minutes. Also, it's not enough to simply complete the challenge; you also have to return to the Hellevator before the clock hits zero.
  • Total Party Kill: Happens for the first time in season 2, episode 2, as mentioned under Four Is Death and Epic Fail above. Two players clear their challenges, but the third does not and ends up in the Inferno cell with their fourth teammate. The two remaining players get the key out of the first room, but instead of freeing their friends and leaving, they decide to take on more of the rooms for more money. While they do get one more challenge done worth $5,000, they subsequently get stuck on the next challenge and waste all their remaining time. As a result, they're all locked in separate rooms of the Slaughterhouse and left to their untimely fates.
  • Why Did It Have to Be Snakes?:
    • Laura, the only winner of Season 1, episode 3, finds the bag intended to pick up money in the Labyrinth covered in snakes. She admitted in her exit interview that this was the scariest part of the show for her. At least the timer had not activated by that point.
    • Ashley in the sixth episode freaks out at seeing cockroaches just outside the Hellevator and continues to freak out at the snakes during her challenge, which largely contributed to her failing it.
    • Jermeel in episode 3 of season 2, who spends several minutes completely freaking out over everything and cowering against a wall mere seconds after exiting the Hellevator. It's made worse by a run-by Jump Scare. Anthony survives the second challenge and frees the team to win the episode but Christine in the third challenge isn't much better.
    • Marchael in season 2 episode 4 is so freaked when Madison gets kidnapped that she refuses to get into the Hellevator AT ALL. Erin and Jolene have to persuade her to get inside. To the surprise of no one, when Marchael's turn came to do the challenge, she took forever to LEAVE the Hellevator and get to her challenge. She ended up losing.
    • This trope is very much invoked. In several interviews promoting the show, the twins mentioned that they had psychological profiles done on the contestants, as well as anything that came up in interviews, so if you mention that you hate creepy-crawlies, you're probably going to be dealing with them. In fact, in Season 2's contestant introductions for each episode, there are glimpses of lists of what each contestant fears underneath their pictures.
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