I’m a big proponent of Halloween. When you get down to it, it’s my absolute favorite holiday. Like, my absolute favorite.
One of the highlights of my October this year was giving Long Island Escape Game a makeover for some extra spooky vibes. For the past few weeks, we’ve been running a special “Creepy Cabin” version of our Cabin in the Woods game—complete with fake blood, body parts, and pitch black darkness. There weren’t any live actors like you’d find in a haunted house, but there were still plenty of jump scares and screams.
But if you want a look at my dream Halloween escape room? Look no farther than GSN’s Hellevator.
Hosted by “The Twisted Twins” (Jen and Sylvia Soska), Hellevator asks its contestants to complete various timed challenges, alone and vulnerable, with only a walkie talkie to receive support from their teammates back in the “Hellevator.” Succeed, and you win a shot at a $50,000 cash prize. Fail, and you’ll be captured—and possibly never heard from again. And all of this, of course, is done on a set that rivals the best haunted walk through.
One of the most interesting things about Hellevator is the range of the challenges. Contestant have done everything from searching a packed room for one object, to navigating a maze with their head trapped inside a box with a live rat. (Yikes.) Some of the games are puzzle based, some physical, some done independently, some done with teamwork—but all of them require a certain level-headedness, strategy, and helpful communication to beat the clock.
I found Hellevator before I started working at LI Escape Game, but having this job has given me a newfound respect for the show and its production. For one, it gives a whole new depth to the question, “Who the hell comes up with this stuff?!” The time and attention that goes into making these challenges—especially game show challenges—is crazy. Because you’ll have to find a game that is interesting to watch, difficult to complete, but also plausible in the given amount of time. Then there’s the matter of constructing it, and weaving it into the show’s horror story of the week. From that point, the design is just absolutely amazing.
(I may or may not have tried my hand at designing my own episode when I finished watching the new season. Even as a puzzle creator, it’s tough!)
Another aspect I enjoy is pining over all the puzzles I could never build. Much like I discussed in my post about virtual escape rooms, there are a lot of puzzles done on Hellevator that we could never replicate in an ordinary escape room. One factor is, of course, cost. Long Island Escape Rooms has two locations, and we’re a long way off from a Hollywood budget to build our sets and technical puzzles. The Hellevator challenges are big and beautiful, and definitely gives the average escape artist something to aspire to.
Resets are also a potential problem, or the time it takes to put the puzzle back together. On Hellevator, challenges are one and done—which means the games can be broken, destroyed, or just plain messy all for the effect. But if a fully functioning escape room were to ask players to dump out “urns of people’s ashes” in order to find lost items, some poor employee would be stuck vacuuming up the ash and putting it back in the urns at the end of every game. That’s a little hard to do in the thirty minutes before your next game starts.
Of course, the biggest difference between Hellevator and real life is the lengths to which the challenges go to scare people. On televisions, players will go through anything and everything to win—from sitting in a tub with leeches to walking a balance beam that might electrocute them. Sometimes Hellevator is more like Fear Factor than an escape room! But from the animals and the insects to the goo and fake blood, there are a lot of things on the show that just aren’t the right fit for the general public or a kid’s birthday party. But it’s still a lot of fun to watch other people go through.
So if you like horror, if you like escape rooms, if you like being scared or just watching other people get scared, I highly recommend giving Hellevator a try. Both seasons of the show are available on Netflix for instant streaming.
Happy belated Halloween, and happy watching!