Hello and Hallowelcome to the last of this year’s Twofer Tuesdays, where you get two screams for the price of one! You join your solitary blogger, Lilly, as she leaves some vaguely European forest to step onto an elevator that surely doesn’t meet Health and Safety Standards.
Today’s Offerings: Release the Hounds & Hellevator
To start off, surprise on two counts, readers! First off, it is only me, Lilly–due to some scheduling issues, Andy couldn’t join us for this last Hallowfest review. Second, we are ending this season of Hallowfest with two gifts that keep on giving. Rather than two movies, this Twofer Tuesday, I am going to talk about two of our favourite reality television shows–Release the Hounds and Hellevator (both available on Netflix)!
Before I dive in, for those of you who turn your nose up at reality television, I have no hopes of converting you through these reviews, but I do hope you check out both these shows–the amount of writing and creation of worlds and narratives needed for each challenge is admirable, and truly, if you are a ‘any horror is good horror’ type of person who digs haunted houses come October, these shows are for you to enjoy!
So, let’s start with Release the Hounds!
Premiering in time for Halloween in 2013, Release the Hounds was a British television show with a basic premise: send three people out onto the supposedly haunted and horrific grounds of a mad man who hid his fortune and made sure it was guarded by, you guessed it, vicious hounds. Lucky for all of us, the show has had three seasons plus this year’s Halloween episode (and we can only hope for more), the third featuring the theme of ‘Famous and Freaked’–though, unless you watch British reality shows or youtube, ‘famous’ might be a stretch in the case of the celebs got onto the show to be frightened.
The premise of Release the Hounds is relatively simple–do a challenge in a certain amount of time, find the key, and the time you take to find the key makes all the difference due to the fact that the longer you take, the further away the gate gets from the end of a dog run you are going to be made to do with the titular hounds what that get released. Yes, the last part of each challenge is one person going to a run, each round with a heavier backpack full of cash, trying to outrun a pack of German Shepherd-type dogs who have nothing better to do than chase down that red backpack to munch on.
Before I talk about the dog run too much, let’s talk challenges. This isn’t do a puzzle and raise a flag Survivor style games, oh no. The very first episode kicks it all off with a challenge that features a wall of washing machines that the contestants had to open up to find the key. Inside was everything from soiled sheets to organs and back again. All fake, of course, but you can tell the props department had a field day with this gig and smell was definitely made to be part of the gags. Other episodes feature a man hung by hooks in his back having to be hauled closer and closer to the contestant so they could take something from his mouth. Phonebooths filling with water, clowns appearing over and over to shock you while you try and remember something for a nasty game of memory, and coded clues to help unlock something that might save your friend’s life are all part of the game. It’s like going through a haunted house that also demands you to do basic math or word puzzles to get out of it at the same time.
Hosted by Reggie Yates, a cheeky chap who cannot help taking the piss out of the contestants now and again (as we are all doing from the safety of our living rooms), Release the Hounds then has a fantastic final challenge to be faced by all the contestants. The dog run.
First off, brilliantly, the contestants are made to walk by the dog enclosure to get the money that is theirs to keep if they survive the last task. Naturally, it is a cacophony of barking while the shaken player loads up the red bag the dogs are clearly trained to want a piece of. Then, having looked their soon-to-be-attackers in their furry little faces, the contestant goes to stand behind the gate that will raise when the siren goes, letting them make a break for the end of the run where a ladder (and Reggie) are waiting. This is the point where many realize that 60 metres of a head start in front of the barking beasts isn’t all that much.
The third season, the show thought ‘well, these people aren’t being eaten by the hounds nearly enough!’ clearly–though it was a pretty fair ratio of winners and dinners–so they added in another element to the run portion. At the gate, the runner is offered more money for them to take home/for their given charity in the case of the celebs. The only catch is that they have to move back x amount of metres to be closer to the dogs and further from the exit. Of course they don’t take it, right! Right? Wrong. Some do, and seeing who it is is part of the fun. Adding in the next element of money hanging from trees along the run (which jumping to would only be advantageous if you were a star basketball player with high reach and long legs to keep ahead of the hounds) to grab if you want, and you get to see people at war with themselves about whether it is worth the risk of the far more gruesomely depicted ‘death’ of the later season.
Release the Hounds is as funny as it sounds, and it is well aware of it. While the show is played as real events with tragic loses of those who are caught by the hounds, there is a definite element of tongue in cheek in the writing of the challenges and in Reggie Yates’ presenting style. Definitely worth sitting down for forty minutes to try out!
Next, we have Hellevator!
This is a reality show birthed from great minds of horror the Soska Sisters (American Mary, Dead Hooker in a Trunk) and Jason Blum of Blumhouse Productions (Get Out, Insidious, Paranormal Activity) and features an elevator that is literally the worst way to get between floors in any building and that is counting stairs that are literally on fire.
The premise of the show is three friends go into the Hellevator to take a ride through the floors of a haunted building (which changes every episode, again the elements of storytelling baffling to really think about with each episode having a different backstory for the home of the Hellevator). Each floor, only one contestant is permitted to leave the Hellevator, going out to do a challenge then make it back to the Hellevator before the doors close and they are left forever.
Hellevator is hosted by the Soska sisters, twins Jen and Sylvia, who clearly have open disdain for all those who enter the Hellevator, laughing at their screams and generally showing open disgust when any celebratory moments are shared. They make jokes about corpses and giggle when people are lost behind the closing doors of the Hellevator, and they are a huge part of what makes the show enjoyable.
When it comes to the writing, I might surprisingly think Release the Hounds has a one up on Hellevator, if only because there is some moments of repetition through the series of the latter. Why does every other story feature a furnace? And the last run always looks so familiar. They did make it a bit more varied in the second series of the show, with the Inferno Run, but even then, the rooms were the same, and I was a bit bored by the third time I saw any of them. Of course, when it comes from a company which specializes in making franchises and stand out characters people want to see more of, I suppose this style is welcome. It reminds me a lot of old adventure style game shows where the audience can call out the name of the room as the contestant is entering it.
The contestants of Hellevator are certainly more varied–from nursing students in it to win it to cheerleaders (much to the hostesses with the mostesses dismay), you don’t have to worry about knowing any of them as there are no celebs here, but one can hope a special gets done and maybe we’ll see more horror faces hitting the close door button to go down to the depths of where ever on the Hellevator.
If you are interested in reality television, these are must watches that are well produced and written. If you aren’t interested, then you aren’t going to be won over by any amount of attention to detail or shared laughter with the host over some guy up to his waist in blood trying to find a bag of cash that he had pushed out of the tub while getting in. I highly suggest giving both of these a go, especially with a group of friends, because nothing quite adds to the fun like a crowd to help cheer on those poor people trying to out run dogs or beat the clock to return to a haunted elevator.
So that’s it for this year’s Hallowfest! Thank you so much for joining us, and make sure to keep an eye on the site for more additions throughout the year! We are looking to keep adding as it goes along, with audio additions as well as more writing! So stay tuned to this channel, readers, and hope you have had an excellent Hallowfest season!