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Extreme Parenting

When something good comes from something frighteningly bad

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At the beginning of The Wolfpack, we see six brothers reenacting Reservoir Dogs, complete with wardrobe, sound effects, and impressive homemade prop guns. It’s immediately noticeable that these dudes know their lines in a way that suggests this is their two hundredth run through. They also do impressive impersonations of Tim Roth dying of his gunshot wound, Steve Buscemi yelling and Michael Madsen taunting.

They have had plenty of time to get the scenes just right.

These are the Angulo brothers, nicknamed “the wolfpack. The are the subject of Crystal Moselle’s bizarre and wonderful documentary, a movie that gives new meaning to “shut-in.”

They have spent the majority of their lives indoors because their paranoid parents inexplicably moved them to Lower East Side Manhattan, where their father basically kept them locked up. They were homeschooled and advised to not talk with strangers, but they were allowed access to movies and television. The movies and television became their only real contact with society.

The boys sit for many interviews with Moselle, reminiscing about their upbringing, and casually calling it a prison circumstance. The oldest (20 at the time of filming), Bhagavan, recounts how he decided to venture outside one day as an experiment, wearing his impressive, self-designed Michael Myers from “Halloween” mask. In full costume, he visited stores, banks, etc. He also wound up arrested and incarcerated in a mental institution.

A bemused Bhagavan recalls his incarceration time, almost as if it was his awakening period, his final journey into manhood. Other brothers go so crazy in isolation that they shave their eyebrows off like Bob Geldof in “The Wall.”

Their parents, Oscar and Susanne, were followers of Hare Krishna and wanted to raise their kids in a commune-like setting. That makes the choice of Manhattan a very strange one. While Susanne appears frequently and early on in the movie, Oscar is more of an ominous, side presence. There are a few frightening moments where he’s seen drinking and is clearly upset that he is losing control of his sons.

I suppose the instinct in watching this film is to call Oscar and Susanne extremely bad, hyper-protective parents. However, one thing is for certain: these are some mighty intelligent, charming, and truly funny boys and young men they have raised. I’m not condoning their child rearing methods, which apparently involved physical abuse to go along with the 24-hour captivity. The Angulo brothers are simply proof that something terrific can sometimes arise from dire and difficult circumstances.

Their level of creativity goes beyond line deliveries. They’ve concocted an amazing Batman costume out of cereal boxes and yoga mats that comes mighty close in appearance to the ones used in the Christian Bale movies. They recreate, word for word, the car-cleaning scene from Pulp Fiction, with one of them doing an incredible, dead-on impersonation of Samuel L. Jackson’s temper tantrum, while the other just nails Travolta’s mannerisms.

Oscar’s intent was for his kids to become famous someday. He just figured it would happen. Maybe they would be a band, or maybe they would be movie stars. Strangely enough, Oscar’s intentions have come true. He’s seemingly achieved his goals at the cost of his children’s respect, though. None of them seem too pleased with dear old dad in this film.

Thankfully, the Angulo brothers have ventured outside some more since meeting Moselle, getting jobs as production assistants and taking part in demonstrations. As The Wolfpack wraps, it appears that they will be leaving their drinking father and dark apartment behind, or at least making an effort to do so.

Moselle closes with a short film that Bhagavan is working on, one in which he sits at a window and watches different emotions pass by. It’s a remarkable scene, and it leaves you thinking the Angulo brothers might just have a future in filmmaking beyond the fifteen minutes of fame “The Wolfpack” is giving them.

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