What do you get when you cross “Be Kind Rewind” with “Capturing the Friedmans,” with an air of playfulness reminiscent of the latter, but an undercurrent of tragedy at least partially in the tradition of the latter? You get “The Wolfpack,” a wonderfully intriguing documentary that debuted at Sundance earlier this year and is headed to theaters this week.
Directed by Crystal Moselle, “The Wolfpack” is the story of a family of shut-ins (five brothers and one sister, all with the last name Angulo.) who are homeschooled and rarely step outside. Are they rural? Shut off from the world? Quite the opposite- they live in public housing on the Lower East Side of Manhattan.
And – shades of MST3K- they also constantly watch movies, and when they’re not watching them they’re quoting and re-enacting them, completely with elaborate costumes. The Tarantino canon and Batman are particular favorites, and a highlight is when the boys act out the“I’m a mushroom-cloud laying motherfucker, motherfucker” scene from “Pulp Fiction.”
There are dark undercurrents here. We learn a bit about their father, an alcoholic with beliefs rooted in Hare Krishna whose past cruelty may have crossed the line into abuse. One of the boys once escaped and was briefly arrested and institutionalized. The kids were given Sanskrit names- Bhagavan, Govinda, Narayana, Mukunda, Krsna and Jagadisa, and their sister Visnu.