Crystal Moselle's documentary The Wolfpack is a Manhattan fable about fear. Two decades ago, a Hare Krishna, conspiracy theorist, and self-described god named Oscar Angulo moved from Peru to a Lower East Side tenement with his American bride, Susanne. To protect his family, Oscar locked the door and kept the key. Some years, he allowed his kids outside only nine times. One year, he never let them leave the apartment at all.
The Wolfpack introduces us to the pale, homeschooled children — six boys and one girl -- as teenagers. Slender as straws, they seem to have grown to fit their spartan confines, where they pile onto a mattress on the floor to watch DVDs. Movies are their only connection to the outside. Their obsession with brawny Nineties flicks like Pulp Fiction and JFK means they don't know much about the present -- it also means they believe real life is as violent as their dad imagines.
The boys have waist-length black hair and their father's brutal cheekbones and broad mouth. They wallpaper their room in crayoned movie posters, transcribe scripts in pen, and film their own shot-for-shot remakes of their favorite flicks. Their home videos, spliced into the doc, let them feel they've stepped through their screens to join the world. Says one kid, "It makes me feel like I'm living, sort of."
Moselle re-enacts the kids' escape from the apartment, but The Wolfpack is more like a diorama of the Angulos' unusual childhood than an explanatory documentary. Oscar refuses cathartic apologies, and the boys are only beginning to process new lives. Says one, "There are some things you just don't put behind you."