Halloween at “The Wolfpack” Apartment

by Michael Anthony Farley on November 2, 2016 Halloween


Until this Halloween, I was only tangentially aware of the Angulo family. I had seen a trailer for the documentary “The Wolfpack,” in which filmmaker Crystal Moselle follows the six brothers around as they explore New York City after a childhood confined almost entirely indoors by their domineering religious father. I still haven’t seen the film, but it’s received near-universal critical acclaim. The brothers now have something of a following as “outsider” artists for the labor-intensive projects they pursued to pass the time when sequestered.   

On Halloween, I was invited by a mutual friend of Mukunda Angulo, the eldest brother, to a party in the Lower East Side NYCHA apartment where the boys had spent most of their lives. It was, for lack of a better word, awesome.

The Angulos, who grew up wholly immersed in pop-pulp cinema thanks to watching-and-rewatching movies, have a next-level commitment to Halloween. Walking into the apartment was like entering a different world. The brothers had gathered up thousands of dead leaves, which they used to blanket the floor of the 16th floor unit. Almost all of the furniture had been removed to make way for an installation comprising hand-drawn horror movie posters, various homemade props, and a cardboard haunted-house-within-a-haunted-house in the living room. Makunda Angulo had recreated a slasher-flick chainsaw from household items (tape, paper, aluminum foil, etc.) with such meticulous attention to detail that it put Tom Sachs’ iconic sculpture to shame.  

I couldn’t help but think of this less like a Halloween party and more like entering an artwork about the idea of Halloween—indeed, “The Wolfpack” boys had a show of their homemade Halloween and horror costumes and ephemera at Deitch Projects last year. But seeing these objects in their native domestic environment makes them even more endearing. My friend pointed out to me that many of the posters in the horror movie screening room were in fact xeroxes of the brothers’ colored-pencil originals they had reluctantly parted with for last year’s exhibition. Here, the photocopies of the hand-drawn copies had been lovingly laminated for preservation. Each depicted the cover of a different thriller—from The Silence of the Lambs to Friday the 13th—in obsessive detail. This is fan-art-cum-icon-reproduction of a near-religious order of devotion. What distinguishes these pieces from all the other pop-culture-influenced art out there is a near total lack of irony. The Angulos recreate imagery, costumes, and objects from movies because they really, really love movies.

That type of sincerity is all-too rare in New York, to the point that it almost felt like a point of spectacle for many of the party guests. In an odd way, this was probably the most “wholesome” Halloween party many of us had ever attended—I can’t remember the last time I spent Halloween watching scary movies while someone’s really fun mom baked us individual mini pumpkin pies in the kitchen.


And despite how nice and surprisingly outgoing all the family members I met were, this was probably the sole time I’ve ever been legitimately afraid for my life in a haunted house. That’s only because the night concluded with a performance, wherein three of the brothers, wearing tape and paper masks, lit a grass effigy on fire while everyone held sparklers and chanted along to the song “This is Halloween” from Tim Burton’s Nightmare Before Christmas. Never has a carpet of dead, dry leaves and a crowded room full of spooky, highly flammable cardboard decorations been more terrifying. Or perhaps cathartic?

As scary as indoor pyrotechnics can be, there’s something comforting about the idea of pop-culture Halloween as performance with a kind of therapeutic utility. From what I’ve gathered, the Angulo siblings had a pretty unconventional, likely traumatic childhood. They used dress-up and make-believe as an escape. And now, those same strategies have a different value as social activities. Basically: Halloween is always fun. And “The Wolf Pack” guys make that seem personally important.

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