UNIVERSAL CITY, Calif. (AP) — “That’s how a roller coaster feels!” exclaimed a soaking-wet Bhagavan Angulo, 23, as he emerged from the “Jurassic Park” ride at Universal Studios Hollywood.
“That was the best. That was so fun,” added his brother Govinda Angulo, 22, as twin Narayana Angulo chimed in with a “Yeah, totally!” Their adventure this week was a big deal for the Angulo clan’s six boys: their first time ever at an amusement park.
Joined by brothers Mukunda Angulo, 20, Glenn Reisenbichler, 18, and 16-year-old Eddie Reisenbichler, the boys ran to the roller coaster’s photo booth to laugh at their startled faces during the ride’s exhilarating 84-foot drop and encounter with a giant mechanical T-Rex. They took special delight in the image of their mother Susanne Angulo, who nonchalantly held her sunglasses in place as everyone else screamed in hilarious terror.
The Angulos are not a normal family by any stretch. The home-schooled boys and a sister grew up in near captivity and isolation in a four-bedroom apartment on the Lower East Side of Manhattan. Their paranoid father, Hare Krishna convert Oscar Angulo, rarely, if ever, allowed them to leave their sheltered existence.
Within these cramped public-housing quarters, 16 floors above the streets, the Angulo boys had access to one unrestricted resource: movies. When they weren’t watching films, their home became a studio, as they elaborately recreated scenes from the films they loved most, such as “Pulp Fiction” and “The Dark Knight,” with homemade costumes and props.
And these weren’t quick cardboard creations. Mukunda Angulo spent two years making a painstakingly accurate Batman costume, modeled after Christian Bale’s in “Batman Begins,” out of whatever he could find around the apartment.
It’s the type of situation the world would normally become aware of when something went awry. In this case, on one of their early sojourns in April 2010, they happened to walk past filmmaker Crystal Moselle. In homage to Quentin Tarantino’s “Reservoir Dogs,” the boys were sporting long hair and matching black suits. Moselle wanted to know more.
She struck up a friendship with the family and was soon filming them at work and play. Now, that footage has become the documentary “The Wolfpack,” which opens in limited release on Friday after winning the top documentary prize at the Sundance Film Festival earlier this year.
The documentary does not reveal much about the specifics of why the Angulos started rebelling against their father, or why he acquiesced, but it suggests that change started after Mukunda Anuglo, then 15, escaped one day in January 2010 without permission. Emboldened by his actions, the brothers also started venturing outdoors a few months later.
Much has changed in the five years since Moselle first met the Angulo kids. Oscar Angulo is still living in the apartment, but according to the boys, their mom is in control of the family now and they’re encouraged to explore. For better or worse, the documentary has made that journey a public one.
Not all the siblings are embracing the experience. The youngest two are shunning certain reminders of their years of confinement, including changing to their mother’s maiden name, Reisenbichler, and declining interviews in connection with the film.
“We went from one very unique life to another very unique life. Not everybody gets to be in the public eye. We didn’t really have a middle ground,” said Govinda Angulo, who has since moved out on his own, living in an apartment in Brooklyn and working as a camera assistant for film productions.
Mukunda Angulo does production-assistant work in his quest to become a film director, Bhagavan Angulo studies hip-hop and teaches yoga, and Narayana Angulo works at a public advocacy organization. They’re also launching a production company, Wolfpack Pictures.
At Universal Studios, all were gracious, sweet-natured and talkative as they bounced around, finding joy even outside the spectacle of the rides. An Oscar statuette from “The Sting,” a man in a Beetlejuice costume and a model New York City Taxi (which the boys used to recreate a Travis Bickle moment) proved just as exciting as the “Transformers” ride, which they loved despite their dislike of the series.
They got a kick out of the “Back to the Future” DeLorean, the “Psycho” house and the fake New York City streets. They probably already knew most of the studio guide’s movie trivia, but that didn’t matter. They were just happy to experience things that had been limited to their television screens for so long.
“It’s been such a wild ride. A wild, wet ride,” said Mukunda Angulo “This place brings your inner child to life.”
“I’m pretty sure we turned back into kids today,” added Bhagavan Angulo.
During their weeklong stay in Los Angeles, the Angulos naturally have a long list of movie sites they want to see: the diner from “Mulholland Drive”; the concrete Los Angeles River, as seen in countless films; the Bradbury Building, also a favorite movie location; and, of course, the street corner where Marsellus Wallace spots Butch in “Pulp Fiction.”
“We’re all going our own paths and our own ways,” said Mukunda Angulo. “We used to live life through binge-watching movies, but now we’re actually binge-watching life and binge-living life every day.”