A stunning story of generational depravity-Entertainment News , Firstpost

House of Hammer is a gobsmacking dive into a family history that is deranged and fascinating at the same time.

In a sequence from the documentary House of Hammer, Casey, recollects jovially that her brother wanted a t-shirt with the line ‘Decadence is a way of life’ printed on it. Her brother is Michael Hammer, father of Armie Hammer, who was recently exposed as an abuser of woman, and quite possibly a self-claimed cannibal. Armie Hammer was exposed via a series of social media posts and in the context of a pandemic ravaged world it was possibly the most scandalous story of the time. But surely, an illustrious actor who had worked in films like The Social Network and the terrific Call Me By Your Name, was caught in a vortex of cosplaying to the gallery of a glittering that allows for rare privileges? Turns out, the actor is not just an isolated case of a sociopath emerging from relatively understated family, but only the latest symptom of a century’s worth of generational misbehaviour. House of Hammer is stunning, almost unbelievable for the giant streak of lies, deception and horrors it unveils.

The documentary is largely divided into two threads, one that investigates Armie Hammer’s ludicrous behaviour, his pursuit of depravity as a social act. We see a video of Hammer checking out a hotel suite, with a woman exotically dressed and an all fours, rudimentarily skipped past – as an afterthought. For everyone who briefly followed the story when it broke the internet, there is the second, and perhaps the most intriguing thread of this now infamous tale of brutality. As the name suggests, the Hammers weren’t ordinary folk and this tale of mistreatment of women, of holding bizarre fetishes and fantasies dates back a century to Armie’s great grandfather Armand. An oil tycoon, Armand’s wealth and influence, have had a great deal to contribute to just the way the Hammer household has turned out.

Armand’s absurd control of his family, his beguilingly intrusive nature leans heavy on the Hammer family narrative. His sons and grandsons, inherit this toxic wisdom and are exhibited here as the worst versions of masculinity. Toxicity was bred into this family, and its chastening, at times difficult to digest, that it’s the family’s women who have to come forward and finally lift the carpet. Casey is poised and even ironic in the way she reveals one sordid truth after the other. From debauchery to violence against women, the Hammers were enablers of a perverse world without boundaries only helped by this miasma of influence and power.

Armie Hammer was adequately appreciated for his breakthrough acting performances. But his tender portrayal of a gay man in Call Me By Your Name, in retrospect, feels like the stark opposite of revelations that paint him to be a patently divisive monster. A number of women he dated or obsessively pursued voice themselves as part of the documentary and make up for some of the most difficult viewing you’ll probably sit through. Some of the text messages showcased, are as bizarre as the notion that a man could lead such diametrically opposites versions of himself. Hammer was recognised as a Hollywood golden boy, ripe with potential and possibly slated for a few good decades of reliable stardom. Maybe stardust does misdirect you in ways that you won’t even realise until it is too late.

Other than the sordid details of a man’s despicable approach to kinky, sexual liaisons, House of Hammer also throws light on the way powerful men manufacture consent. Not just with the women they sleep next to, but also the ones they share bonds of blood with. Cousins, friends and sisters come forward in this bleak documentary that is just one gobsmacking twist after the other. Generational abuse and misdemeanour of this scale, cannot obviously be perpetrated by a string of enablers, people who watched from the side-lines. It is one gripe I have about a documentary that does pretty much everything it is required to. A rhetorical question at the end of the second episode will stun you into silence.

The fact that Casey (Armie’s aunt, a whistleblower here) quotes Succession, as a show that felt triggering for how close it resembled her own toxic family is telling. Reality, possibly could be as bizarre as you’d imagine it to be. Sexual deviance is one thing, but to hand it over generations without moral restraint of any kind, without anyone really raising their hand and saying ‘maybe we should stop’ sounds as improbable as it looks to be real here. It’s incredible that the Hammer family story doesn’t just stop at abuse and rape but also goes back in time to have a brush with espionage. What you thought was possibly a straightforward expose’ of an illustrious male star, then turns into a historic account of barbarity having become a bloodline in itself. It’s shocking that two years after the allegations first surfaced, the Hammer name has unravelled into a gory, sprawling nightmare that offends not just sensibilities, or politics, but also a sense of humanism. It’s wretched, but unmissable. 

House of Hammer is now streaming on discovery+

Manik Sharma writes on art and culture, cinema, books, and everything in between.

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