Hammers and cannibals: THE HOUSE OF HAMMER (Discovery+, 2022)

Is Armie Hammer (best known for The Social Network and Call Me by Your Name) a cannibal?

Hammer is a young American actor (in his thirties) who found fame with his 2008 portrayal of the evangelist Billy Graham in Billy, the Early Years for which he won a “Faith and Values Award” from Mediaguide, a Christian review organisation. Don’t you love irony?

Hammer went on to star in several movies (including some bombs like The Lone Ranger alongside Johnny Depp and The Man from U.N.C.L.E.) but he is best known for playing Oliver in Call Me by Your Name in 2017. He was supposed to star in a sequel, based on the novel Find Me, when his world turned to shit. Because he was a cannibal. Or wasn’t.

Now, a new three-part documentary on Discovery+ has gone through the history of the Hammer family, and the way the Hammers seem to treat everyone as, well, nails. Narrated in part by Armie’s aunt, Casey Hammer, the documentary makes clear that the family tree is rotten with toxic masculinity, abuse and exploitation. If we were wondering how Armie got that way, this sheds plenty of light on the question.

Hammer’s family was, shall we say, a colourful one. His aunt Casey declared,

“I know my grandfather had a dark side, but I saw my father’s dark side first hand, and I’ve seen my brother’s dark side, and I’ve just heard about Armie’s dark side. But I believe it.”

The documentary goes through the dark deeds of these generations: the patriarch and oil tycoon Armand Hammer, his son Julian, his son (and Casey’s brother) Michael, and his son, Armie. Casey said of her brother Michael (Armie’s dad):

“That’s the sign of a true monster. You can look in the mirror and not see any fault or that you’re doing anything wrong. And that’s how deep it goes with my brother. And that’s why he’s so scary, because he has no conscience.”

The first episode is about Armie’s allegedly violent relationships with young women who were often so star-struck that they would often let him get away with tying them up and biting them, among other things. He made his appetite seem like love.

In early 2021, several of Armie’s girlfriends took to social media to describe Hammer as abusive, manipulative and violent. Screenshots of his text messages appeared to show him describing fantasies (or real events) of rape and cannibalism.

“I am 100% a cannibal…. Fuck. That’s scary to admit. I’ve never admitted that before. I’ve cut the heart out of a living animal before and eaten it while still warm. Totally raw. Still warm. ‘d eat your heart if i wasn’t stuck without you after.”

“I want to see your brain, your blood, your organs, every part of you. I would definitely bite it. 100%. Or try to fuck it. Not sure which. Probably both.”

“If I fucked you into a vegetative state id keep you, feed you, watch you, and keep fucking you…Till you are so sore and broken…. I can’t stop thinking of [fucking] your actual brain.”

“…cut a piece of your skin off and make you cook it for me…. Who’s slave/master relationship is the strongest? We’d win. When I tell you to slit your wrists and use the blood for anal.”

The documentary shows a clearly nervous Courtney Vucevovich describing Armie taking her to Sedona, tying her up, and doing whatever he wanted to her.

She shows texts on her phone, but also a note that he left at her home after he stalked her and found her address.

“Armie wanted total control of me, and absolute compliance, destroying any sense of bodily autonomy.”

Then he took her to meet his Mom! But, she said, “it was like a band-aid on a bullet wound.”

In early March, Armie’s ex-girlfriend Paige Lorenze, 24, said in an explosive interview with Vanity Fair that during their time together she felt “really unsafe and sick to her stomach.” The interview claimed that the celebrity’s ex-partners have “compared him to Ted Bundy” and said he was obsessed with shibari – a Japanese bondage art form where people are tied up in intricate patterns.

Lorenze was horrified to see the accusations of cannibalism,

“Because he would say things to me…weird stuff…like, ‘I want to eat your ribs’.”

She also claimed that Hammer had carved his initial into her pubic area and licked the wound, later bragging about it to friends, and that Hammer was fixated on biting her body, saying,

”If you did not tell me to stop I would eat a piece out of you.” And he was serious too. It was like he actually wanted to eat my flesh away.

The “A” that Armie allegedly carved into Paige

On their first night together, Lorenze said Hammer insisted: ‘You can either call me daddy or sir.’ She tells us in the documentary that

“He’s obsessed with meat. I brushed it off, but I do believe that he was serious.”

Another woman named Effie whom he dated for about five months in 2020 said that he had raped her for over four hours in Los Angeles. He told her he wanted to eat her flesh, and would suck or lick her wounds if she had “a little cut on my hand.”

Most of the documentary details allegations of non-consensual sex, AKA rape, for which Armie is being investigated by detectives from the Los Angeles sex crime division.

One such text read:

“I’m not going to lie… you cryin and crawling away while I stalked you down your halway was so exhilarating”

But on the subject of cannibalism (which is what this blog is about) let’s remember that Hammer has not been charged with acting on his cannibalistic fantasies — and in fact he has denied sending those texts. Courtney Vucevovich claims that her shoulder bears evidence of his cannibalistic ways, a wound that he suggested should be tattooed into her skin to make it permanent:

But texting and sex play, even bondage and sado-masochism (if consensual), are not illegal, and Hammer clearly enjoyed both.

But if he said these things and sent these texts, and if they were just fantasies, he picked the very worst time, the apex of the #MeToo movement, to send them. Hammer subsequently lost leading roles for which he had been preparing, including in the Jennifer Lopez film Shotgun Wedding, and his agency dropped him.

In March 2021, Effie, the woman who initially came forward with abuse allegations on Instagram, identified herself and accused Hammer of violently raping her in April 2017. The Los Angeles Police Department subsequently confirmed that he was the subject of a sexual assault investigation, which had been set in motion a month prior. Hammer has vehemently denied any wrongdoing via his lawyer, who stated that “all of his interactions with [Effie] – and every other sexual partner of his for that matter – have been completely consensual, discussed and agreed upon in advance, and mutually participatory.”

Hammer was unable to see his family during the pandemic lockdown, and his marriage fell apart. In June 2021, Hammer checked into a Florida treatment centre for drug, alcohol and sex issues.

Many, many people seem fascinated by cannibalism, and one artist is already turning Armie Hammer’s explicit DMs into NFT art (non-fungible tokens – it’s a long story).

The documentary outlines Armie’s fantasies and alleged assaults, and also goes into details of the corruption and violent activities of his forebears. So that raises the question, the one that Clarice asked Hannibal, “what happened to you?” Nothing happened, Hannibal answered. “I happenedLook at me, Officer Starling. Can you stand to say I’m evil?”

WTF? Is there a curse of the Hammer family? An evil gene? An epigenetic generational trauma that makes each new generation a bit more abusive than the last? Of course, Hannibal has some philosophy about this as well:

when it comes to nature versus nurture I choose neither. We are built from a DNA blueprint and born into a world of scenario and circumstance we don’t control.

The Hammer family have for some generations been enormously wealthy, and with wealth comes privilege. That does not necessarily lead to cannibalism (although movies like The Cannibal Club suggest otherwise), and certainly poor people can also be cannibals, but it may make the wealthy feel insulated against consequences – that is one important theme of shows like Succession. Wealth, privilege and entitlement does lead to cannibalism (not clear whether real or imagined) in American Psycho, at least in the book, (the film lingered on the murders but wimped out a bit on the actual eating of body parts).

Cannibalism is an act of domination – there can be no greater conquest of another than converting them into a meal and eventually into excrement. Hammer revealed this need to dominate in wanting to be called ‘daddy or sir’. In wanting to tie these women up so they are helplessly compliant with his every desire. In the power of watching them cry and beg. In ownership of their bodies.

The massive wealth of the Hammers demonstrates Bataille’s concept of “the accursed share”. Excess energy – in this case, wealth from the exploitation of energy in the form of oil – is spent on luxury without any public benefit, in non-procreative sexuality, in pageants and grand buildings, or else in catastrophic ways like war or sacrifice. In other words, in social terms, it must be used, or wasted. Armie Hammer used his excess energy on finding ways to control women, ultimately tying them up for the purposes of eroticism. Whether this was consensual or forced, which is what most of the women allege, is up to the Los Angeles sex crime detectives to determine. But it seems clear that privilege, particularly multiplied over several generations,

“must necessarily be lost without profit; it must be spent, willingly or not, gloriously or catastrophically.”

Georges Bataille, The Accursed Share Vol 1, p.21.

Excess energy can be donated – billionaires such as Warren Buffett and Bill Gates have pledged to give away at least half of their wealth during their lifetimes or at their deaths. Or they can expend their excess energy (wealth) on fancy homes and cars and bending others to their will. Although they usually do this less publicly than Armie Hammer did, this is still metaphoric cannibalism.

Fun fact: Rotten Tomatoes critics gave the documentary a 67% “fresh” rating, but the “audience” rating is only 5%. Most reviews, and thousands of other social media posts, doubted the veracity of the women’s claims, saying that Hammer had suffered the loss of his career because he openly expressed his fantasies. Vucekovich, on the other hand, says that after the news came out about her relationship with Hammer, she received death threats and harassing messages from Armie’s “die-hard fans.” Out of fear, she relocated from an apartment to a house where she installed cameras. “The ‘Charmies’ made my life hell,” she says. At the same time, she fielded “thousands” of messages from women who had been through something similar.

Is Armie Hammer a cannibal? He is a rich and handsome movie star from a wealthy and privileged family, who built his career on playing men who can get away with anything. He is certainly a persuasive abuser of (often much) younger women, a form of exploitative consumption that is uncomfortably close to cannibalistic ingestion.

But is he a cannibal? Technically, almost certainly not. But in his mind, in the deep, dark fissures of his unconscious, he certainly is. According to Freud, we all are.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s