In the early 1800s, a man named Joseph Smith claimed he had been chosen by God to restore the Church of Jesus Christ on earth. For the next ten years, he was said to have received “messages” from above which eventually were translated into the Book of Mormon. Among the messages was the instruction that Mormon men were to have at least three wives to reach the celestial kingdom. Multiple wives bearing many children, known as polygamy, was seen as one of the most important components of the holy doctrine, and was the belief of the self-proclaimed “prophet” Warren Jeffs when he took control of the FLDS (Fundamentalist Church of Latter Day Saints) church and its people in 2002.
Prophet’s Prey trails closely behind private investigator Sam Brower who has dedicated years to monitoring the religious cult, sometimes from a distance and sometimes not. In the film, Brower is confronted, chased and followed by FLDS security in an attempt to expose the group’s deepest and darkest secrets. What results is a riveting documentary, an unintentional horror film that exposes what truly goes on behind the doors of one of the world’s most evasive religious sects.
Animated sketches recreate the FLDS history, giving those who are less familiar with the religion and its teachings an opportunity to get caught up to speed within the film’s first three minutes.
However what looks like paradise from above is in fact a mirage; one step into the reality of this scene and into the day to day life of a Warren Jeffs’ follower reveals a world void of joy, happiness, and individuality.
Director Amy Berg captures the innocence and remorse of so many current ex-members and how they feel about the life they lost while brainwashed at the hands of Warren Jeffs’ tyrannical mind control. Warren’s brother Wallace speaks candidly to Berg, expressing the emotional devastation at the loss of his children who, still complying to FLDS rules, remain hateful towards him and want no form of a relationship. One of Warren’s wives, Janetta Jessop (#63 for those keeping score at home) tells stories of underage marriage, bearing a child, and an irreparable relationship with her own mother.
It is ironic that Berg pairs beautiful sweeping aerial shots of the FLDS’ mountainous compound with the full sound of a children’s choir singing hymns. These moments could be taken from a fairy tale, an innocent scene born out of purity. However what looks like paradise from above is in fact a mirage; one step into the reality of this scene and into the day to day life of a Warren Jeff’s follower reveals a world void of joy, happiness, and individuality.
Dustin Lance Black, Brian Grazer, Ron Howard, and Regina Scully are a few of the powerful forces that serve as executive producers, while music by Warren Ellis and Nick Cave round out this who’s who of famous backers.
At one time being #2 on the FBI’s most wanted list (next to Osama Bin Laden and Whitey Bulger), Warren Jeffs was captured in 2006. Today, Warren’s brother Lyle rules over more than 10,000 FLDS followers on behalf of his brother, who still remains locked up in a Texas jailhouse. Despite his capture, the worry of Warren Jeffs’ control over his followers has not stopped. Interviewees are concerned that blind obedience will see thousands of people follow Warren to the grave, reminiscent of a Waco or Jonestown. Even though he is behind bars, Prophet’s Prey leaves us with the indication that Warren’s reign is not over yet.
Prophet’s Prey opens Friday, September 25th at the ArcLight Hollywood followed by a national rollout.