The year’s creepiest horror film may very well be Amy Berg’s hushed, powerful documentary portrait of systematized evil, “Prophet’s Prey,” about the sadistic leader of the Fundamentalist Church of Latter-Day Saints, Warren Jeffs.
Using longtime FLDS investigator Sam Brower and “Under the Banner of Heaven” author Jon Krakauer as on-camera guides into the secretive world of polygamous sects, as well as interviews with former church members, Berg lays down a narrative of warped religious authority and patriarchal abuse every bit as chilling as her pedophile priest exposé, “Deliver Us From Evil.”
We learn of Jeffs’ beginnings as the scheming heir to self-proclaimed prophet Rulon Jeffs and the autocratic methods he used to control his flock and sanction the rape of young girls. Berg’s film also tells the gripping story behind Jeffs’ capture, trial and incarceration.
Threaded throughout is footage taken by Berg’s camera on drives through the dusty streets and along the walled compounds that mark FLDS-run towns on the Utah-Arizona border. The surroundings seem to stare right back, which only bolsters the film’s dispiriting message that for all that’s done to hunt down and bring someone like Jeffs to justice, this subculture of unchecked power and subjugation survives.
Jeffs, whose sonorous, apocalyptic sermons occasionally act as eerie voice-over, continues to run his followers from prison too. At one point, we see the FBI most-wanted poster that first included Jeffs, his gaunt, deceptively meek-looking mug at No. 2 next to Osama bin Laden. “Prophet’s Prey” is a sobering reminder that tyrannical monsters who hide behind religion can be homegrown too.
MPAA rating: None
Running time: 1 hour, 45 minutes
Playing: Arclight Hollywood