FOLLOW THE PROPHET Movie Review – Santa Barbara Film Festival

     January 27, 2009


Written by Hunter M. Daniels



As a rule of thumb, anyone who claims to do something in order to “protect the children” has a more than even odds chance of being ethically bankrupt and morally repugnant. So, I really should have known better than to go see Follow the Prophet, a film that boasts the tagline, “Polygamy, Who will save the children?”



It became clear that Follow the Prophet wasn’t the normal kind of dreary bad that you find at film festivals when, less than 2 minutes in, a young woman uses racist broad strokes to describe her military experience in Iraq and is then shot in the face, mid-sentence. We even get the porno close-up of her brains hitting the window.



No, Follow the Prophet isn’t just bad. It’s House of the Dead bad*. It’s hilarious, stupid, poorly thought through, and totally offensive on about a dozen levels. It’s the rarest breed of bad, what I call, “bestworst.”



The film would have you believe that it is a ripped from the headlines expose on Mormon polygamy cults, such as the one recently exposed in Texas. Except, it’s not. It’s a trashy piece of exploitation that aims to titillate viewers by playing up explicit rape fantasies and toying with a viewer’s presumed fascination and revulsion at the subject.



Instead of actually dealing with the issues of sex slavery and child molestation the film is content to sit by and watch it for sheer entertainment value. Weirdly, the exploitation is fore grounded by the film’s repeated use of home-camera footage. Most of the rape scenes (and there are many) look ripped from a creepy/creepier version of xtube.com. I suppose this was supposed to make it feel more “real” but instead it makes it all feel more artificial, and it forces a reflexive moment in the viewer. Why, you are forced to wonder, am I watching this as entertainment?



On top of this, the film seems intent on painting all Mormon’s as body-snatcher-esque zombies who will commit treason in order to protect their church. I mean, if this film were about an evil secret organization of 12 million Jews who were manipulating the police, the government and the media…well…bizarrely, the film frames the argument in Catholicism. Because, as we all know, Catholicism has never had an issue with raping children and then using billions of dollars and government pressure to cover up the crimes of church officials.



The film would like to be pulpy, yet insightful, moving, but boundary pushing. Instead, it’s a jumbled mess of half thought through ideas, bad acting, bland camera placement, and repugnant, xenophobic worldviews. There is not a plot so much as there is a series of contrivances. It would be an insult to cardboard to compare it to these characters. The music is bad. The cinematography is bad. The lighting is bad. I don’t even think this movie was made with good intentions. Everything is wrong with this movie. Characters are shown to be alcoholics, even though they never have any negative consequences to their drinking. Large groups of kids randomly hang out in the woods, hiding from the cult. Unexplained men in black suits shoot at people skiing down mountains. And then in the end, the filmmakers decide to kill off most of the main characters to give the movie resonance. Except, no one cares because none of the characters arc, and none of them feel realistic. There is not even a coherent logic to the story. How is one supposed to buy this film as a shocking docu-drama when the filmmakers can’t even get basic things about the legal process straight? Do it for the children? This film has as much integrity as Tammy Faye Baker.



CONCLUSION



This movie is like a bad joke. With different marketing materials it could almost pass as a spoof. Rarely have I seen a movie this exceptionally awful. Luckily, it transcends bad and moves back to good. Parts of this alarmist tripe even recall Reefer Madness in sheer dunderheadedness. But it’s not for the weak of heart. Though it is often hilarious, the funny bits are tempered with a whole lot of good old fashioned rape and incest.



*the film is not “as bad as Uwe Boll” it’s actually significantly worse than his more recent efforts which have begun to skirt basic competence.

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