Deep Impact and Armageddon. Mirror Mirror and Snow White and the Huntsman. Olympus Has Fallen and White House Down. These are the famous “twin films” of our time, and now we have a “twin docuseries,” as Starz has released a trailer for Seduced: Inside the NXIVM Cult, which tackles the same group of people as HBO’s The Vow.
While Armageddon and Snow White and the Huntsman proved much more successful than their earlier counterparts, I fear that The Vow simply beat Seduced to the punch and it’s going to cost the new show — though it does have certain things working in its advantage.
This includes a much shorter running time, for one thing. The Vow came highly recommended, but I watched the first episode and thought it was simply too slow. I intended to finish the series on my own time, but I wasn’t in a rush because even its fans told me The Vow felt rather drawn out, seeing as it consists of nine episodes. Now that this four-part Starz series is coming out, I’m wonder if I can skip the remaining eight HBO episodes and get the gist of NXIVM in half the time.
Seduced chronicles the extraordinary and harrowing journey of India Oxenberg — the daughter of Hollywood actress Catherine Oxenberg and a descendant of European royalty (whatever that means) — who was seduced into the modern-day sex-slave cult NXIVM. More than 17,000 people, including India, enrolled in NXIVM’s Executive Success Programs, a front for the cult and a hunting ground for its leader, master predator Keith Raniere. Women in DOS, a secret master-slave society within NXIVM, were sex-trafficked and branded with a cauterizing iron.
The series follows India’s seduction, indoctrination, enslavement and escape, as well as her role as “co-conspirator” in assisting the U.S. government with bringing down Raniere and his criminal enterprise. In addition to being a rigorous and unsparing examination of India’s abuse and her own culpability, it explores how India and a chorus of other women are still grappling to make sense of their experience. The series also showcases extensive insider footage and exposes the inner circle of enablers around Raniere.
Seduced comes from the filmmaking team of Cecilia Peck and Inbal B. Lessner, who serve as executive producers with Daniel Voll, Alexandra Milchan and India Oxenberg. Peck also serves as director, while Lessner serves as lead editor. Starz executives Karen Bailey and Alice Dickens-Koblin oversaw the series on behalf of the network.
“I had been targeted for recruitment by NXIVM, so the subject was of personal interest,” Peck said. “In many ways, India could be anyone’s daughter. She was a young woman victimized by a serial predator, and I wanted to find out how this 19-year-old girl had become indoctrinated. There was a fearless quality to her inquiry that we were drawn to.”
“The most common question people have is ‘Why didn’t she get up and leave when no one was forcing her to stay?’” added Lessner. “The brave women who shared their stories with us have struggled with self-blame and shame for falling prey to this cult. All of their voices were instrumental in telling a very complex story, which we hope shines a light on systematic manipulation and coercion.”
“Seduced: Inside the NXIVM Cult is an intimate, harrowing first-person account of India Oxenberg’s seven-year journey through hell as she — like many other young women — was drawn into the clutches of cult leader and sexual predator Keith Raniere,” said Starz’s Christina Davis. “This is the first time India Oxenberg will speak publicly about her experience with the cult’s abuses as she retraces her steps, taking viewers deep inside the cult, meeting with former members, lawyers, therapists and cult analysts.”
Seduced: Inside the NXIVM Cult will premiere on Starz this Sunday, Oct. 18, at 9 p.m. Watch the trailer below, and click here for TK.