A framed photo of Warren Jeffs rises behind 58 of his 70-plus wives. The new documentary “Prophet's Prey” gives audiences a dark look at Jeffs' life and legacy. [Photo courtesy of Showtime Networks / Imagine Entertainment]

Glance at an old photo of self-styled prophet Warren Jeffs, and it’s hard to see beyond his meek and unassuming exterior.

But the filmmakers of a new documentary are taking moviegoers behind that facade to reveal a tyrannical megalomaniac and serial child molester whose actions have devastated untold numbers of lives.

“Prophet’s Prey,” which is based on the nonfiction book of the same name by Cedar City private detective Sam Brower, is coming to Star Hall for a free screening on Thursday, Oct. 15, at 7 p.m. Brower will be attending a post-film question-and-answer session to discuss the documentary, as well as his seven-year investigation into Jeffs’ life and the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (FLDS).

The polygamous religious sect was well-established in the border towns of Hildale, Utah, and Colorado City, Arizona, when Jeffs took over leadership duties from his father – perhaps by murdering him, the filmmakers suggest. Yet although it had a reputation as a patriarchal religion with a history of polygamous and underage marriages, director Amy Berg makes the case that Jeffs expanded those practices, using religion to justify the rapes of young girls and boys.

Through her interviews with Brower and “Under the Banner of Heaven” author Jon Krakauer, Berg explains how a man who raped girls and boys as young as 6 years old – including his own son, daughter, nephew and niece – rose to power. She also offers unsettling accounts that speculate why thousands of FLDS members still revere Jeffs, following his 2011 conviction in Texas on two counts of sexually assaulting children.

Film critics say that “Prophet’s Prey” is a real-life horror movie that does not shy away from the darker side of Jeffs’ life and teachings, and audiences should be warned that it includes an extremely graphic audio recording of Jeffs abusing a 12-year-old girl.

Although Jeffs is currently serving a life sentence in Texas, Utah Film Center Artistic Director Patrick Hubley said the story remains deeply engrained in contemporary Utah history.

“(This) riveting film explores the origins of the FLDS faith and (Jeffs),” he said. “Through archival footage and first-person interviews, director Amy Berg illuminates the motivation behind Jeffs’ abuses and provides unprecedented insight into the tenets and practices of the FLDS religion.”

The Utah Film Center and the Grand County Public Library are bringing the movie to Moab in conjunction with the Utah Humanities Book Festival, and library assistant Jessie Magleby said they’re especially pleased to have Brower joining them in person after the screening.

“We expect the film to be of interest to a wide audience, as this story made headline news and takes place just a short distance from Moab on Utah’s southern border,” she said.

Documentary offers disturbing look at polygamist cult leader Warren Jeffs

“We expect the film to be of interest to a wide audience, as this story made headline news and takes place just a short distance from Moab on Utah’s southern border.”

When: Thursday, Oct. 15, at 7 p.m.; a post-film question-and-answer session with author Sam Brower will follow

Where: Star Hall, 159 E. Center St.

Cost: Free; Film may not be appropriate for younger audiences

Star Hall is located at 159 E. Center St. For more information about upcoming Utah Film Center screenings, go to: www.utahfilmcenter.org/events/category/moab/upcoming/.