As a rule of thumb, anyone who claims to do something in order to “protect the children” is more than likely ethically bankrupt and morally repugnant. 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 “Prophet” wasn’t the normal kind of drearily badfilm that you find at film festivals when, less than two minutes in, a young woman uses incredibly broad, racist rhetoric to describe her military experience in Iraq and is then shot in the face, mid-sentence.

No, “Prophet” isn’t just bad. It’s “House of the Dead” bad*. It’s hilarious, stupid, poorly thought out and totally offensive. This film has about as much integrity as Tammy Faye Bakker.

The film would have you believe that it is a ripped-from-the-headlines exposé 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 voyeuristic fascination and revulsion at the subject.

Instead of actually dealing with the issues of sex slavery and child molestation, the film sits passively and expose it to its audience for sheer entertainment value. Weirdly, the exploitation is foregrounded by the film’s repeated utilization of home video footage. Most of the rape scenes look ripped from a creepy version of I suppose this was supposed to make it feel more “real,” but instead, it makes it all feel more artificial and forces a reflexive moment for the viewer.

On top of this, the film seems intent on painting all Mormons as body-snatcher-esque zombies. 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 mess of half-thought-through ideas, bad acting, bland camera placement and repugnant, xenophobic worldviews. I don’t even think this movie was made with good intentions.

Then, in the end, the filmmakers decide to kill off most of the main characters to give the movie resonance. However, no one cares because none of the characters are — and none of them feel — realistic. 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?

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.