From the 1975 disappearance of 20 people in small-town Oregon to the 1997 mass suicide of 39 people all wearing the same pair of Nike
Decades in San Diego, “Heaven’s Gate: The Cult of Cults
” sketches the evolution of the UFO-worshipping cult that mystified Americans in the last quarter of the 20th century. Director Clay Tweel
’s new four-episode HBO Max docuseries ambitiously works to humanize the otherwise dotty members of Heaven’s Gate
, led by messiah-wannabe closet case Marshall Applewhite
. While most viewers are likely to tune in for, and possibly even skip ahead to, the final episode that details “The Exit,” there’s plenty of fascinating material in the lead-up — even if it doesn’t exactly warrant four hourlong installments.
A half-baked, hokey blend of pseudo-Christianity, New Age mysticism, and “Star Trek
” lore, Heaven’s Gate
was built on the belief that humans were, in fact, extraterrestrials living in shells known among the sect’s members as “vehicles.