Mongolian Death Worm

*

Reviewed by: Jennie Kermode

"That this film is awful is probably its saving grace."

Though Western audiences may not be familiar with it, many people on the Steppes believe the Mongolian death worm (known locally as olgoi-khorkhoi) to be a real animal. Spoken of for centuries, is is said to be about five feet long with vivid red colouring, resembling a cow's colon, but so poisonous that no-one dare approach it. It can spit acid and emit an electrical discharge like a manta ray or electric eel. It is said to live deep in the Gobi desert and seeing it elsewhere is a bad omen.

Enter the Syfy Channel's version. Curiously, its special attacks have gone, and its colour is much less pronounced, but it has doubled in size and developed a long tongue that shoots out to snare people. Rather than being a herbivore or scavenger, it has acquired a habit of swallowing people whole. Not a patch on Tremors' graboid, also inspired by the death worm legend, it flops around on the ground like the worst of Doctor Who monsters. It's remarkable that effects so heavily reliant on CGI can look so rubbery.

Copy picture

The death worms have come to the surface, as is the way of such things, because their habitat has been disturbed by a greedy corporation seeking to extract power from the desert. This is bad news for local villagers, who have contracted a dangerous disease which they associate with the creatures. Alicia (Victoria Pratt) and Philip (Nate Rubin) are young doctors racing across country to bring them medicine. En route they encounter treasure-hunter ad self-described scoundrel Daniel (Sean Patrick Flannery), who is looking for the lost tomb of Genghis Khan. Strange as it may seem, their paths lead them in the same direction. Meanwhile, the greedy corporation send out gurning men with guns to stop those pesky kids, and worms are happy to chow down on people from all sides.

That this film is awful is probably its saving grace; it distracts viewers from any serious contemplation of why everybody's all American, with the locals speaking English even when they don't know who's behind the door or on the other end of the phone. The only significant Mongolian character is police officer Timur (played by Chinese actor George Cheung), though he does get some of the film's best lines and he evidently enjoys them. The film was shot in Texas, which stands in reasonably well except when there are too many of the wrong kind of trees in shot. Assorted Chinese, Singaporean and, um, Mexican actors round out the supporting cast.

There's not a lot of plot. There is a lot of worm action, but that may not be a good thing. The innate comedy in the tale is undermined by too many repetitive sequences and by the blandness of the main characters, which makes them not just difficult to root for but difficult to tell apart. To add to the confusion there's a lot of pointless shouting and the whole thing feels padded out to meet its intended running time.

One day a genuinely scary film will be made about the Mongolian death worm. This is not it.

Reviewed on: 16 Apr 2014
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Mongolian Death Worm packshot
An oil company disturbs a nest of beasts.

Director: Steven R Monroe

Writer: Neil Elman, Kevin Leeson, Steven R. Monroe

Starring: Sean Patrick Flanery, Victoria Pratt, George Cheung, Drew Waters, Matthew Tompkins, Nate Rubin, Jon Mack, Tiger Sheu, Ryan Manalansan, Cheryl Chin, Billy Blair, Jay Serra, Fouatchao Moua, Lieu Tran, Andrew Stevens

Year: 2010

Runtime: 90 minutes

Country: US

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