A travelogue: “Mongolian Death Worm”

February 5, 2012

With a title like Mongolian Death Worm, it’s practically a biological imperative that I watch it. I mean, look at that title: it’s like they made the movie just for this blog. Mongolia. Death Worm. What’s not to like? Plus you got Victoria Pratt, who, as we saw in Kraken: Tentatcles of the Deep, is rocking a slammin’ bod, and Sean Patrick Flannery acting like he’s railed on coke. What’s not to like? Besides, I know a guy who just finished a two-year assignment in Ulaanbataar, and he loved it. Mongolia is a giant boom town, with oil, mining, and natural gas pumping money into the economy. The women, he described, were beautiful with Eurasian features and warrior’s temperament (you cheat on them at your own peril—they will try to kill you). So, I spent an afternoon with this movie to fill in the gaps in my knowledge about that fascinating land.

Fun Mongolian Fact #1: Everyone in Mongolia speaks English.

Okay, so in this movie you have this oil refinery that’s drilling through the permafrost, which is almost never a good idea, since that releases the titular death worms. But we’ll come to that. The dude running the plant, Patrick, (Drew Waters), is obviously up to something hinky, since he’s all nervous and squirrelly, and trades cryptic, conspiring whispers with one of his Mongolian staff.

Behold the exotic landscape of Mongolia!

Next, we meet Daniel (Sean Patrick Flannery), a local treasure-hunter on the run from some local gangsters. Well, they’re run off by the local, ah, sheriff? I guess sheriff. He drives around in a pickup truck with the word POLICE stenciled on the side, and wears a cowboy hat and blue jeans. They exchange some banter that establishes both the fact that Daniel is chasing the treasure of Genghis Khan’s tomb, and the fact that SPF is either tweaking or caffeinated to his eyeballs. He basically shouts every line, and gesticulates wildly.

Fun Mongolian Fact #2: Despite its remote location in Asia, Mongolia looks a lot like the American Southwest, with similar terrain features, flora, and climate.

Cut to a small village (like, three buildings small), gripped by a plague of some sort. Combating this, is a Doctors Without Borders-type organization called Doctors of Hope. The villagers believe the sickness is caused by the “death worm.” Naturally the docs scoff at this, because sick people are easy to condescend to. The big problem is the shipment of meds they need is delayed, because, Alicia, the doctor delivering them (Pratt) broken down on a rural road along with her partner, Phillip (Nate Rubin). Well, the Sheriff has someplace he needs to be, so he has Daniel give them a ride.

She almost makes you want to contract cholera just for the house call…

Naturally, the two of them don’t really hit it off. Daniel thinks Alicia is naive and bitchy, while Alicia thinks Daniel is an opportunistic bum. They’re both right. Now, clearly the movie is going for an African Queen vibe here, only these people genuinely seem to hate one another. Plus this movie has death worms, which The African Queen didn’t have. At least, I don’t think it did.

Fun Mongolian Fact #3: Mongolians live in tents that appear to have been appropriated from the M.A.S.H. set.

So, the Mongolian gangster catches up with them and takes them prisoner, which sucks. But SPF babbles long enough to distract the bad guys and get free. Alicia and Phillip run and get their medications to the village, while Daniel stays behind to hold off the gangsters. Fortunately, he has an assist from the death worms, which burst out of the ground at that precise second and eat all the bad guys. Say this about Mongolia’s giant worms, they have great timing.

Cheapest. Set. Ever.

Meanwhile, at the plant some crap is going on that nobody really cares about. This movie dicks around for long stretches.

Fun Mongolian Fact #4: There are, like, seven people in Mongolia.

So, back at the village, uh…they get everybody cured, or something, but then Daniel gets there and tells Alicia, “hey, we got some massive honkin’ worms eating people out there.” And she agrees to go with him to track the worms down. Well, this leads to the plant through some pseudo-science that Alicia pulls out of her (shapely) butt. When they get to the plant, they discover it mostly empty, because the Mongolian staff was scared off by the worms (and the movie’s budget wasn’t big enough for a lot of extras).  There, they discover that the hydro-fracking or whatever is what released the worms.

Mongolian vodka. Seriously.

They also discover Patrick and his super-secret plan: he has discovered Genghis Khan’s tomb, and is arranging to have the vast treasure shipped out in secret. Well, that’s a lot of treasure (we have to take the movie’s word for it—onscreen it’s only a handful of gold coins and some gold pots), and he’s not about to let a couple of Mongolian Death Worms stand in his way.

Mongolian Fun Fact #5: Ancient Mongolian architecture resembles a public parking garage, and, apparently, invented metal fire doors.

Well, the death worms have other feelings on that subject and promptly gobble him down, giving Alicia and Daniel time to run. Unfortunately, the worms have all converged on the plant, and they’re facing a veritable slew of angry death worms. Fortunately, the Sheriff shows up with his shotgun and blasts a couple, giving them time to get away while he is eaten alive. Because the most sympathetic character in the movie is basically only a diversion. It buys them enough time to set the plant’s systems all haywire, so it explodes and takes all the death worms with it.

“Nine-millimeter pistol…yeah, that oughta do the trick.”

So, that there is Mongolian Death Worm. Now, I can’t honestly say this movie is good. I mean, when you get down to it, the damn thing’s just another Syfy giant monster movie. It’s got a cast of about twelve people, and basically three, maybe four shooting locations. I guess going to Mongolia ate up the whole budget. We never really delve into the culture of Mongolia—unless, that is, Mongolian culture consists primarily of plagues, death worms, and Genghis Khan. Maybe it does. And the only Mongolian chick is played by a Singaporean actress (but she’s hot, so that helps). Anyway, it might not have been a great film, but I learned a lot.

Mongolian Fun Fact #6: The Mongolian death worm is an actual Mongolian legend. They say that it grows to be five feet long and can spit acid. There are no substantiated sightings of them, but scientist-types don’t really hang around Mongolia, so who knows?


  1. Lovely, thought the title was hilarious, but not after learning that it’s actually from a true legend…

    I want to change my avatar now…

  2. My buddy in Ulaanbataar read this review and e-mailed to tell me that the nomads there all swear that they’ve seen the things and will describe them in detail.

    You should keep the avatar. It’s cool.

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