Films like Steven R. Monroe’s 2010 SyFy original “Mongolian Death Worm” aren’t very difficult to review. It’s pretty simple stuff: You either like it or you don’t. There isn’t anything to dissect, nothing to chew over. In fact, “Mongolian Death Worm” is even easier to grade than other low-budget creature features, as it falls under what I like to call the “Tremors Technique”. Instead of critiquing the picture in a traditional manner, I assess the situation and score it against “Tremors” and its sequels. Since the installments in that series are automatically arranged from best to worst — “Tremors”, of course, being the high water mark — assigning a sequel to a monster movie like “Mongolian Death Worm” is a relatively easy task to accomplish. After all, just about every post-“Tremors” giant worm movie owes at least one thing or another to Ron Underwood’s camp classic.
That’s not to say that “Mongolian Death Worm” can’t stand on its own two legs, because it certainly can. However, it wouldn’t be wise to expect anything remotely original or surprising from Monroe’s by-the-numbers sci-fi flick, especially if you’re well-versed in the “giant worm” subgenre. In fact, the only thing saving this cinematic invertebrate from sinking to the very bottom of the bargain bin is the tongue-in-cheek stupidity of its script and the unflappable Sean Patrick Flannery. The guy plays his part for all its worth, often chewing so much scenery in one take that his head appears ready to split wide open. When you know that he’s is capable of so much more — take a look at “Powder” or “Suicide Kings” if you need confirmation — it makes you appreciate his manic performance in “Mongolian Death Worm” that much more. He straddles that fine line like a pro.
Flannery stars as Daniel, a charming ex-patriot and professional troublemaker living it up in wilds of Mongolia. It would seem that Daniel is hot on the trail of the mysterious lost tomb of Genghis Khan, which, according to legend, is packed to the rafters with a vast assortment of golden riches. While on the run from a gang of ruthless criminals who share our heroes lust for unimaginable wealth, Daniel stumbles across a curvy blonde doctor in need of a little assistance. After some careful monetary negotiations, this opportunistic thief agrees to cart the young lass and her nerdy companion to a tiny village currently suffering from a terrible viral outbreak. And like most viral outbreaks in Mongolia, this one is rumored to be linked to an enormous man-eating worm that guards the entrance to the legendary tomb. One guess what happens next.
Monroe tries his best to make Texas look like Mongolia by populating the picture with some supposedly Mongolian characters, but you never truly believe that this thing is taking place in a foreign land. Aside from that, complaining about anything else in this campy low-budget adventure is akin to screaming at a drug-addled fast food employee for getting your order wrong. It may be hopelessly stupid, utterly moronic, and unapologetically inept, but you know all of this beforehand. Most of the individuals who appear on-screen in “Mongolian Death Worm” are there for one purpose: to die screaming as they’re stuffed into the titular creature’s gaping maw. And while the kills aren’t nearly as creative as other like-minded efforts, Monroe does a find job of keeping the carnage flowing as he pushes the story forward at a reasonably brisk pace. It’s mindless entertainment, nothing more, and everyone seems to be perfectly okay with that.
So how does “Mongolian Death Worm” rank using my patent-pending and scientifically unsound “Tremors Technique”? I’d say it sits comfortably between “Tremors 2: Aftershocks” and “Tremors 3: Back to Perfection”. Sean Patrick Flannery’s go for broke performance helps guide you painlessly through the film’s slower moments, of which there are very few. Bad movies fanatics will have no problem consuming the massive amount of cheese caked all over Steven R. Monroe’s brisk little monster movie. And while “Worm” certainly doesn’t redefine the genre, it should give SyFy original movie aficionados exactly what they’re graving. At the end of the day, that’s pretty much all you can ask for when you sit down with a movie that bears the title “Mongolian Death Worm”. Am I right?
Steven R. Monroe (director) / Steven R. Monroe, Kevin Leeson, Neil Elman (screenplay)
CAST: Sean Patrick Flanery … Daniel
Drew Waters … Patrick
George Cheung … Timur
Victoria Pratt … Alicia
Cheryl Chin … Thuan