Sand Serpents (2009)

Sand Serpents (2009)

Terror Lies Beneath

A small team of Marines in Afghanistan are ambushed by a Taliban attack and taken hostage. However their insurgent captors are attacked by an unseen enemy and the Marines escape. It isn’t long before they realise that they have bigger problems than the Taliban – giant worms from beneath the Earth’s surface have been unleashed and they’re hungry.


Yet another Sci-Fi Channel original featuring the usual array of cheaply-rendered CGI monsters, stock characters and recycled plot, Sand Serpents had the potential to offer up a little more than its schlocky brethren. I mean how many films feature giant CGI worms, reminiscent of the sand worms from Dune? We’re not dealing with your typical giant snakes here! Unfortunately the monsters may be different but the script is still the same so you’re going to get lots of talking (which means less of the monsters), the characters regurgitating military dialogue 101 and not a lot of action. But hey, it’s got giant worms in it? Good enough for me to take a look!

I’d like to state that I think setting the film in Afghanistan is a little tacky given the current situation over there, especially when the likes of the Tablian are trivialised into simply Arabic-speaking, AK-47 wielding cartoon characters. They could have picked anywhere for the soldiers to be stationed but they chose a highly sensitive subject matter to throw in some giant monsters. This isn’t The Hurt Locker we’re talking about, this is cheap sci-fi horror crap and for it to be set so close to a serious, emotional hot bed of trouble in real life just reeks a little bit of controversy for the sake of it from the makers of the film.

Anyway enough of the moaning, the actual film itself is enough of a mess without the need to whinge about that. I didn’t expect the worms to be as big as they were. I’m not sure whether it was a good thing or bad thing for them to be able to rise up into the air and take out a Black Hawk chopper. I was expecting something a little more Tremors where the worms were big but at least small enough for our characters to be able to do something about them logically. Here the soldiers seem content to fire off round after round of ammunition into the ground, which is clearly a waste of time given the worms don’t really get hurt when they are shot at directly, let alone through however many feet of earth and soil. At least the film started off rather promising with the scene of the worm taking out the chopper.

I guess the budget ran out there and the rest of the film involves the remaining soldiers driving around trying to hide from the worms and the Taliban at the same time. The action scenes don’t usually involve the worms but rather shoot outs between the soldiers and the Taliban. Again this is a major problem I have with these films and it’s that they are too content to throw us human villains to worry about. If I am watching a film about giant freakin’ worms, I want to see the giant freakin’ worms not people shooting at each other. That’s what Chuck Norris films are for.

The cast is pretty dire. I’m guessing most of them just researched up their roles by watching plenty of gung-ho straight-to-DVD action fests because the dialogue is truly awful. If the military really spoke like that in real life to each other, you would be able to condense the language down into about ten phrases. Each character has their own little quirk to distinguish them from each other but apart from that, you wouldn’t really care for names. You won’t really care for anyone in the film apart from the fact that they’re the “American goodies” and thus you have to root for them, no matter how generic, bland or pointless their characters are.

Which then brings us back to the worms, the only reason anyone sane would even consider watching this in the first place. The worms are revealed too soon. Maybe if they’d kept them hidden for a while, had some people sucked into the ground or given us a bit more mystery (they could easily have played off the ‘is it the Taliban killing the Americans or not?’ theme) then their eventual appearance would have meant something. But seeing them rise up out of the ground within the opening twenty minutes isn’t ideal – in fact it’s the only money shot of the film where the Black Hawk chopper gets taken out. The worms themselves look really good for what little time they have on screen. But all they do is swallow their victim whole by rising out of the ground and then coming crashing down on them with their teeth. I wanted people sucked into the ground like on Tremors! This same graphic is repeated time after time meaning only one shot was created and they just kept re-using it. The worms also roar too.


Sand Serpents may have one of the most intriguing premises for the Sci-Fi Channel’s film output but that’s as far as the positives go. It’s just a complete waste of time and it’s a joke that someone thought setting a piece of garbage like this in Afghanistan and trivialising the ‘war on terror’ with giant worms was a good idea.





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