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The film begins when an earthquake hits Mexico, resulting in the overnight birth of a new volcano. Sent to study this phenomenon are geologists Dr. Hank Scott and his partner Dr. Arturo Ramos. En route to the village of San Lorenzo, the two men happen upon a destroyed house and an equally totaled police car. Shortly afterward, they find the dead policeman nearby, as well as an abandoned infant.
They take the baby to San Lorenzo and give it to some friends of its (now missing) parents, and are welcomed by the village's priest, Father Delgado. In addition to the disappearances of locals and the destruction of their homes, there have been wholesale slaughters of livestock and strange roars in the night. The villagers believe the culprit to be a demon bull, and have been pestering Delgado for divine assistance. Undaunted, Hank and Arturo begin their geological survey as members of the Mexican army, led by Major Cosio, arrive in San Lorenzo to begin disaster relief efforts. Hank meets and falls in love with local rancher Teresa Alvarez and makes friends with a young boy named Juanito.
The volcano erupts again and the true culprits behind the disappearances and deaths are revealed as giant prehistoric scorpions. After attacking a trio of telephone repairmen, the scorpions turn their attention to San Lorenzo itself, with the guns of Major Cosio's troops having no effect on them. Come morning, the scorpions have returned to their underground lair (which, in addition to the scorpions, is home to giant worms and spiders), leaving the authorities to seek the help of renowned entomologist Dr. Velasco. It is up to him, Hank, and Arturo to figure out a way to either destroy the scorpions or seal off the entrance to their cavern home, before more innocent lives are lost.
Despite collapsing the cave entrance, the giant scorpions make it to the surface and destroy a train, killing countless passengers before fighting amongst themselves. In the end, one scorpion, the larges