Having established himself with Empire International Pictures, Charles Band in 1989 began to make movies under Full Moon Productions, which quickly morphed into Full Moon Entertainment. One year after the release of 1989’s franchise favorite Puppet Master, Band would expand his horizons in the horror genre with the dark fantasy flick Meridian. Such an expansion project proved fortuitous, as Band would use the structure of this film for other forays into the Gothic genre, namely the Subspecies vampire franchise.
Although a low-budget affair, Meridian manages to evoke a dreamy, fairytale ambiance that blends well with Gothic and even horror sensibilities. The core tale is that of the fairytale “Beauty and the Beast,” although this storyline is decidedly darker, more menacing, and of course throws in a few nude and sex scenes for good measure.
The movie begins with the appearance of a circus sideshow of performers, featuring a magician, a dwarf, a fire-eater, a strongman, and a belly-dancer. The sideshow attracts two Americans who have recently come to Italy. The first is Catherine (Sherilyn Fenn), a recent college graduate who has come back to inherit the family castle. The second is Gina (Charlie Spradling), who also has recently graduated college and is now working as a painting restorationist. The two fall prey to the troupe, whose ringmaster is actually a pair of twins. After being drugged, the two women are seduced by each of the twins (named Lawrence and Oliver), with Oliver turning into a furred monster. This sequence is pure debauchery, with nudity and sex aplenty.
In the aftermath, Gina returns to her work while Catherine struggles with the incident, as well as plaguing memories about Lawrence and his troupe. Catherine begins to experience visions of another woman, somewhat like her, being stabbed to death by the beast creature. She turns to her nanny Martha (Hilary Mason), and with her help unravels and ancient curse put upon the circus troupe during the 15th century, one that has immortalized all the members of the troupe and condemned Oliver into becoming a hideous beast at night.
But things are not all as they seem, as Catherine soon discovers that the physical beast is gentle and kind but that Lawrence—always attractive and dapper—is responsible for the curse, as his inner soul is that of the beast. Gina learns this while wiping the remnants of a painting away to reveal another painting, this one telling the tale of failed seduction and murder. It then falls on the two to put an end to the curse and at last bring together the unrequited love of Catherine and Oliver.
Although a Gothic romance and horror flick, Meridian is astonishingly bawdy in some sequences. The two female leads are shown in all their glory, with the camera (and admittedly the audience) enjoying every minute of the show. The sex scenes venture into soft porn, and there is of course a sequence in which the beast copulates with Catherine. There’s also the sequence where evil twin Lawrence drugs both girls so that the escapades can get on in earnest.
Despite these sequences, which are somewhat tame given today’s movie standards, Meridian retains a fairytale quality, meaning that it is rather slow moving in some parts but overall works effectively as a Gothic romance with some trappings of horror. Some of the dialogue is decidedly wonky, but this is a Full Moon picture, so expect dialogue like this: “We artists are visionaries, magicians, outlaws of time and space! We scoff at the rules of polite society, we flout the laws of physics, and we laugh at death!”
Those seeking out some at time lurid entertainment that somehow manages to retain a certain sense of fresh innocence should check out Meridian. This throwback movie may make some of you yearn for such independent fare, as it’s not so bad to be entertained by the likes of Fauvrey’s World of Wonders.