After the fall of Empire Pictures, Charles Band's Full Moon Features was formed, releasing Puppet Master in 1989. Years earlier, Band was traveling through Italy and came across the Park of Monsters, or "Parco dei Mostri". He was instantly captivated by the location, but he didn't have any projects he felt would suit the location. Once Full Moon was started, Band came up with the concept of a gothic/erotic horror love story. Now that he had the concept, he decided to utilize the Park of Monsters and nearby castle as the backdrop. Many former Empire regulars were brought on board, including Ted Nicolaou, Mac Ahlberg, Dennis Paoli, Greg Cannom, and Pino Donaggio. The resulting film would be the second film released under the Full Moon banner, paving the way for their future. Released in 1990, we have Meridian, or Meridian: Kiss of the Beast.
Catherine (Sherilyn Fenn) has recently moved from America to Italy after inheriting her family's castle following her father's death. She reunites with her old friend Gina (Charlie Spradling), who's working as a fine art restorator for the local church. While reminiscing about old times and getting reacquainted, Gina spots a nearby traveling circus that has stopped by the castle. They decide to check it out and soon meet the ringleader, Lawrence Fauvrey (Malcolm Jamieson) and his World of Wonders. After the show, Catherine invites Lawrence and his circus for dinner, where she and Gina end up being drugged. Gina gets seduced by Lawrence, while Catherine is seduced by his twin brother Oliver, who both transform into large beasts. Trying to figure out what happened, Catherine learns more about the castle and the Fauvrey brothers than she ever imagined. It's a twisted love triangle in this strange gothic fairy tale!
Even for Full Moon, Meridian is one of their stranger films, but it's certainly one of their most unique. While many of their later films were either straight horror or science-fiction, this one is more of a gothic romance. It takes elements from classic fairy tales, particularly Beauty and the Beast, and adds a contemporary twist to it. The use of an authentic Italian castle and the general locations help make the film more expensive than it was. Most of the performances are solid, particularly a then-unknown Sherilyn Fenn and Malcolm Jamieson, though Charlie Spradling has her moments. Though it can be tricky for one actor to play two characters and make them distinctive, Jamieson pulls it off. Greg Cannom's make-up effects are impressive, particularly the creature design, even incorporating transformations similar to An American Werewolf in London. This shows the potential Full Moon had at the time.
However, especially in the age of the MeToo movement, Meridian: Kiss of the Beast is a somewhat problematic film. Despite the film being billed as gothic romance, the inciting incident involves rape rather than romance, which makes it awkward. Even though one brother is good and one brother is evil, neither is any better than the other. It doesn't help that Catherine ends up falling in love with the good brother despite him drugging and raping her. I'm not sure if this was an intentional decision, but it's more likely that they didn't realize the implications. Given that it's Charles Band and Full Moon, it's is more focused on nudity and strange creatures than anything else. In the end, while it's not one of their best films, I can appreciate them experimenting in different genres. Overall, Meridian: Kiss of the Beast is a problematic yet interesting watch.
Buy Meridian: Kiss of the Beast at Full Moon Direct: https://bit.ly/38tsJ8B