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John’s Horror Corner: Meridian (1990), a Beauty and the Beast romantic fantasy story crafted by a horrorsmith

October 19, 2013

MY CALL:  This is a Beauty and the Beast romantic fantasy story crafted by a horrorsmith using horror elements.  Surprisingly good!  MOVIES LIKE Meridian:  Another odd but love-oriented and worthy Full Moon release is Dark Angel: The Ascent (1994).  This isn’t the only movie to use an art restorer as a vector for evil curses.  Mother of Tears (2007) did the same to a much less romantic and waaaaay more gory end.  Looking for another werewolf love story, then try out the Underworld franchise (2003-2011).

Director Charles Band (the Puppet Master, Subspecies, Ghoulies and Trancers franchises) in this more seriously approached, surprisingly good Full Moon romantic fantasy-horror release.

Two attractive American women find themselves in Italy after graduating from art school.  Gina (Charlie Spradling; Bad Channels, Puppet Master II, The Blob) is working in art restoration and her friend Catherine (Sherilyn Fenn; Boxing Helena, The Wraith) has just inherited a castle.  The castle comes with a curse about some wizard who built the castle and cursed people by turning them to stone–and there are loads of statues.

After enjoying a traveling carnival attraction complete with a dwarf  (Phil Fondacaro [pictured above]; Troll, Ghoulies II, The Creeps), strong man, snake charmer, fire eater, belly dancer, magician and other carney weirdoes.  Looking for some interesting company, Gina and Catherine invite the performers to dinner, after which they are drugged and sensually “taken” by the magician.  But the strange thing is–because, no, we haven’t hit the strange part yet–the magician has a twin brother whose werewolf roots become most evident in coitus.

Sex in horror comes basically down to this: if you’re not having sex with the killer, then you’ll be killed for having sex.

The next morning the girls have little recollection of what events transpired and Catherine’s nanny (Hilary Mason; Dolls, Don’t Look Now, Robot Jox) is left to clean up the mess.  Later Catherine is plagued by visions of a murdered young woman.  The nanny reveals that the “vision” is linked to the castle’s curse, Gina’s recent work on a painting is connected to it, and that Catherine is the next!

The effects and action are the primary weak points of this film.  The transformation scenes are mostly reduced to frame shifts between human and werewolf form (i.e., there is not much of an on camera “transformation” at all), the werewolf make-up is unimpressive, the limited action is implied more than really being delivered, and there are no scares.  But “horror” wasn’t really the point of this film, implied violence was all that was necessary for the story to be effective, and the lack of scares was intentional and not a product of shoddy direction.  This is more of a romantic fantasy story crafted by a horrorsmith using some horror elements.

This film revealed that Charles Band is capable of so much more than his campy, gory horror.  The sexuality of the magician and his twin tender a strong dichotomy.  The magician is cruel, manipulative and lustful whereas his werewolf twin is gentle, protective and passionate.  The werewolf offers a more Beauty and the Beast sense of fantasy.

Not to knock this movie, but it’s interesting timing that this movie was released just as Ron Perlman and Linda Hamilton’s Beauty and the Beast series (1987-1990) was coming to a close.

This was surprisingly good!  Really.

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