Meridian: The Official Nerfed Llamas Review of Beauty and the Beast meets Sixth Sense meets Harlequin Novel minus Fabio on the cover
With one week already in the bag for the month of May, the official Full Moon Features tribute on Nerfed Llamas is already in full swing. I have already laid out an excellent outline for the month, as well as a multitude of reasons why you should check out the various films from Full Moon, both from the classic and new catalog. There are now reviews for the following Full Moon films: Trancers, Arcade, Bad Channels, Unlucky Charms, and Dollman for you to read and enjoy! A lot of those films were more along the lines of science fiction, and as such I wanted to start this week with something a bit more on the horror side. Being drawn to Sherilyn Fenn (naturally), I selected Meridian, a film that by its own poster seems to suggest that we are going to be getting a randy version of Beauty & the Beast, and frankly speaking, I am A-OK with that! So without further ado, let’s dive right into:
What is Meridian: Meridian is an erotic thriller about a young American woman, Catherine, who comes to Italy to pursue a career in sculpture and to claim ownership of a castle that belonged to her father before his death. Upon arriving to Italy Catherine meets up with her best friend, Gina, who is also a budding painter but has recently been relegated to restoring classic paintings. The two friends go to a traveling carnival style magic show and enjoy a show, with Gina even being brought on stage for a knife tossing trick. Enamored with the performance of the nomadic troupe, the ladies invite them to dinner at the castle to celebrate a great show before they head on to the next town. It is precisely here that things go pear shaped in a big way. People are not who they appear to be, motives years in the making come to the forefront, and everything that Catherine thinks she knows about her family and the mystery surrounding the castle all come into question. Catherine starts having visions of other events that occurred in the castle years ago, and of a beast that is at the center of them. She vows to find out who the beast is and why they are haunting her family’s castle. Also, there’s love, or some close approximation of it along the way too. Created and directed by Charles Band (creator of Full Moon Features), from a script by Dennis Paoli (Re-Animator, the Pit and the Pendulum, and Castle Freak), Meridian stars Sherilyn Fenn (Twin Peaks, Boxing Helena, Ray Donovan), Malcolm Jamieson (Victor Victoria, the Scarlett Pimpernel) Charlie Spradling (Wild at Heart, Bad Channels), Phil Fondacaro (Willow, Evil Bong), Vernon Dobtcheff (Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, the Spy Who Loved Me), and Hilary Mason (Dolls, Robot Jox).
What I Liked About It: What immediately drew me into Meridian was the atmosphere of the film. It was filmed on site in Italy at a castle and a small villa nearby and it helps with the over all feeling of the film. Everything feels authentic and tangible. Whereas low budget films tend to skimp on sets and locations, this film has none of these issues. The castle, the furniture, the costumes, the statues, and the scenic backdrops all look simply terrific. There is a lot to be said about finding the right location for filming, Meridian is a fine example of how that is undeniably true.
I’d also like to praise the director and the cast for the performances given in Meridian. Most b-movies are riddled with some pretty wide ranging acting from good to downright awful, and a lot of dialogue in low budget films tend to be campy or plain awkward. This is not the case for Meridian, it is a serious film that tackles some very heady topics (date rape, questioning one’s sanity, and how far someone is willing to go for love) without sweeping any of them under the rug. Characters react in natural and believable ways to some pretty horrifying scenarios, and they continue to address these issues well after the initial traumatizing scene closes. In the scheme of things, with some tweaks and a budget upgrade, this could have been a potential candidate for the big screen.
The horrors displayed in Meridian were genuinely terrifying, not because of gore or cheap jump scares, but because they played more towards the sinister ways men trick women and take advantage of them. This film claims to be about love, but it is a sick and twisted version of love that nearly borders on Stockholm Syndrome. It is a bizarre tale that I won’t ruin by telling you the plot, which wouldn’t make a whole lot of sense without the context of having seen the film, but needless to say it is story that has played out for hundreds of years and is pretty sick and twisted.
What I Didn’t Like: Some fairly interesting things happen throughout Meridian, but two things kind of stuck out like a sore thumb, and then one big thing really bugged me a lot.
1) Catherine is a hella fast sculptor. In the span of less than 24 hours she effectively creates the following masterpiece:
2) If you were hoping for some seriously steamy “erotic” scenes (this is from the “Erotic Movie House” brand after all)… you may have come to the wrong movie. The 2 sequences of nudity/sensuality are more of the taking advantage of women variety, and as such they aren’t erotic at all. They are actually kind of revolting. I don’t mind a dirty underhanded sex scene in a flick, but the first scene has the 2 main women under the effects of a date rape drug, and the second scene isn’t even sex but just the main villain trying to force himself on Catherine. Non-consent is not my bag, and feminists will likely hate this specific aspect of the movie. In all fairness, the women are most upset about how things play out, especially the first sequence with the drugging, and like I mentioned earlier it isn’t swept under the rug, but at the same time for a movie claiming got be an erotic thriller, I was kind of hoping for something remotely erotic to happen that didn’t seem like a crime against women. Also, this happens and I will have nightmares about it forever:
Above and beyond those 2 issues, it’s the love story that baffles me. Again, I won’t try to explain how it all works, but for this viewer the love story just didn’t work. It was established on a really questionable circumstance and furthered essentially by terror and mind-fuckery. I suppose love like that exists and happens, but up until the moment when things go crazy in this film, Catherine seems like a normal, well-adjusted young woman, and certainly not one that was destined to go crazy. By the end of the movie, people that you thought were alive are dead, things that you thought were going on were not, and truthfully, (and this is pure speculation because it does not show this in any way, shape, or form) it felt like this was all in Catherine’s head and that none of it happened, which would honestly make more sense than if it did happen.
Bottom Line: This is hard flick to call. It’s well acted, the sets and location is fabulous, and on the surface the premiss is a good one. At the same time, it leans heavily into an off putting direction in how women are portrayed in film and certainly in love. Now, I know that a large part of the story hinges on the bad deeds that traveling troupe do to the two women, and that this is indeed a film about both love and horror. That being said, I feel like this is one of those movies that you could get away with in the 90s that you just couldn’t get away with today, and for good reason. Meridian is worth watching for Sherilyn Fenn as she truly puts a lot of her charm, innocence, and dramatic heart into this movie. Also, she is sexy as all get out, which makes it even more unfortunate that the scenes that were meant to be erotic come off as skeevy, not sexy. Just be warned, if you consider yourself a feminist, or are exceptionally protective of women’s rights (as I am), you may find aspects of Meridian hard to watch. Consider yourself warned.
Here is a trailer for Meridian, give it a view and see if it sets off your trigger warnings: