Movie Review: “The Meridian: Kiss of the Beast”

   Directed by Charles Band of Full Moon Features, Meridian: Kiss of the Beast is a film I knew I would talk about one of these days on Quality aside, it was one of the first Full Moon films I ever watched, discovering it blindly from a cheap movie collection from Walmart over a decade ago. It left an impression, a foggy impression, to where, I couldn’t even remember what it was about, but it was a film in the catalog I knew I would one day talk about.

   It is a film I don’t believe many moviegoers will necessarily be drawn to, and it is certainly not a film I have heard mentioned around anyplace anywhere, but I do feel compelled to log my opinion on the film. The reason I was apprehensive all these years has to do with two things in-particular, (a) because I have seen it listed sometimes as an erotic thriller or even cataloged with Charles Band’s dirty-birdie soft-core film company Torchlight Entertainment and (b) because, while I remember teenager me not thinking twice about the film’s subject-matter, I believe that adult-me will have a couple things to talk about. Erotic thrillers are a genre I don’t talk about very often on The Bib (although I did write a review of 50 Shades of Grey way back when it came out). Mostly, because I don’t seek them out / have a particularly interest in them.

   The film was released in 1990, and is, thus, one of the first films released under the Full Moon Feature umbrella (which proceeding Empire, known for Re-Animator, Dolls, and arguably the best films in Bands-produced catalog). Likewise, it has that early Full Moon-ness to it.

   Over the years, I have sometimes wondered if that’s a compliment or not.

   I am nostalgic for it, however. It reminds me a little bit of the nostalgia a person holds for Christmas and seeing their family. It’s familiar to them, and that might make them feel warm, fuzzy feelings, but then you realize your grandparents were a lot more racist than you remembered.

   The film has the old-school musical styling of Full Moon Features and a lot of the cinematography as well – I like the cinematography, which has an old-school style charm about it. I am usually pretty into Full Moon’s simple, atmospheric scores and this one is no different (this one isn’t composed by Richard Band though, instead we have Pino Donaggio, a fairly accomplished artist, known for his collaborates with Brian de Palma). I have heard some say this is far from his best work, which may be true, but it’s more than par for the course in a Full Moon film.

   The can of worms that is Meridian: Kiss of the Beast springs out when we start to talk about the story itself. Catherine and her best friend Gina arrive at Catherine’s family castle in Italy after her father’s death.

   They attend a local carnival, where they become acquainted with the participants, which includes head magician Lawrence and his crew – they invite them to the castle for dinner. Everything is all well and good, until Lawrence drugs and rapes both of them.

   This might make you imagine a very different film than what I watched. If you read me that summary and asked me to come up with what happens next, I would have surmised we were watching a Last House on the Left or I Spit On Your Grave style film. Surely, Catherine and Gina are about to murder the head magician and his crew in spaghetti western style? As you can imagine, this isn’t the ideal circumstances for a romantic film. Personally, I would dare say this isn’t ideal for an erotic film either.

   The scene itself is about what you would expect from a soft-core film. It’s overly-produced, and it’s framed in a peculiar way. Charles Band made it not feel like I was watching an assault, like what I was feeling was meant to be sexy. I find that to be an odd decision and, in general, I find it all to be an odd concept for a romantic film. Afterward, the characters and their reaction feels diluted and understated, given what occurred.

   Soon, it is revealed that the head-magician has a twin brother (he’s the nice rapist), and that both are stricken with a curse that turns them into werewolf-like monsters. One brother’s an awful person, and the other brother’s an awful person too (on-account of being a rapist) but is meant to be seen as a sympathetic, cursed soul who is under the thumb of his brother and longs for his own death (something I can get behind – his death, I mean). The issue is though, that he knowingly raped somebody and didn’t have to. The character wasn’t forced to by his brother, wasn’t blackmailed, didn’t have any type of hidden mind-control making him do bad things. He just raped somebody. That’s an ambitious hurdle for Full Moon Features to think it can overcome – it can’t, by the way.

   The film culminates in about the fashion any person would expect, clocking out just shy of an hour and a half. What Meridian is, at its core, is a romantic fantasy with an aesthetic that vaguely calls to mind Beauty and the Beast and the classic evil brother / good brother clash. At its core, that is what Meridian is. If taken only as that, it is a modest, generic film. Nothing special, but nothing so egregious it’d find its way on any Worst Of list, I don’t think. The acting is melodramatic, with Malcolm Jamieson having the campy assignment of playing the sensitive brother and the evil twin. Of which, I think he is decent. He can pull off the visuals of the cocky brother versus the sensitive brother pretty well, but the performances, like the film itself, falls victim to the stylized, old soap-opera quality of itself.

 I did find Sheirilyn Fenn to be a likable presence, hopefully I run into he again under better circumstances (I know she’s in Twin Peaks, which I’ve needed to watch for ages). 

   However, the sloppily handled way the film portrays sexual assault, and the messy, muddied execution makes it among my least favorite of the Full Moon Feature catalog. I realize Band and friends can be a little careless at times and likely didn’t realize the implications, but they should have.

   I wouldn’t recommend it in the least.

Rating: – 1.0 out of 5.0