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Meridian Review

DVD Review: Meridian / Cert: 15 / Director: Charles Band / Screenplay: Dennis Paoli / Starring: Sherilyn Fenn, Hilary Mason, Malcolm Jamieson, Charlie Spradling / Release Date: Out Now

After being raised in America, Catherine (Sherilyn Fenn), a sculptor of aristocratic birth, returns to Italy to take up residence in her family home. Meanwhile her friend, fellow arty type Gina (Charlie Spradling), becomes a picture restorer in a nearby town. But things turn strange when a travelling sideshow performs on Catherine's estate and an after-show dinner grows far more wild and orgiastic than the girls had anticipated. The bewildered Catherine discovers that the troupe has been here before, and that their presence is linked to an ancient family curse.

People aware of director Charles Band only from his reputation as a purveyor of low-budget shockers may be surprised at how ambitious this 1990 movie is, and the kind of territory it stakes out. The mood is sumptuously fairytale-like and the screenplay (a typically literate one by Full Moon's then go-to script guy Dennis Paoli) boldly knits together a beast-man story, good and evil twins, ghostly apparitions and erotic romance. As with several Full Moon films of this period, it was shot in Italy and makes good use of some stunning locations, including Bomarzo Monster Park, a haunting 16th century playground of the rich which takes its name from the oversized statues of mythical creatures assembled there. The travelling sideshow, with its whip-wielding dwarf and masked strongman, provides another level of vivid grotesquerie.

The film is cogently cast too. The presence of retro-glamorous Sherilyn Fenn (presumably whisked off to Italy just before Twin Peaks catapulted her to fame) adds to the feeling of lush opulence, and more than a touch of class is brought to proceedings by the wonderful Hilary Mason (the eerie blind woman from Don't Look Now) as Catherine's all-wise nanny, Martha. A little-known Scottish actor, Malcolm Jamieson, gets a plum role as the Heathcliffian leader of the travelling sideshow, and he's excellent in a lean, Rufus Sewell-ish way.

Meridian undoubtedly has its flaws – the ending is pure schmaltz, there's rather too much slow-motion naked breast-fondling, the beast-man's a little mangy and the Old Master Gina’s restoring, which holds the key to the exact nature of Catherine's family curse, looks like an eight-year-old painted it with his fingers. But it also has considerable allure and, for most of the time, casts quite a spell. It's hard to imagine who the target audience was when it was originally made, but these days its combination of shape-shifting magic and bodice-ripping eroticism should find a ready market among fans of the paranormal romance genre.

Special Features: Making of Documentary, Full Moon Trailer Park, Theatrical Trailer, Reversible Sleeve with Original Artwork


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