A painting has been found that the discoverer wishes to gift to the local church, but the priest there is not impressed with its quality and judges it worthless. That is until one of his associates notes the frame is probably fifteenth century, and deduces there is another, older painting underneath the landscape that has been placed over it. Sensing he is correct, the priest decides to give it to art student Gina (Charlie Spradling) to restore, and while she protests she has to go along with it even if it will take up most of her time. What she really wants is to hang out with friend Catherine (Sherilyn Fenn)...
Meridian went by a few titles, including Phantoms (Ben Affleck not included) or Kiss of the Beast, but it's that last name that was the most significant to our purposes here, as it was the old Beauty and the Beast concept given a deeply romantic and at times sexual turn, low rent Walerian Borowczyk style. Largely released straight to video, it was one of horror producer Charles Band's efforts which saw him at the helm of a more self-consciously arty work than he was better known for, and was fortunate enough to secure Audrey Horne from briefly successful TV series Twin Peaks as its star.
This was fortunate because Fenn traded on her sex appeal for her role in that David Lynch series, meaning a legion of fans were keen to see her in the altogether; fortunately for them she had obliged in a few movies that might not have been very good, but certainly gave a million pause buttons a heavy workout. In this, she was Beauty to Malcolm Jamieson's Beast, and there was a centrepiece sex scene that cut between Fenn and Spradling as they were seduced by the same actor, playing twins, one good and the other bad. The virtuous twin is the one who transforms into the creature, actually during sex.
Leaving Sherilyn looking as if she's canoodling with the bearskin rug she's swept up from in front of the hearth, that is, pretty silly, but the atmosphere here was swooningly romantic rather than down and dirty lecherous: this was for all intents and purposes classy stuff, which may prompt you to depair of the seemingly endless scenes of soul searching conversations and wish they'd get back to taking their clothes off. Some have seen the origins of the type of horror romance that made the Twilight franchise such a success in this, but if it was a trendsetter, it was undoubtedly bettered by what followed as it was all rather dull otherwise.
Of course, your basic monster falls for lovely lady plotline had been part of the genre for decades, yet usually those longings were not reciprocated, after all Julie Adams was never too keen on settling down with The Creature from the Black Lagoon, but werewolves were a different matter. For most of the time they were angst-ridden humans who were reluctant wolfmen, leaving the possibilities open for tragedy as the woman they loved could do nothing to help prevent the inevitable silver bullet or whatever, but here, obviously owing a debt to An American Werewolf in London (even down to the transformation scene - in one shot), the hope was to build an emotional resonance. Catherine was the lady of the castle and the only one who can lift the curse on the good twin, so add in a ghost or two and a travelling carnival as background and here was your fanciful sexual fantasy, or that was the idea, counting on the viewer not getting too bored which was a very real possibility. Music by Pino Donaggio, funnily enough.