Australia, 1979, 97 minutes, Colour.
Joanne Samuel, Lou Brown, Bunny Brooke, Martin Vaughan, John Bluthal, Vincent Ball.
Directed by Ian Coughlan.
Alison's Birthday is a small occult thriller. The popular material from so many English and American occult thrillers is transplanted quite effectively into the suburbs. The elements of characterisation, plot twists are all neatly brought together with a surprise ending. Joanne Samuel is good in the central role and there are excellent supporting performances from Bunney Brooke, John Bluthal, Vincent Ball. Direction is by Ian Coughlan who appears in the small role of a disc jockey. An effective example of small budget thriller making in Australia.
1.Audience enjoyment of thrillers? The aims of this thriller? Successful achievement within aims? A modest, effective occult thriller?
2. The popularity of occult films, especially in the 70s and 80s? The influence of Rosemary's Baby, The Exorcist etc? Subsequent films being derivative? Effective reworking of derivative themes? The originality of setting such themes in Australia? Celtic and English witchcraft in Australia? The plausibility of the plot? The implausibility of the plot - plausibly handled?
3. New South Wales locations? Towns, beaches? Sydney? Suburban houses? Museums? The importance of editing and pace? The special effects? The atmospheric score?
4. The importance of the structure: the dates concerning Alison's birthday - and the macabre date at the end? The prologue and the children, violence, intimations of horror and witchcraft? The images during the credits? The birthday preparations, the climax, the epilogue? Audience interest and involvement? The focus on Alison, the focus on Peter? The shattering of audience expectations with the death of the hero and the imprisonment of the heroine?
5. The atmosphere of the prologue and the suggestion of superstition? The Ouija board out of control? The girls? The atmosphere of realism? The father? Death? The ominous name of Mirna? The warning? Audience expectations from the prologue?
6. The normality of Alison's Life? Work, phoning, Peter and his disc jockey work, her reliance on Peter? Band, the trip? The anticipation of her birthday? Alison at home? Visiting her uncle and aunt? Wandering the house and the gardens - with the suggestion of eeriness? The old grandmother from England? The transition to normal events, outings with Peter, their relationship, sexual relationship?
7. The uncle and aunt and their pleasant welcome, their manners? The suggestions of eeriness? Tonics? The grandmother? The hostility to Peter? The doctor? Peter and his break-in?
8. Alison and her dreams? The visualising of the cult of Mirna? The hold of Mirna on Alison? The psychological symbols of Alison's dreams? Her weakness, the drugs? The power of her aunt and uncle? Her not remembering this and the antagonism with Peter?
9. The sketch of the character of Peter - his visit to his father, radio work, the beach, the hostility, the police and the bail? The effect of his breaking? His visit to Sally and gaining information about the cult of Mirna? The paper and the information? The discovery of details about the Mirna cult - and the audience discovering them with him? The newspaper records and Alison's birth? Sally's warning? Peter and his plans, his being followed, the violent confrontation in the cemetery?
11 The build-up to the birthday, the passing of time, the preparations for the ceremony, the Stonehenge atmosphere in the garden, the old lady and her presence, the ritual? Peter and his crashing into the ceremony? The cross, his death?
12. The uncle and the aunt and their presence at the ceremony? The doctor and his sinister presence? Mirna and the old 1tady:? Alison seeming to be free? The irony of her being trapped within the old lady?
13. The neatness of plot strands and twists coming together? The delineation of characters? Information about the cult? The camera techniques for scares and suspense?
14. The plausibility of old English witchcraft - witches, demons, evil, cults?
15. How effective was the film as a thriller? Character study? How effective in its use of superstition and occult themes for contemporary audience?