Nightstream Film Festival (NFF) – A brutal beginning, including a sixteenth birthday, a seance, and a death-by-bookshelf set the scene for Alison’s Birthday, a 1981 Ozsploitation film from the mind of Ian Coughlan. Despite the tragedy and the terrifying message of impending doom (seemingly sent by the spirit of her dead father), Alison (Joanne Samuel) quickly forgets the warning, and soon it is nearly her nineteenth birthday. She’s quickly reminded of the ominous warning, however, when she makes her annual birthday trip to Uncle Dean (John Bluthal) and Aunt Jenny’s (Bunney Brooke).

While her aunt and uncle raised her once her parents passed away, there’s something peculiar about their behavior and controlling demands leading up to her birthday. Alison soon learns that the warning was more of a harbinger, and her aunt and uncle are a part of something more evil than she could ever fantasize in her worst nightmares.

Alison’s Birthday is another Satanic Panic film, this time out of Australia. Rituals, demonic possession, transference of consciousness, and a Rosemary’s Baby-esque ensemble of conniving, manipulative characters play their classic roles in this exploitation film. Herbal concoctions and a miniature Stonehenge built in the secret garden – which Alison is forbidden to visit – clue us into what’s to come. In the bizarre Satanic cult that enraptured Alison’s family, the number 19 is held above all else, and a girl of nineteen – born on the 19th day of the month, at the nineteenth hour –  is forced to be part of a ritual to transfer the consciousness of an ancient power into the young woman’s body.

Folk-Horror from other parts of the world are a favorite sub-genre of mine, and Alison’s Birthday doesn’t disappoint. Unexpectedly interesting in spite of being lowkey and low energy, the climax of the film comes fast and hard, and takes a dark tolling turn right as the movie comes to an end. If gore, nudity, or extreme violence are NOT at the top of your list of reasons-to-view-a-horror-film, this film is for you.

The story takes several labyrinthine turns, thankfully held together by the investigations of Alison’s boyfriend Peter (Lou Brown), who in his own Gregory Peck-esque fashion, pieces together the truth from hospital records and newspapers while Alison creeps closer and closer to doom. Pay attention – this film is slow, and remarkably intelligent for a silly little horror flick. If folk-horror is your thing, this is the place to go. I’m incredibly thankful this film came across my transom – via the brilliant Nightstream Film Festival – because it’s difficult to find and not well known. See it if you get the chance – if not just for the wild ride.

Alison’s Birthday reviewed as part of our Nightstream Film Festival (NFF) coverage.


7 out of 10


Alison’s Birthday
Runtime: 1 Hr. 37 Mins.
Directed By:
Written By:



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Makeup Artist, Monster Maker, Educator, Producer, Haunt-lover, and all around Halloween freak. When Miranda isn't watching horror films, she's making them happen. When she's not doing either of those things, she's probably dreaming about them. Or baking cookies.
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