Burn Time (2017) | Directed by Peter Haynes
aka AO-TERROR-OA Episode 6: Burn Time | Colour | 7 Minutes
Written by Peter Haynes | Starring Brittany Clark, John Hawkesby
In the midst of UK winter, when you’re wrapped like a mummy in hoodies, jumpers and layers of thermals, it’s hard to imagine that elsewhere in the world could be anything but cold. But, such narrow minded presumptions are debunked on the other side of the hemisphere, where temperatures fluctuate between mid to high scorchio. Sounds idyllic doesn’t it! However, as the solar rays intensify, so do the chances for a very real horror to occur. Australia and New Zealand both have the highest rates of mortality from melanoma skin cancer than anywhere else in the world, which prompted the Aussies to create the Slip, Slop, Slap campaign back in 1981. It ran: Slip on a shirt, slop on some sunscreen, and slap on a hat. 37 years later, Kiwi creators H2Ow Productions pay homage to and ensure this vintage message is reinforced, with their short horror allegory Burn Time. Which really emphasises the gory.
Set in the blazing hot NZ summer of 1985, Brittany Clark’s unnamed sunshine devotee heads to the coast to work on that tan. After all, nothing’s more important than looking good, right? Ignoring news coming in of unprecedented solar activity, she bakes on the beach despite warnings that those outside should get to cover, for at least half an hour while the phenomenon passes. Unsurprisingly, the next time she looks in a mirror, our crispy fried beauty is an incredibly violent shade of puce. Lobsters, telephone boxes and the cast of Strictly Come Dancing would be jealous. And no amount of Aloe Vera is gonna soothe her.
Usually, or so we’re led to believe, time heals all wounds, but for our weather-beaten friend quite the opposite is true. Over the course of the next few days, her condition deteriorates, with oozing, pus filled blisters decorating her skin. Peeling flesh and pain become her existence until, well, let’s just say, it leaves an impression emblazoned into your memory.
The attention to detail within this short is phenomenal. From the archetypal beach side domicile, to hints of the decade which are sure to stir nostalgia, Burn Time captures the ethos of an era. But it’s the makeup effects which really ram home the film’s stark, yet entertaining message. Reminiscent of Peter Jackson’s early splatstick work, they’re a lovely (if a little gross) reminder of the ingenuity of New Zealand storytellers. With very little dialogue, Clark conveys a situation that we’ve all, to a lesser degree, found ourselves in, her anguish and discomfort all incredibly relatable. Until things really begin to fall apart for her character…
So before you go out to worship that big orange orb in the sky, maybe consider a complexion that’s more wan than tan. Or at the very least, remember to Slip, Slop, Slap.
Editor’s note: Burn Time is part of AO-TERROR-OA, a short horror anthology webseries, taking New Zealand icons and ideas and putting a horrifying twist on them.