The Movie Waffler Film Maudit 2.0 2023 Review - THE FIFTH THORACIC VERTEBRA | The Movie Waffler

Film Maudit 2.0 2023 Review - THE FIFTH THORACIC VERTEBRA

Film Maudit 2.0 2023 Review - THE FIFTH THORACIC VERTEBRA
A fungal infected mattress attacks any humans with whom it comes into contact.

Review by Eric Hillis

Directed by: Park Sye-young

Starring: Moon Hyein, Haam Seokyoung, On Jeongyen , Jung Sumin

The Fifth Thoracic Vertebra poster

Several horror movies have been centred around threats posed by inanimate objects, from a fridge (The Refrigerator) to a car tyre (Rubber). In 1977 writer/director George Barry gave us the surreal horror Death Bed, in which a bed possessed by a demon eats anyone it comes into contact with.

The Fifth Thoracic Vertebra review

For his feature debut, Korean filmmaker Park Sye-young offers a similar premise to that of Barry's film, but rather than an out and out horror movie, The Fifth Thoracic Vertebra uses its silly set-up for a whimsical, even melancholy look at loneliness.

The inanimate antagonist of Sye-young's film is a mattress that becomes infected with a fungus while in the apartment of a young woman studying fungi. Living with a man who barely acknowledges her through a series of grunts, she's one half of the first of the film's several troubled relationships. When the woman leaves her disinterested boyfriend, the mattress sprouts an appendage that attaches itself to his vertebra and sucks out his life force.

The Fifth Thoracic Vertebra review

As the mattress travels from one owner to the next like a cum-stained cousin of the donkey in Au Hasard Balthasar, it repeats this action, feeding on whoever is unfortunate enough to lie upon it. This includes a bickering couple who check into a seedy love motel (in a scene that feels inspired by Derek Cianfrance's Blue Valentine); a dying woman; a delivery driver celebrating his 37th birthday with a cupcake in his van; and a horny couple who maul each other behind the mattress in an alleyway.

It might sound like the sort of horror-comedy put out by Troma, but scares and shocks seem far from Sye-young's aim. If there's a recent movie it has anything in common with it's David Lowery's A Ghost Story, in which Casey Affleck donned a bedsheet to play a ghost doomed to observe the living humans in his vicinity. The mattress serves a similar purpose here, though of course it's compelled to feed on its human roommates.

The Fifth Thoracic Vertebra review

At little over an hour long, The Fifth Thoracic Vertebra never quite allows us to get to know the various human characters that fall victim to the mattress, and as a result the melancholy Sye-young appears to be aiming for never quite hits home. Almost everyone here seems awfully sad, but we never really get to know why this might be the case. Still, there are moments where you find yourself feeling sorry for…yes, a mattress, as it wanders aimlessly through life. One long shot of the mattress trudging forlornly through a field like Michael Myers in Rob Zombie's Halloween 2 is indefinably affecting. By the time the film has skipped centuries ahead to the point where the mattress has disappeared under a mountain of fungus, you may find yourself flipping over your own mattress to make sure it hasn't succumbed to any sickness of its own.

The Fifth Thoracic Vertebra
 plays at Film Maudit 2.0 from January 21st.

2023 movie reviews