Movie Review: The Fifth Thoracic Vertebra – Indiepix DVD

January 4, 2024

Written by DanXIII

Daniel XIII; the result of an arcane ritual involving a King Diamond album, a box of Count Chocula, and a copy of Swank magazine, is a screenwriter, director, producer, actor, artist, and reviewer of fright flicks…Who hates ya baby?

When you sit down to The Fifth Thoracic Vertebra, the debut feature from South Korean Director Park Sye-young, you may think you are settling in to a take on George Barry’s 1977 killer bed flick, Death Bed: The Bed That Eats. Since both features contain killer beds…  or more specifically in this film’s case a killer mattress… but the two experiences couldn’t be more different.

While Death Bed is a more conventional horror movie, The Fifth Thoracic Vertebra is a melancholy, though completely bizarre, treatise on loneliness and emotion.

Following the life cycle of a creature born of fungus that inhabits a mattress owned originally by a couple in a rather crummy relationship, the narrative moves from owner to owner (usually after it feeds on someone), allowing us to experience their sad existences.

All of that packs quite an emotional punch that in a conventional drama would be almost overbearing in it’s depressive aesthetic, but since this is ostensibly a creature feature, or at the least a fantasy of a kind, things are much more easy to swallow.

All of the vignettes are shot and edited utilizing a variety of techniques including time lapse photography, colored gels, on screen text to keep us abreast of the creature’s time alive… it’s bold, art-house choices that further make this a unique oddity in the creature feature genre, and in some respects has a touch of the vibe of Shinya Tsukamoto’s 1989 cyberpunk masterpiece Tetsuo: The Iron Man in presentation (but definitely not content).

As for the monster at hand, it isn’t shown clearly, or even often at all, but the mattress it inhabits becomes a character in and of itself, and as it’s journey progresses it gets more and more dilapidated as the fungus inside grows and feeds on the lonely or desperate.

And with that I also should warn this isn’t a gooey gore-fest; it’s more of an artistic expression of emotional trauma that just so happens to involve a monster in a mattress… though a monster that appears capable of spreading it’s spores, so further mischief is almost guaranteed…

While the film is certainly unique, you’ll find no clues to it’s creation on this release as only a teaser/trailer is present (along with a brief ‘Director’s Statement’ on the releases’ slipcover).

Possessing a true art house vibe, The Fifth Thoracic Vertebra is an idiosyncratic creature feature that functions both as surreal horror film and as a poignant commentary of the sadness and loneliness that is so prevalent in the world today and shouldn’t be missed by lovers of psychotronic cinema with a heart!


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