After overcoming our fear of monsters under the bed, it turns out we need to watch out for the bed itself in South Korean writer-director Syeyoung Park’s screen-smashing debut, The Fifth Thoracic Vertebra. Some of the actors who appear in this horror feature include Hong Seungki, Park Jihyeon, Goh-Woo, Jaeyi, Moon Hyain, Haam Seokyoung, and Woo Mungi. It follows a mattress that is transferred to several different owners over many months despite the label warning not to do so. Mattresses collect bacteria and develop fungi over time, so a large patch of fungus grows, but the owners just flip the mattress over and sleep on the clean side.
“…a fleshy tendril rises up through the stuffing. It creeps up the back of the slumbering figure and pulls a piece of their spine out…”
Occasionally, a mysterious counter appears onscreen that shows how many days until the birth of something growing inside the bed. On the day the counter runs down, a fleshy tendril rises up through the stuffing. It creeps up the back of the slumbering figure and pulls a piece of their spine out of their back. Every time the mattress is thrown out, it ends up with someone else because they figure they can cover up the moldy side. As the fungus creature grows, it picks up more understanding of existence from the lives of the people whose backs it breaks.
As a rule, I never give top scores to horror movies. I maintain a 9.5 ceiling for even the finest horror, and for good reason. A perfect score is lethal to a horror movie, as that is going to set an expectation that, for most, will not be met. It is the reason that no one can or will make a good sequel to The Exorcist. The bar is just too damn high. Also, many perfect horror movies began as reviled and only became acclaimed with age. Point in case: I remember a survey in 1991 of the worst horror movie of all time, and 95% picked The Shining. So, a perfect score puts the target on the back of the flick, which is then pecked to death by endless rows of typing fingers.
"…one small step by an old mattress is a giant leap forward for horror kind."