Review: NAIL IN THE COFFIN- THE FALL AND RISE OF VAMPIRO (2019) – Fantastic Fest

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The name Ian Richard Hodgkinson probably doesn’t mean anything to most people. Mention the name Vampiro however and anyone who’s followed professional wrestling in the past twenty years will know who you mean. Nail in the Coffin- The Fall and Rise of Vampiro traces his career in wrestling from its beginnings in Montreal to his current job, talent director for Lucha Libre AAA in Mexico and Lucha Underground in Los Angeles.

There’s another side to this story though, one that we first see a few minutes into the film. During a conference call for what will be Lucha Libre AAA’s biggest event ever his personal phone rings. It’s his teenage daughter Dasha. She’s calling not from Mexico City or LA but Thunder Bay Ontario. He’s balancing jobs in two countries while trying to be a father in a third. And you thought your life was complicated.

Nail in the Coffin- The Fall and Rise of Vampiro interweaves his current life with home movie and television footage from his career. The tale it tells isn’t always a pretty one. Snowy pictures of his childhood home are offset with his recollection of being molested by the parish priest and the troubled path it sent him down. It was a path that led through organized crime and working as a bodyguard for Milli Vanilli before taking a chance and heading to Mexico to wrestle.

From there to WCW during the Monday Night Wars with the WWE, which is where most viewers will remember him from. That’s also where he got the broken neck that sidelined him for three years. Nail in the Coffin, (the film is named for his WCW finishing move), doesn’t shy away from the realities of injuries, painkillers, and working hurt. But it doesn’t dwell on them, or the rampant use of recreational drugs for that matter. It takes an honest look at the not so glamorous reality behind what we see on TV.

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Through it all though his love for his daughter shows. Both in the footage shot now and in interviews and other footage from the past. It humanizes him and the film as a whole. I do wish there had been more about his current behind the scenes roles. The footage from the start of Nail in the Coffin was a fascinating look at how these shows are run.

Director Michael Paszt has put together an absorbing documentary of a wrestler who is also a father. But it’s as much about a father who happens to be a wrestler.

Nail in the Coffin- The Fall and Rise of Vampiro kicks off its festival run with a world premiere at Fantastic Fest. Raven Banner will be releasing it after it’s done.

Jim Morazzini

Movie buff, gym rat and crazy cat guy

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