Nail in the Coffin: The Fall and Rise of Vampiro Movie Review

Written by Stuart D. Monroe

Released by Epic Pictures

nail in the coffin the fall and rise of vampiro poster large

Written and directed by Michael Paszt
2019, 90 minutes, Not Rated
Released on September 8th, 2020

Ian Hodgkinson as Himself / Vampiro
Dasha Hodgkinson as Herself
Jeff Jarrett as Himself
John Hennigan as Himself / Johnny Mundo
Matthew Kaye as Himself / Matt Striker
Chavo Guerrero, Jr. as Himself
Konnan as Himself
Kevin Arturo Geist as Himself / Kevin Kross

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Horror, wrestling, and punk rock (specifically The Misfits) have been synonymous with each other in my life for as long as I can remember. That reason alone makes me feel like I really missed something in my assessment and lack of knowledge about Ian Hodgkinson, the man known to the world as professional wrestler Vampiro. I’m slapped in the face with that realization after watching Michael Paszt’s wonderfully constructed and authentically told documentary, Nail in the Coffin: The Fall and Rise of Vampiro.

I’d have to thank those involved (like the mark that I am) if that were the only layer to this story. Like a false finish deep into the match where the ref’s hand was a millimeter away from counting three, however, Nail in the Coffin gives you a rollercoaster of ups and downs that are as much a tale about the irresistible pull of the crowd as it is about the journey of a father and daughter in the intense and extreme world of pro wrestling.

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Don’t worry about blood. There’s plenty of that and more broken bones than you can count. This is the story of Vampiro, after all, a man who took the extreme path to true international superstardom and has paid a price that’s left him virtually unable to even walk…until the lights come on, that is.

Michael Paszt delivers a competent but not flashy documentary on the technical side of things; it’s not a flashy affair and he knows the story is best told by the man himself. Ian Hodgkinson is an extremely cerebral human being, and the extensive backstage footage attests to his high skill as a wrestling producer and maestro. It’s cliché, sure, but one of the highlights of Nail in the Coffin is simply letting Ian tell you the story of becoming a Lucha Libre superstar at an almost comically young age on pure charisma. He gives a loving history of the origins of the sport and its importance to the culture in Mexico. Genuinely educational and spoken with respect, the opening third of the film goes a long way to establishing who the man was as he became Vampiro and lived the character (as so many wrestlers do).

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Then the film shifts gears and it’s all about his relationship with his daughter, Dasha. There’s footage from three different eras in his life, and it’s a flat-out joy to see the changes. I have a daughter at the “I just got my license” age, and this stuff is fired straight and true from Ian. He really lays all his love for her and his love for the world of wrestling bare, warts and all. It’s a classic tale, but it’s so true to the business that you just feel it (though you don’t have to be a wrestling fan to be at least a little bit moved).

The truth found so often is that it’s never black and white, and everybody is torn between at least a couple of somethings in their life. Nail in the Coffin keeps that at its core, and you’re never not invested in Ian and moved by his relationship with both things that he loves.

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There’s a moment right near the end of the film where Ian is having dinner with his daughter. He says, “I love the fans, and I love my industry. But I don’t love being Vampiro at all. I don’t want to be this guy anymore. I don’t want it. But I’ll continue to go until I just can’t.” It’s one of those moments where you absolutely believe him, and you know he means it. He’ll go back; he’s powerless to resist. We all have something calling our name, and his name is Vampiro whether he likes it or not. And his daughter totally gets it and handles it real cool. It’s a great moment that’s universal with not a care for genre or for machismo.

Nail in the Coffin is full of moments like that to go with the wrestling history and all the scenes of backstage life. It’s a missed opportunity on the Jeff Jarrett backstage fight; I wanted more of the answers on that one. I’m not going to hold it against them, however, as the respect for the business on display combined with the love of the horror aesthetic (and a new appreciation of the Vampiro character for me personally) pulled me in. It’s the movie’s bold and honest heart that carries it, though. I’ll let you in on a little secret, too (just in case pro wrestling isn’t a language you’re familiar with): Nail in the Coffin: The Fall and Rise of Vampiro has more heart and truth in it than Darren Aronofsky’s The Wrestler.

What? I’m not calling anybody out. I’m just calling ‘em like I see ‘em.

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Movie: 5 Star Rating Cover

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Stuart D. Monroe
Staff Reviewer
Stuart D. Monroe is a man of many faces – father, husband, movie reviewer, published author of short horror, unsuccessful screenwriter (for now), rabid Clemson Tiger, Southern gentleman, and one hell of a model American who goes by the handle "Big Daddy Stu" or "Sir". He's also highly disturbed and wears that fact like a badge of honor. He is a lover of all things horror with a particular taste for the fare of the Italians and the British. He sometimes gets aroused watching the hardcore stuff, but doesn't bother worrying about whether he was a serial killer in a past life as worrying is for the weak. He was raised in the video stores of the '80s and '90s. The movie theater is his cathedral. He worships H.P. Lovecraft, Stephen King, and Clive Barker. When he writes, he listens obsessively to either classical music or the works of Goblin to stimulate the neural pathways. His favorite movie is Dawn of the Dead. His favorite book is IT. His favorite TV show is LOST.
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