Film Review: NAIL IN THE COFFIN: THE FALL AND RISE OF VAMPIRO (directed by Michael Paszt)

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by Tony Frankel on October 2, 2020

in CD-DVD,Film


I know little in the way of pro-wrestling, but I most certainly understand about the audience. Since well before Rome’s Coliseum was built, people’s, especially men’s, fascination with the battle for dominion has been at the forefront of history — you know, things like gladiators, box office champs and war. The entertainment known as pro-wrestling — a multi-billion dollar industry with legions of fans — involves behemoth, strong human beings who don characters much like an actor, and then face opponents in a boxing ring in which, seemingly, all bets are off (actor Dwayne Johnson began as wrestler “Rock”, a moniker which stays with him to this day). While these bouts are largely scripted with an outcome, the wrestlers — who are allowed room for improvisation — most definitely can and do get injured from this extreme entertainment (as do ballet dancers).

A learned a few more things while watching Michael Paszt’s documentary about Ian Hodgkinson, better known as his pro-wrestling alter ego Vampiro. Yet this attempt to shine a light on a wrestler both on- and offstage feels like it was constructed by and made for those who are already fans of the sportertainment. I learned a little history (its origins are Mexican), and was exposed to some of the melodrama behind the scenes, but in order to better understand Hodgkinson’s life choices, it would have been more effective to understand the entertainment itself. Why? Because this picture isn’t about the fall and rise of Vampiro; Paszt centers around Hodgkinson’s relationship with his daughter, as he bounces between work in Mexico and Los Angeles and his native Canada, where daughter Dasha lives. This part of the movie — his desire to protect her — showed his remarkable sense of responsibility and maturity that is not expected from someone who is normally quite volatile.

Interpolating interviews with fantastic backstage home footage from Vampiro’s career (wrestler, show director, roadie for famous pop lip-synchers Milli Vanilli), it almost feels at times like first-time director Paszt intentionally made his newer material match that of older footage with some poor sound and cinematography. And having the editing non-chronological, bouncing back-and-forth through time, it’s tough to get on board with Vampiro’s journey. The fascinating story and conflicted protagonist ultimately held my attention, and the tale contains many admirable universal talking points: raising children in a fast-paced world; addictions (whether that be power, money, and drugs); and what do you do with your life when you can no longer do what you’ve been doing with your life. But this rather messy movie lacks what pro-wrestlers need to succeed: a gimmick.

stills courtesy of Epic Pictures

Nail in the Coffin: The Fall and Rise of Vampiro
Epic Pictures
documentary | Canada | 88 minutes
released September 8, 2020
available on VOD/Digital and Blu-ray

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