We Love RENDERS and You Should Too

Little Red Pal of ours Kelly McMichael is back and better than ever!

You know how much we loved her work in the tragically short-lived and underrated Rouge and we've been following her for many years now in various other bands. With RENDERS, Kelly is doing something different and showing her sensitivity. 'I Am Gone' bursts with heart and that 'I'm mad as hell and I'm not going to take it anymore' attitude - and let's not forget that beat!

Take a listen below and follow her on Twitter and like her on Facebook!

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Photo taken from Twitter (at least we can admit it..)

Cody McGraw is a lot of things, but the thing we would call him his face is the Managing Editor of The Little Red Umbrella. A semi-retired music journalist, he will write about bands that are important to him in between articles he writes for us making fun of things. If you want to see what we put up with then follow him on twitter @Cody_McGraw.
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Toronto After Dark Film Festival 2015: The Interior Review

Forest settings have been mined for horror material so often that it’s a cliche. Nearly every mainstream slasher series has a scene with a ‘final girl’ running barefoot through the woods from a monster, with an unrealistically bright moon casting mood lighting over the whole affair. Doing something interesting with this setting is tough after 30-plus years of horrors, but The Interior brings something new to the table with strong characters (in particular the lead), and a script that always turns left when you expect it to turn right.

In the unlikeliest of moves, The Interior’s first half contains nothing whatsoever to indicate that you’re watching a horror film. The first act is a sharply-written comedy in the vein of Office Space, where our sarcastic but indifferent protagonist, James (Patrick McFadden) becomes increasingly frustrated with his thankless desk job, his complete idiot of a boss (Andrew Hayes), and his mundane life in his generic Toronto condo. All of this is brought to a boiling point when James is diagnosed with an unspecified but presumably terminal disease. In a moments notice, James decides to quit his job, cash out, and move to the BC wilderness with almost nothing. 

At this point, the horror part of this horror movie actually starts. James arrives in the woods and  quickly indicates to the audience that he's in over his head. When an extremely creepy and menacing presence begins to set its sights on James, director Trevor Juras really begins to show his capacity to instill a slowly-creeping dread rather than going for the cheap jump scare. Lit with nothing but flashlights during the night-time scenes, there is nothing legitimately and affectingly scarier than taking on James's point of view as he's stalked by a disturbed man in a bright red coat, a ghastly personification of the disease that's gradually killing him.  Director Trevor Juras brilliantly uses misdirection  to always keep you wondering where the camera, or the plot, might go next in order to maintain a sense of disorientation.  


You don't need much to make the wilderness of BC look beautiful, and it's on full display here. What's tricky is making such a giant, expansive setting seem like a tight space that's slowly closing in on James, and that's where the skill in The Interior's aesthetic lies.  It's as claustrophobic as a horror like The Descent. Coupled with the film's eerie, non-traditional classical music score, there's a David Lynchian feeling that there's something 'off' (in a calculated way) in even the most innocuous frame in The Interior's bizarre second half.


While it certainly isn't what you'd call commercial horror and doesn't provide a scare-a-minute jolts that such films often lean on, there's a lot to love about this twisted little wilderness advenure. If you're in the mood to work a little harder for your scares in exchange for something that'll sit with you a little longer, I'd have no reservations recommending an escape into The Interior.

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Check out Toronto After Dark's schedule, ticket info, and more here. You can find all of our coverage as it's released throughout the week here.

This piece was written by Sachin Hingoo, a freelance writer when he is not working at an office job that is purpose-built for paying the bills while he works as a freelance writer. His writing has appeared on Mcsweeneys.net, the CBC Street Level Blog, Ohmpage.ca, and The Midnight Madness Blog for the Toronto International Film Festival. He has also been featured at Toronto lecture series Trampoline Hall (which is rumored to be excellent). His mutant power is 'feigning interest'. You can read all of his posts here.



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Toronto After Dark Film Festival 2015: Gridlocked Review

There's a certain kind of action movie that's a bit like comfort food. No matter where you get it, it's always familiar, welcoming, and that comes with a degree of predictability. And that's ok! Not everything has to push boundaries too much, as long as what's there is well-crafted, as I'd say Gridlocked certainly is.

Everyone wants mostly the same things from a movie like Gridocked. A few laughs, a lot of punches to the face, whatever is happening here:

Dominic Purcell does the 'got your nose' move a couple of times in Gridlocked

and maybe some of this

Pop pop! It's Stephen Lang.

 without too much standing in the way. Where a lot of straight-to-VOD actioners go wrong is when they think they're smarter than they are, and fill the far-too-long spaces between the action sequences with faux art-school nonsense or overwritten rants that no one wants to see. Not so with Gridlocked! It's dumb (though charming) as hell but it gets to the fireworks factory right away.

Gridlocked might as well be a remake of the 1991 Michael J. Fox/James Woods action movie The Hard Way, lifting wholesale not only the storyline of a cocky actor being paired with a rough-edged cop as hijinks ensue, but the villain from that movie (Stephen Lang), who’s somehow even more over-the-top and unhinged here here than he was in the 1991 film. 

Danny Glover is assuredly too old for this line of work!
The Hard Way isn’t the only 90’s action film that Gridlocked pays homage to. The entire film is a love letter to those mindless actioners, many of them straight-to-video affairs, that I grew up with. Lethal Weapon, so heavily ‘honoured’ here that Danny Glover plays the police captain (and of course utters his iconic line), is probably the most high profile of these, but the tropes and formulas are so familiar that if you've seen practically any movie starring Steven Seagal, Dolph Lundgren, or Bruce Willis when he was cool, you'll feel right at home here. 

The one thing people will, and I daresay should, want most from Gridlocked is the action sequences, and I'd say they're better than expected, and at times approaching great.  The fights are done in a surprisingly realistic way (in a lot of these movies they seem a lot more cartoonish or generally more choreographed, like a Van Damme vehicle), all things considered, and there's a variety of creative setups to be used as backdrops. Gridlocked mostly seems to be trading on the fact that it's pretty violent, even for this sort of fare, and the R-rating is well-earned.

Trish Stratus does a really great job here and might have been a better lead.
The cast of Gridlocked, while none of them could carry this alone, make for a fun ensemble that always seems genuinely into the movie and nothing is phoned-in.  Dominic Purcell is fine as the lead, but it's the scene-chewing Cody Hackman, Trish Stratus, and the performances of both Lang and Danny Glover that make this one great. Stratus, in particular, does some great work here and shows way more personality than Purcell. A movie where these two roles were switched would be pretty outstanding.

If you're down for some silliness,  a titanic amount of spilled ammunition, blood squibs galore, and you thought 'hey, these Fast and Furious movies would be so much better without any cars in them', Gridlocked might just be your new jam. It's got all the right elements in mostly the right places, and frankly, that's a lot better than we normally get.


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Check out Toronto After Dark's schedule, ticket info, and more here. You can find all of our coverage as it's released throughout the week here.

This piece was written by Sachin Hingoo, a freelance writer when he is not working at an office job that is purpose-built for paying the bills while he works as a freelance writer. His writing has appeared on Mcsweeneys.net, the CBC Street Level Blog, Ohmpage.ca, and The Midnight Madness Blog for the Toronto International Film Festival. He has also been featured at Toronto lecture series Trampoline Hall (which is rumored to be excellent). His mutant power is 'feigning interest'. You can read all of his posts here.



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Toronto After Dark Film Festival 2015: Shut In Review

There’s always one. One film in each year’s After Dark lineup that leaves me stunned as the credits roll up the screen. I felt that way about Resolution, about Let The Right One In, and about The Battery in the past, and I feel the same about Shut In. This awesome twist on the home invasion thriller is definitely going to be one to keep an eye on, for so many reasons.

Three thieves, including a dark and villainous Martin Starr (Freaks and Geeks, Dead Snow 2, Silicon Valley), break into the home of grieving Anna (Beth Riesgraf), an agoraphobic who hasn’t so much as stepped off her front porch in ten years. When Starr’s character points this out, we are treated to what I’m almost positive is the first time a home invasion thriller of this type features an assailant throwing the victim out of the front door. It's certainly the first time I've seen such an act be a truly, affectingly disturbing one.

It’s a low bar set by bad reality television like Hoarders, but never has a hermit's abode looked so lush and beautiful. Shut In is consistently shot with care, attention, and style for days and nearly any still you take from the film is as well-composed as a painting, a massive credit to director Adam Schindler and cinematographer Eric Leach. It’s an easy choice to use a drab or washed-out palette like many films such as Panic Room have employed to great effect, but Shut In bucks that trend with the use of rich colours and vibrant patterns throughout. Like in Housebound, the setting of the mansion is the real star here, with each room in the sprawling, labyrinthine house displaying a distinct personality. As the film wears on and we see what lies beneath the surface of the beautiful home, it mirrors the tension being experienced by every character. 

Every scene in Shut In is meticulously composed to wring as much tension as possible.
Beyond the setting, Shut In manages to overturn conventions by introducing the idea of agoraphobia into a home invasion thriller, which asks an intriguing question - what if opening the door and running outside is a scarier prospect than dealing with the invaders on your own turf? Riesgraf plays the agoraphobia and the general paralyzing tension so well throughout, and often without any dialogue at all. Martin Starr, known almost exclusively for comedic work, is truly frightening and unhinged here as well and I can't wait to see him break out into more serious fare after his deft handling of the role here.
With a tight script with several unpredictable left turns, writers TJ Cimfel and David White have crafted a story that fully immerses the viewer in the closed-off, internally tense world of Anna while presenting some legitimately new ideas in a subgenre of horror that has seen it all. With so many talented people at work on Shut In, this is one not to miss.
The pretty cool poster for SHUT IN!

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Check out Toronto After Dark's schedule, ticket info, and more here. You can find all of our coverage as it's released throughout the week here.

This piece was written by Sachin Hingoo, a freelance writer when he is not working at an office job that is purpose-built for paying the bills while he works as a freelance writer. His writing has appeared on Mcsweeneys.net, the CBC Street Level Blog, Ohmpage.ca, and The Midnight Madness Blog for the Toronto International Film Festival. He has also been featured at Toronto lecture series Trampoline Hall (which is rumored to be excellent). His mutant power is 'feigning interest'. You can read all of his posts here.



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Toronto After Dark Film Festival 2015: TALES OF HALLOWEEN Review

The best endorsement for an anthology film, I think, is when you leave the theatre wanting to see more of the segments on display. In the After Dark 2015 festival opener, Tales of Halloween, I can honestly say that I wouldn’t complain if every one of these ten segments were to become its own movie.

 I’ve written before that the number of segments in something as bloated as The ABC’s of Death can hamstring the movie as a whole. While ABC’s whopping 26 segments is clearly too much, I’m of the opinion that an anthology’s strength is less about the number of segments than it is about the connection from one to the next. In Tales of Halloween’s ten segments there’s a great flow throughout - characters will pop into the background from one to the next, storyline threads will intersect in a subtle way - and there’s just this perfectly cohesive sense that all this nightmarish stuff is happening in a small neighborhood on one night, which is the intent. In no way does it ever feel like a slog, and the segments move with a perfect pace that suits the tone of each one. You can tell that some thought actually went into the order of these, which is as rare as it is necessary (that is, very) in an anthology of this length.

PSA: Don't withhold candy from kids, folks.
First up is Dave Parker’s Sweet Tooth, a cautionary tale about the dangers of eating too much candy. Managing to tell a monster’s origin story while fitting in a few kills is an impressive feat for such a short segment, but Parker pulls it off well and is a perfect opener for the film. Sweet Tooth features the first couple of really great performances by kids in this anthology, showing that a child with his parents' intestines hanging out of his mouth is, well, about as disturbing as you'd expect it to be.

This leads into Darren Lynn Bousman’s The Night Billy Raised Hell, an extremely dark comedy about a bullied kid pranking the wrong guy - Satan himself. A scenery-chewing Barry Bostwick as the devil isn’t something I knew I needed before now, but it’s brilliant. When the story takes a pretty abrupt left turn in the end, you’ll probably be surprised and horrified to find yourself laughing.

Next we have Adam Gierasch’s Trick. This is one of only a couple out of the ten segments I found legitimately scary and unnerving, as opposed to going for laughs. A group of friends is having a quiet Halloween, taking bong rips and answering the door for trick-or-treaters, when a seemingly unprovoked act of violence leads to...well a lot more violence, as well as a pretty ghastly twist. Tales of Halloween features a ton of different kinds of gore effects, mostly of the cartoonishly excessive variety, but the imagery here is pretty realistic and extreme, which adds some ‘legitimacy’ to the overall work, at least for some of the more hardcore horror fans.

The slickly weird world of Paul Solet's The Weak And The Wicked
The Weak and the Wicked from Paul Solet is my favourite of this anthology, and one of my favourite anthology segments ever. A gang of three stylish teen outlaws are terrorizing a hapless kid, when a mysterious stranger and his otherworldly protector show up to even the score. It’s a take on Sergio Leone by way of Rian Johnson’s Brick and The Warriors with a slickness and style all its own. If there’s a Kickstarter for a full-length version of this, they can have all my money.

Grim Grinning Ghost by Axelle Carolyn, creator of this anthology, is fairly short but effective. It’s basically the first and third acts of a story about a woman being haunted and pursued by a supernatural entity, elevated in its setup by the wonderful Lin Shaye. Grim Grinning Ghost is punctuated by an effective scare and is beautifully shot, even putting a fresh coat of paint on some pretty standard horror tropes. Despite its brievity, this works nicely as a centrepiece of the overall movie.

Imagine being married to this, and you're halfway to experiencing the madness of Lucky McKee's Ding Dong
Lucky McKee’s Ding Dong is one of the craziest things I’ve ever seen in one of these anthologies. It's full-on unsettling creepiness that comes from a couple’s relationship that is so dysfunctional and insane that it completely belongs in the middle of a horror film. When you drop that couple into a perverted take on Hansel and Gretel that takes place in two time periods (a year apart), you’ll feel like you’ve done a couple hits of unbelievably bad acid. Or maybe really good acid? I don't know what your tolerance is like, reader. McKee regular Pollyanna McIntosh is otherworldly here and you’ll have her voice in your head for days. This is another one that you'll be laughing through and finding yourself completely unable to express why.

This Means War, from John Skipp and Andrew Kasch didn't really do it for me, but if you're the type to sit, likely hungover, though one of those holiday decorating challenge shows on TLC or Slice, you'll probably get what's being referenced and turned on its head here. Two neighbors have very divergent ideas of how to decorate a house for Halloween.  One, a traditionalist, and one, played by James Duval, with more of a darker and more metal sensibility.  As you'd expect, these two ideas don't really mesh well and the cartoonish escalation of 'warfare' is good for a laugh, but seems a bit tonally out of place with the rest of the segments.
The main character in Mike Mendez's Friday the 31st. He's totally not Jason, folks! Honest!

Mike Mendez of Big Ass Spider fame puts his fetish for 80's horror on display again with Friday the 31st. Taking an obvious Jason Voorhees ripoff to it's completely illogical and adorable, gory, batshit ends sounds like a bad idea but...What? It sounds like a great idea, and though the execution here is a little amateurish, it's a ton of fun with about a dozen surprises packed into it.

The Ransom of Rusty Rex by Ryan Schifrin introduces us to two would-be kidnappers that get way more than they expected when they try to collect a ransom on a millionaire's son. What starts off as a pretty regular caper scene, quickly turns into a very different kind of pursuit, this time with the kidnappers running for their lives. This one takes a little longer to get going than some of the other segments but it's a wild ride once it does.

Hopefully they can identify the culprit in Bad Seed using this police sketch and facial impression.

Finally, we reach our last segment - Neil Marshall's Bad Seed. Though this one is a little on the long side and feels that way, once you get the joke it's brilliance can't help but shine through.  Bad Seed plays out like a traditional police drama, except the killer being pursued is a living, murderous pumpkin.  The fact that everything is played completely straight, even as people are battling this sentient squash, makes it all the more hilarious. This is also where a lot of the other segments intersect, as the police station is filled with references to the other nightmarish events from that night. When the segment and the film near its end, it becomes an homage to a certain non-canon installment of a classic franchise that should please horror fans that get it, and even if you don't, it works as a great final gag.

Interwoven with a dreamy set of interludes from the prolific Adrienne Barbeau as a psychedelic rock radio DJ, the ten segments feel exactly as distinct as they should be, while retaining a feeling of cohesion throughout. I can definitely see Tales of Halloween becoming a Halloween tradition for me, occupying a spot on my shelf right next to Trick R Treat




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Check out Toronto After Dark's schedule, ticket info, and more here. You can find all of our coverage as it's released throughout the week here.

This piece was written by Sachin Hingoo, a freelance writer when he is not working at an office job that is purpose-built for paying the bills while he works as a freelance writer. His writing has appeared on Mcsweeneys.net, the CBC Street Level Blog, Ohmpage.ca, and The Midnight Madness Blog for the Toronto International Film Festival. He has also been featured at Toronto lecture series Trampoline Hall (which is rumored to be excellent). His mutant power is 'feigning interest'. You can read all of his posts here.


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NXNE 2015: The Best Of Our Photos

We saw dozens of bands during this year's North By Northeast — and during those brief periods when we were sober enough to hold a camera still, we took hundreds of photographs of them. Now that the dust has settled and our hangovers are distant, lovely memories compared the stress headaches of every day life, we've narrowed those photos down to our favourites. They've all been uploaded onto our Facebook page and you can check them all out right over here.

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Find all of our coverage of NXNE 2015 here.




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NXNE 2015: Broken Social Scene (ish) @ Lee's Palace

THURSDAY – It was three in the morning by the time Kevin Drew stepped out onto the stage at Lee's Palace. By that point, the Paper Bag Records showcase celebrating their 100th release was already getting into its eighth hour. Many of the best bands playing anywhere at this year's North By Northeast had already taken the stage. Born Ruffians. PS I Love You. Young Rival. Yamantaka // Sonic Titan.  Frog Eyes. Laura Barrett. Mozart's Sister. And it had all been building to this.

Drew stood behind his microphone and told a story. It was about his band, Broken Social Scene, and their first album, You Forgot It In People. It was about the moment that — without any exaggeration at all — changed Canadian music forever. Broken Social Scene's second release was Paper Bag's very first. And so it was Paper Bag who sent a copy of that album to Pitchfork to be reviewed. The 9.2 score and the glowing words that came with it not only launched BSS into international stardom, it heralded the beginning of a new age for Canadian indie music: the age of the Internet. With national borders less of a cultural barrier than ever before, bands from the northern half of our continent would finally get a chance to make it big without having to leave home. This was the age of Metric and of Stars and of Arcade Fire. And it all started with Paper Bag.

So it would be hard to imagine any more appropriate climax for the night than the one we got: Kevin Drew and Brendan Canning on stage together — along with some of the best talent our country has to offer. They were backed by Cuff The Duke; they were accompanied on vocals by the Luya's Jessie Stein and Young Galaxy's Catherine McCandless. It was the perfect three-song finale to one hell of a memorable night. "KC Accidental." "Lover's Spit." "Almost Crimes."



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Read all our coverage of NXNE 2015 here.

Words and photos by Adam Bunch, Editor-in-Chief of the Little Red Umbrella and the creator of the Toronto Dreams Project and Toronto Historical Jukebox. You can read his posts here, follow him on Twitter here, or email him at adam@littleredumbrella.com.



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PUP Drop Yet Another Awesome Video

The Toronto punks in PUP have continued their awesome run of awesome music videos with some brand new animations to go along with "Dark Days." The new video — directed by Jeremy Schaulin-Rioux and Chandler Levack — just dropped this morning. And this time you can have fun spotting all the cameos and shout outs to local folk like Pkew Pkew Pkew, The Dirty Nil, Vince Rice from Stella Ella Olam and photographer extraordinaire Yoshi Cooper among others. It's a little like Where's Waldo? if Waldo had a better sense of fashion and spent all his time on the road touring in a Canadian punk band. (Which, uh, now that we mention it, is totally a book we'd buy.)

Check it:
 

 
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Posted by Adam Bunch, the Editor-in-Chief of the Little Red Umbrella and the creator of the Toronto Dreams Project. You can read his posts here, follow him on Twitter here, or email him at adam@littleredumbrella.com.


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NXNE 2015: Pet Sun @ The Silver Dollar

FRIDAY – We were pretty trashed by the time we stumbled into the Silver Dollar. Pet Sun were playing one of the late slots on Friday, taking the stage in the wee hours of the morning — that time of night when the number of beers you've had is more of an abstraction than a concrete figure. But trashed is a pretty good way to stumble into the Dollar. And it's a pretty good way to see Pet Sun, too. The Hamilton punks are a blur. A roar. An earthquake. A fist. A bloody fight in a parking lot you can't remember. The promise of a Saturday morning hangover made of fuzzy memories and purple bruises. They are a rising wave of electricity and distortion vibrating through the thick air of a hot room. They are loud. They are raw. And they are good.


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Read all our coverage of NXNE 2015 here.

Words and photos by Adam Bunch, Editor-in-Chief of the Little Red Umbrella and the creator of the Toronto Dreams Project and Toronto Historical Jukebox. You can read his posts here, follow him on Twitter here, or email him at adam@littleredumbrella.com.


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NXNE 2015: Michael Rault @ The Garrison

SATURDAY – It wasn't so long ago that a Michael Rault show was a bit of a rare treat in Toronto. The retro rocker originally called Edmonton home, with thousands of kilometers between his catchy, '60s-inspired tunes and the bars of Queen West and the Ossington strip. But oh how things have changed. Rault made the move to Toronto a few years ago. And in the short time since, he has already become one of the most reliable staples of the local indie scene.

He delivered yet another solid set on North By Northeast's Saturday night, playing in the backroom of the Garrison. But he was, sadly, a little bit hobbled by an early set time: the sun was still high above the horizon; the room was only half full at best. The scheduling was a shame: Rault plays the kind of raucous garage rock that would turn a late night and a full room into a drunken sweaty mess of a party. Still, those who were at Garrison for his NXNE gig were treated to yet another display of Rault's seemingly endless supply of hooky tunes, climaxing with a blistering rendition of "Suckcess."


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Read all our coverage of NXNE 2015 here.

Words and photos by Adam Bunch, Editor-in-Chief of the Little Red Umbrella and the creator of the Toronto Dreams Project and Toronto Historical Jukebox. You can read his posts here, follow him on Twitter here, or email him at adam@littleredumbrella.com.


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