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updated: 10/27/2010 2:55 PM

Dann & Raymond debate horror film faves

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  • Looking for a great horror film? Dann and Raymond agree that you can't go wrong with the classic "Frankenstein" starring Boris Karloff.

    Looking for a great horror film? Dann and Raymond agree that you can't go wrong with the classic "Frankenstein" starring Boris Karloff.

  • A strange fog conceals terrifying secrets in "The Mist."

    A strange fog conceals terrifying secrets in "The Mist."

  • Jack Nicholson and "The Shining" still have the power to freak out viewers.

    Jack Nicholson and "The Shining" still have the power to freak out viewers.

and Raymond Benson

Count Raymond. Boo! It's Halloween weekend, kids. Verrry scary! Mwa ha-ha! It's time to watch a movie that will keep you up all night! But there are so many good scary flicks from which to choose. What do you recommend, Madd Mann Dann?

Madd Mann Dann. That depends, Count Raymond. Every generation has its own scary touchstones. During the 1950s, the Communist Red Scare provided the scary subtext for the classic "Invasion of the Body Snatchers." In the 1970s, "The Exorcist" capitalized on the World War II generation's fears that their bra-burning, draft-card-destroying, Nehru-jacket-wearing offspring seemed to be possessed by Satan. Nowadays, we have the "Saw" movies and other forms of entertaining torture porn. What do you make of that?

Count Raymond. I wouldn't call today's "torture porn" entertaining at all. OK, so horror films have cyclical trends. Let's start with the "Golden Age of Horror," the Universal monsters of the 1930s. For my money, "Frankenstein" is the best of that bunch, although "The Wolf Man" is a close second.

Madd Mann Dann. When audiences saw "Frankenstein" for the first time, women fainted and people shrieked. It was powerful stuff in its day. Speaking of powerful stuff, Raymond, we need to talk about some of the scariest movies we've ever seen. You first!

Count Raymond. I have a handful of favorites: Roman Polanski's "Repulsion" is incredibly creepy and psychologically disturbing. Hitchcock's "Psycho" is an obvious classic. Stanley Kubrick's "The Shining" is up there. Nic Roeg's "Don't Look Now," the original "Texas Chainsaw Massacre," the original "Halloween" and a string of those wonderfully subtle and atmospheric films produced by Val Lewton in the '40s, such as "Cat People," "I Walked with a Zombie" and more.

Madd Mann Dann. "The Shining" is a superb example of freaking out audiences with a sustained tone of ominous dread. By today's standards, "Texas Chainsaw Massacre" is pretty tame in the violence department, but still extremely frightful. I would add one of my personal recent favorites: Juan Antonio Bayona's 2007 offering "The Orphanage," one of the creepiest and most surprisingly sad ghost stories ever committed to the silver screen. Get the Spanish version, not a dubbed English one. It's got ghost investigators, a house with a secret and a Peter Pan twist. Irresistible!

Count Raymond. There's a great Japanese horror flick called "Audition" from 1999 definitely NOT for the faint of heart about a middle-aged widower who goes out with the wrong girl. Japanese horror films certainly saw worldwide success beginning in the '90s with "Ringu." It was remade in America as "The Ring."

And don't forget the coldly creepy Swedish vampire flick, "Let the Right One In," which is currently playing in its remade American version, "Let Me In." The new one's not bad, but the Swedish version is immensely superior.

Madd Mann Dann. Two other films come to mind, Raymond. Guillermo del Toro's "Pan's Labyrinth" didn't just have a creature with eyeballs in the palms of his paws, you never knew which would be more dangerous: the fantastic creatures in the labyrinth or the Fascists. (Note: the Fascists win that contest.)

There's also another overlooked gem, Lucky McKee's 2002 thriller "May," starring Angela Bettis as a lonely female Norman Bates who wants to connect with people. And does it in a literal way. Final suggestions?

Count Raymond. Well, Dann, there are so many good ones and too many bad ones. But I remember "Rosemary's Baby," the original "Night of the Living Dead," the original "The Haunting," "Near Dark," "Candyman" and an overlooked and underrated recent masterpiece, "The Mist," based on the Stephen King novella.

Madd Mann Dann. Good choices, Count Raymond. Especially Frank Darabont's "The Mist," an old-fashioned science-fiction thriller that will leave you with your jaw on the floor. It is not to be "mist."

Join Daily Herald Film Critic Dann Gire and film historian Raymond Benson as Dann & Raymond's Movie Club presents "Foreign Correspondence: Classic Films From the Rest of the World" at 7:30 p.m. Thursday, Nov. 4, at the Schaumburg Township District Library, 130 S. Roselle Road, Schaumburg. Call (847) 985-4000 or go to

Dann & Raymond will also present "Danger, Darkness and Dames: The World of Film Noir" at 7:30 p.m. Thursday, Nov. 11, at the Arlington Heights Memorial Library, 500 N. Dunton, Arlington Heights. (847) 392-0100 or go to Free admission for both!