“Downton Abbey” stars get haunted in Daily Horror Movie “The Turn of the Screw”

Elena Keltner

For movie buffs, the month of October means one thing: 31 days of horror movies. With tons of horror flicks to choose from, The Daily Texan is going to be providing a daily horror recommendation. Whether you prefer ghosts, zombies or stark explorations of the human condition, we’ll be featuring horror films of all flavors. Check back every evening for the movie of the day. Today, “The Turn of the Screw” gives “Downton Abbey” fans a new reason to procrastinate.

For those of you who gladly put off test-cramming every Sunday evening during last year’s season of “Downton Abbey” to follow Matthew and Mary Crawley’s soapy relationship, it’s time to put down your textbooks again: Michelle Dockery and Dan Stevens, who play the notable “Downton Abbey” couple, starred in a relatively unknown 2009 BBC version of Henry James’ “The Turn of the Screw.” 

Even if you’re unfamiliar with “Downton Abbey,” “The Turn of the Screw” has the potential to entertain anyone with an appetite for ghost stories.

In this movie fraught with suspense and psychological doubt, Dockery plays Ann, a young and innocent governess spiraling into madness. Stevens’ character, Dr. Fisher, tries to dive into Ann’s memory as she sits frozen, haunted by the ghosts of her past. 

Eventually Ann opens up, and her words take us back to her time at Bly, the country estate of the Master, a selfish man left in charge of his orphaned niece and nephew, Flora and Miles. While the Master enjoys life in the city, Ann attempts to control Miles and Flora, as well as her own sexual fantasies about the estate’s owner. 

Things quickly get out of control. “The Turn of the Screw” draws in the audience by following Ann’s horror as sweet, innocent children begin whispering with strangers behind closed doors and turn violent or angry at the blink of an eye. Dark windows and empty corridors haunt Bly night and day — or do they? Henry James’ classic leaves us wondering if the faces we see are real, or merely a reflection of Ann’s increasingly troubled mind. Ann helplessly attempts to alert the world around her of the ghosts that are plaguing the estate, but the maids shrink away. 

Every day at Bly produces a new, horrifying fact about the house’s past from the death of Ann’s predecessor that was anything but accidental to the death of a former employee who was anything but helpful. Even more unsettling is the fact that the children spent far too much time around these terrifying influences. 

The ghosts of these dead inhabitants of Bly pop up at the most unexpected times, and leave just as quickly as they came. With the spirits, her mind or both playing tricks on her, Ann journeys down a road that leads her to the dark, empty room in which she sits at the beginning of the movie, paralyzed in fear of all that Bly is and all that everyone pretends it is not. 

It’s difficult to nail a costume for a classic such as “The Turn of the Screw,” but if you can scrounge for a turn-of-the-century dress and straightjacket, you are a dead ringer for Ann. If you’re feeling a bit creepier, though, try some pigtails and a bright pink dress or a cute little boy’s outfit, paired with some dark eyeliner and your most unsettling smile. Now, you’re a creepy little kid from “The Turn of the Screw,” ready to scare governesses to death.