Precious: Based on the Novel “Push” by Sapphire could easily be construed as a horror movie from its truculent content. It has all the ingredients of a horror movie: twisted antagonist, isolated surroundings, hopelessness, and human degradation.
Precious also has a few horror movie traits included because they are the norm but which horror movies chronically get wrong: perseverance and the protagonist’s verbal or physical rally towards the end of the film. Within the confines of Precious, it’s not what you think. This is a sad tale and even in its bright, isolated happy moments, it surrounded by ever encroaching darkness.
Many people in Claireece Precious Jones (Gabourey Sidibe)’s position would seek escape and Claireece is no different but her escape is first mental then physical and spiritual (when her mother tells a counselor the full extent and lineage of physical abuse). Claireece has fostered a rich imagination where she daydreams herself into opulent surroundings and better circumstances. Her reality is a nightmare and its incredible that she is still sane as others would have cracked under similar abuse. It might mean that those cracks will only show when she is raising her own children, as that behavior will be all she knows. This is a pattern with some abuse victims: the abused become the abuser.
One of the greatest assets to Precious, showing herself to be a great acting talent, and the primary inducement to see the film, is the performance by Mo’ Nique as Mary Lee Johnston. It’s stellar and scary. People like her really exist (I have seen a real life example myself), damaging all those around them in deliberate (beatings with inanimate objects) and casual ways: “You think you too good for the Welfare?” The obvious retort to this, which Claireece never says, is: “Shouldn’t you want me to be too good for Welfare?” Johnston’s words are her virtual hatchet and she uses them with audacious vigor. Johnston is vicious, unstable, and most dangerously: unpredictable. With Freddy Kruger, the Dream Warriors figured out rules to follow to defeat or subdue their monster and tormentor. With Johnston there are no rules to follow to be safe from her wrath. The only safe haven is out of her domain and even then she seeks reunion to begin the abuse cycle anew.
Unlike most horror movies, the “survivor girl” lives with her “stalker” in this film. Usually home is the sanctuary of the protagonist in a horror movie, in Precious it is just the opposite. It is where the horror takes place, so in effect, the protagonist has no place to hide. She is constantly threatened and almost in a living hell.
Embonpoint Claireece knows the things that have happened to her are bad but speaks of them almost off-hand to a Welfare counselor, Ms. Weiss (Mariah Carey), as though they are not bad or just something that happened. This is most-likely a defense mechanism, how she copes with the memories and her continued abuse at the hands of people that are supposed to love her. Her horror stories are shocking, giving the counselor pause but not enough, letting the viewer know that this is not the first time her ears have heard such deplorable tales.
Lee Daniels’ Precious: Based on the Novel “Push” by Sapphire is much like The Sixth Sense in that it is one type of movie marketed as another. The Sixth Sense was a horror movie marketed as a “supernatural thriller”. Precious is a horror movie, more off-screen and subliminal than most, marketed as a “family drama”. Maybe this is because of the uncharacteristically strong acting in it, a symptom that blighted Funny Games (1997) and Orphan as well, two other films that are not horror films.