Dawn of the Desperate
1. The dozen holdouts in Dawn of the Dead had a cavernous mall to themselves; the horror wasn't compounded by stepping in each other's shit or waking next to corpses.
2. The Dawn crew was trying to keep the dangers locked out, rather than being themselves locked in by an unimaginably backward "rescue" effort.
3. Less than half of the strandees in Dawn were people of color, virtually all of them skewing middle- or upper-middle-class, and so there was nothing systematic or socially determined about their plight.
4. The people who might have rescued them were actually, presumably, dead, rather than being so tardy in arriving and so flippant in public comportment that you'd think they were dead (paging Mr. Bush and the upper Administration).
6. No one knew what caused the rising up of the dead in Dawn. Anyone paying attention knew exactly where Katrina was coming from, not just in the context of days of climatological forewarning, but in the longterm context of telltale signs: virtually unchecked anti-environmentalism and global warming; slashed budgets for levee upkeep; massive drainage of resources by an unnecessary war and a re-elected administration with socially destructive priorities; willful discounting of the many scientific, governmental, and journalistic Cassandras who saw this coming; and entrenched social schisms that simmer away and erupt in such an emergency. Even our national surprise comes tinged, at least among people I'm talking to, with a strong sense that something like this has been coming for a long while. Too many roads all leading in the same direction. Who needs a Bible when prophecy is this harrowingly easy?
7. The terrifying nihilism that consumes Dawn results in death for almost everyone. The terrifying nihilism that has been catalyzed in and around New Orleans is a hot thing, geysering to the social surface the deficiencies in our government and the prejudices in our own societyas though these things were ever less than obvious to begin with. Living in a country where all of this inequity and lethal stratification has been crystallized for everyone to see is going to be no mean feat. What figure, even in art, do we have for how a society moves on or recombines after something like this? Who will lead us?
Katrina and its aftermath are more terrifying than even the fictional and impressively terrifying scenario of Dawn, much more terrifying than 9/11 if you ask me (not to indulge in the morbid act of sizing up grotesque tragedies), and, however unwanted, as with the worst horror movies, the sequels to Katrina—social, emotional, fiscal, medical, even natural—will be multiple and awful.