Mass Terror on Film

09/10/2009 4:00 AM |

In her seminal essay “The Imagination of Disaster”, Susan Sontag began by observing that almost all cinematic attempts at articulating our most apocalyptic fears seemed to adhere to the same template. This was true in 1965, and it’s true now: watch as Japanese monster movies, 50s sci-fi, and dated and modern disaster spectacles all move from gaping to fleeing to the deployment of the military to the bandaging of wounds to the woozy walk through the rubble. We don’t know what’s coming—or, more accurately, what contemporary great terror it represents, whether nuclear attack, natural disaster or terrorism—but we, and our collective cinematic unconscious, have a lot of practice at imagining the worst.