Nancy is about to receive her college degree and she has a special request for Dr. McFarland about the commencement proceedings, where parents are always given special honor. She starts to reminisce about what has led to her successful graduation, and that of her two brothers Jim and Tommy before her, despite having lost both parents long ago. After being widowed when Nancy is only two years old, her mother Laura works hard night and day to support her young family. Their only relative is Laura's brother, and Uncle Ben is a favorite of the children with his story-telling ability and easy charm. However, his own life is dominated by alcoholism, and he finds it difficult to hold a job and be a responsible member of the community. When Laura suddenly passes away, the children beg Uncle Ben to take care of them. He wishes to do so, and fights to gain custody of his young niece and nephews, but his addiction is standing in the way of his fulfilling the role of a parent.
Hattie (Susan Sarandon), a New Orleans hooker, meets a photographer named Bellocq (Keith Carradine) at her brothel one night and, after he photographs her, he befriends her 12-year-old daughter, Violet (Brooke Shields).
During an ever-growing epidemic of zombies that have risen from the dead, two Philadelphia SWAT team members, a traffic reporter, and his television-executive girlfriend seek refuge in a secluded shopping mall.