From "Night" to "Day": Nihilism and the Walking Dead. by John Marmysz
Upon its release in 1968, George Romero's Night of the Living Dead was attacked by many critics as an exploitative, low budget film of questionable moral value. Variety , for instance, said that it raised "...doubts about the future of the regional cinema movement and the moral health of filmgoers..." (1) The downbeat tone of the film and its generally bleak perspective seemed to resonate with cynicism about human nature, presenting an unsettling picture of human beings fighting to survive in an irrational world. Stuart Samuels goes so far as to suggest that this film is nihilistic.(2) He is correct. Night of the Living Dead is nihilistic, but in a deeper philosophic sense than I believe critics had in mind. This film and the two succeeding films in the trilogy - Dawn of the Dead, and Day of the Dead - portray the struggle between the impulses of active and passive nihilism in the world. Taken together, they dramatize the apocalyptic consequences of the progressive triumph of passive over active nihilism.