We are entering yet another week of government-mandated (or at least -suggested) self-isolation. By staying indoors and giving medical facilities a chance to remain within capacity, we can all continue to do our part during this absolutely exceptional time. Of course, some of us have the ability to help on the front lines, like doctors, nurses, caregivers, grocery store clerks, cleaning staff, delivery drivers, etc. I’ve also seen some independent clothing brands being crafty and sewing protective masks to combat the shortage that a lot of areas are facing at the moment – including countryside doc’s offices (!).
For those of us isolated at home, entertainment is one of the most valuable commodities that help us stay sane right now. Being neither trained in a medical field nor knowing how to operate a sewing machine, I’ve put fingers to keyboard to offer my help in a most scapegracefully heroic manner. I have collected some handy-dandy story suggestions which might help you view the current situation with a bit of drama, excitement, and just the right amount of inappropriate humor: zombie apocalypse stories.
Be it a fungal infection gone rogue, an ancient curse, or, perhaps more fittingly, a viral outbreak, zombie stories tend to swiftly culminate in an apocalyptic scenario.
I didn’t use to be a fan of zombie stories at all, thinking they made no sense and that a consciousness-lacking hive-minded bunch of foes was not particularly exciting. But in contrast to, say, vampires, werewolves, demons, evil wizards, etc., it’s not the corrupted antagonists with their complex morals and motivations that make a zombie story good, but rather the survivalist aspect.
I’m only half-embarrassed to admit that The Walking Dead played a big role in convincing me of the entertainment value of such stories and since that hurdle was cleared, I have become a huge fan of the entire genre in all its various media. Let me introduce you to some of my absolute favorites in the hopes that a fictional pandemic will take your mind off the real one.
If you like this list, let us know and we’ll make sure to have another one ready for you soon ❤
1. The Last of Us
My all-time favorite video game tells the story of Joel, a life-hardened, no-nonsense smuggler in a post-apocalyptic society, and Ellie, the teenaged last hope for humanity. Ten years after a fungal plague has first infected large parts of the US population and turned them into brain-mutated zombies, society is hanging on by its fingertips. Martial law is merely the backdrop of this story about underground militia organizations, shady smugglers, and camps of people who will do anything to survive. Over the course of a year, the player follows Joel and Ellie as they make their way from one major city to the next looking to fulfill a very special smuggling gig. The story of this PS4 game is fantastically crafted and wonderfully acted. Scarce resources hammer home the survival aspect and if by the end you aren’t immediately over-analyzing certain moral dilemmas, then just you wait a few days. Unfortunately, but understandably, the sequel was postponed. It will take place a few years after TLoU‘s events with Ellie as the main PC and god, the trailers look phenomenal! Well worth the wait.
But until then, the original game still ranks #1 on my personal leaderboard, no matter the slightly outdated graphics.
Netflix’s Korean period drama has a horrific twist: zombies that come out at night. If you have seen any Korean zombie flick, you’ll know that these guys don’t fuck around. They are fast as hell and basically always come in hordes. Patient zero is none other than the emperor himself. Having been “rescued” from death with a resurrection flower, he is chained up and contained within the royal palace. The world would never know were it not for one innocent apprentice whom the emperor violently ripped into. The dead apprentice was transported from the palace back to his master’s village for a proper burial but the starving population had other plans for his 150 pounds of flesh. You can imagine what happens next. Every episode ends with a shocking cliffhanger and the tension rises with all the show’s insane twists and turns. The make up is so brilliantly gruesome and I can’t get enough of the costumes, especially the royal ones. The lovely Doo-na Bae is one of the show’s leads (you might know her from Sense8 or Cloud Atlas), but all of Kingdom‘s cast is great. Even if most Korean dramas are too over-the-top for your tastes, this one is straightforward and gripping, though not entirely without a bit of comedic relief.
3. Alice Isn’t Dead
If you enjoy fiction podcasts, you might have heard of Welcome to Nightvale by creators Joseph Fink and Jeffrey Cranor. That particular podcast with its non-chronological structure is a bit too, well, unstructured for my taste, although I did recognize the team’s off-the-charts creative talent. You can imagine my delight at finding out that Fink had written another podcast called Alice Isn’t Dead. The zombies here aren’t your average mindless, rotting sacks of bones with an unquenchable hunger for brains. They are, instead, an organization of incredibly strong, intimidating evil-doers called “Thistle”. The narrator, Keisha, has embarked on an extended roadtip through the US in search of her disappeared wife Alice. In between long stretches of highway that invite philosophical tangents and unsettling observations about the “American way of life”, Keisha’s journey leads into a maze of dangerous conspiracies and people – if you can call them that – who will do anything to keep her from finding out more.
This podcast is not for the faint of heart. Especially “Go Home Again”, the second-to-last episode of season 1 is a creeping, ominous nailbiter. And after three seasons, the ending is absolutely perfect. Who will survive? What truths will be revealed? You’ll have to listen to find out, because this post is a spoiler-free zone, friends. If podcasts aren’t your thing though, Alice Isn’t Dead is also available in book form.
4. Shaun of the Dead
A staple in the zombie genre. Shaun (Simon Pegg) and Ed (Nick Frost) live a rather boring and mundane life in London. So boring, in fact, that the shuffling, moaning zombies in their neighborhood seem completely ordinary at first. However, once the two realize what is happening, they go on a speedy rescue mission for Shaun’s mother and his (ex-?)girlfriend. Naturally, Shaun, the former risk-averse slowpoke, rises to the challenge and heroically tries to save the whole crew. An explanation of how the zombies came into being is always artfully and cheekily circumvented.
This loving parody of zombie horror stories is so goddamn hilarious while also remaining stereotypically British in its politeness and stiff social interactions. I can’t think of a single person who wouldn’t enjoy it.
5. Dead Before Dawn
Another zombie comedy, though this one’s more of a spoof than a parody. A group of clumsy teens (though played by actors clearly past their teens) unleash an ancient curse to become, themselves, the reason for the zombie outbreak in their hometown. To break the curse, the gang needs to recall the exact way the zombie-fication is triggered and then shed all sense of shame and decency to bring everyone back to life – all before sunrise. It’s gorey and bloody, cringey and downright nasty sometimes, but if over-the-top teen comedies from the 2010s are your thing, this one should be right up your alley. Plus, Kyle Schmid is in it, that alone should convince you.
Your Scapegrace Heroines hope you’re staying safe and healthy, and that you can use this time at home to take a much needed mental break & find some new stories to enjoy. Not everyone currently has the mental/emotional capacity to learn a new skill or throw themselves into a side-project; please don’t let “motivational instagram” guilt you into such things.
Take it easy, take care of yourselves!