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[Short but sweet] Of men and monsters

By mk

The KBS Drama Special White Christmas is, in my humble opinion, an absolute masterpiece. It’s one of those dramas that really pushes its story and characters to the utter brink, bringing them face to face with their inner ugliness and forcing the audience to question if perhaps we all have a monster hiding inside.

Enter seven stereotypes: The Perfect Boy (Moo-yul), The Geek (Kang-mo), The Bully (Young-jae), The New Kid (Jae-kyu), The Genius (Ji-hoon), The Loony (Yoon-soo), and The Girl (Eun-sung). These stereotypes all attend an elite high school in the remote mountainside, referred to as Alcatraz for its intensely strict rules and prison-like atmosphere. The only freedom from their educational plight is offered by a paltry weeklong winter break, a break these seven students decide to spend at school after each receiving a mysterious letter with the threat that they will see a corpse on the school grounds on Christmas Eve.

Each student has their own darkness and traumas bubbling beneath the surface but also the capacity for humanity. The bully can genuinely worry about another kid, the model student can join a mob hunt, the self-imposed loner can fight for the group, the cold and distant genius can protect someone who needs it. The students are more than their stereotypes, more than what they think of each other.

We spend a little time getting to know the students, particularly Perfect Boy Moo-yul, before their first night of the winter break is interrupted by the arrival of an injured man. They learn that the man, Kim Yo-han, is a psychologist and the only survivor of a car accident on the desolate mountain. Unable to leave thanks to a terrible blizzard, the doctor genially puts up with the students’ antics and takes interest in a little debate they take up after hearing about a serial killer on the radio: are monsters born, or made?

Rather than just good or evil, the story deals with walls. The literal walls of the school keeping them safe from the blizzard but also trapped with a much more pressing danger. The walls between the able-bodied and those with disabilities. The walls of status, prestige, and the need to fit in. The walls we build because of grief, because of betrayal, because of guilt and rejection. The walls we must tear down to face ourselves.

The protagonists are trapped by these walls but for some of them, freedom is a greater curse. Most of them have truths they are simply unwilling to admit, truths that are pried out of them in exchange for their safety, and the results are ugly. They turn on each other. They turn on themselves. They uncover the darkness within their hearts and fight not to be consumed by it.

White Christmas doesn’t soften its blows. The characters cut at each other with words and actions sometimes calculated, sometimes instinctive. They try to protect themselves and even each other with lies, deals, and new alliances. Some of them are radical enough to try using the truth; some of them abandon it altogether.

But it all trickles back to that mysterious letter, concealing its own devastating truth. As the danger mounts and the students discover just whose body will be found on Christmas Eve, we must confront the question they so innocently posed: are monsters born, or made?

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White Christmas really was the best mini-drama ever! Such a mystery, such acting and that too from newbies!

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watched this during my first year of falling down the Kdrama rabbit hole addiction... loved it, and didn't know any of the young actors at the time, but have enjoyed watching their subsequent roles over time. i feel like they are my kids...
; )

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This drama put the Model Avengers on my radar. It was well acted and a little creepy. I loved it. I recommend it to people that like these kinds of tv shows/movies but are reluctant to try sub-titles.

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I haven’t read this yet, but just squealed, YES! I was planning on trying to write one on this but time got away from me! Thanks for including it, @corkxrew!

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And no that I have. What a wonderful introduction and summary without being spoilery at all. I thought the symbolism was great in this. I was the most invested in the blue-faced boy imagery throughout. I thought the guy was having a psychotic break the entire time. It happens during times of extreme stress. I did like the psychological thriller aspect of this as well. Really, I agree, it was masterfully done.

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The blue-face boy still torments me. I have my theories but it's almost better that we don't get real closure about it.

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I've been meaning to watch White Christmas for a long time but didn't realize it is a mini series! That boosts it higher up my list since it should be a quick watch. What's the total runtime?

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It's eight episodes 1-hr episodes.

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Thanks!

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Oh yes, this remains one of the best psychological (and terrifying) thrillers I have seen and I've watched a lot of thrillers. Still haunts me at times.

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My heart skipped a bit seeing red-haired Woobin as Mad Mireu. White Christmas is one of my favorites of all time and I was so in love with Mad Mireu πŸ˜ƒπŸ’•.

Now off to read....

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Reading this reminded me of how much I loved White Christmas when I watched it years ago! Think I'll have to do a re-watch soon...

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White Christmas is totally masterpiece for me too barring last those 30 mins. I wished the story in hospital was not played out, I can understand the intention of the writer to take nature vs nuture debate to that extent but the execution was lame which in my opinion create a small dent in the masterpiece. otherwise the drama is totally flawless especially sound design n cinematographey.

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This short series rank among the classics in my list. I dunno why not a lot of people know about this series in my country.

I suppose it came out when the PHL is still going gaga over TWN series and have just started to shift to KDrama starting with BOF then City Hunter. Besides, most of the actors involved are basically "drama rookies"…

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definitely a drama in my top 5

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I really need to get around to watching White Christmas. I've always read so many positive comments about it.

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I humbly agreed with your opinion.
Even now, I still revisit and watch parts of this drama and it still gives me the same feeling as I watch it years ago. The white freezing winter against the psychological and dark nature of the drama, a good match. Everyone is a rookie (except for Esom) but they are good and managed to give layered performances needed for their characters.
The OST is good too

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Looking back, I cannot believe what a rookie star line-up this short K-drama had! It will always be one of my favorites for that reason.

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