Original Title: 화이트 크리스마스 / Monster
Country: South Korea
Channel: KBS 2
Theme: Mystery, Suspense, Thriller, Melodrama, Artistic, School
Plot: White Christmas, an 8 episode drama, is a psychological thriller that coldly portrays the different facets of human nature and morality. At Susin High School, a private elite academy that only takes the top 1% of the students in the country, Winter Break approaches and all go home except for 7, well and a surprise 8th, students and one proctoring teacher.
However, these aren’t just any students, all of them had received a mysterious black envelope with a chilling fragment of poetry that threatens murder. As a result, all of them stay behind that break to find out who wrote these messages to them. To introduce the core students, there is Moo Yul, the second smartest student in the school with an inferiority complex. Next, there is Young Jae, a hotheaded bully who hides his cowardice by teasing Kang Mo and Yoon Su. Kang Mo is a hearing impaired student who has a complex about his disability and uses a hearing aid. Yoon Su is a traumatized young man suffering for psychological problems that has him downing drugs to control his hallucinatory spirals. He is constantly afraid a blue “corner monster” and nicknamed the Angel because his family is rich. Jae Kyu seems like Moo Yul’s right hand man and friend, but a little socially awkward. Eun Sung, the only female to stay behind rarely smiles, seems to have frozen over and has a complicated past with Yoo Mul and an intense love/hate relationship with Young Jae. Then we have Chi Hoon who is a genius, but apathetic to his peers.
Lastly, we found one more student stayed behind who didn’t receive an envelope, Mi Reu, a crazy troublemaker who seems to hate Young Jae. At first, the 7 students got to a rough start, each unwilling to say that received envelope, knowing that the letters were blaming them for the suicide of a student who had gone to the same school that they did. Meanwhile, a mysterious injured man appeared at the school gates one cold winter day and they decided to take him in. Coming off as a psychologist, he seemed at first like a man who just needed a place to stay until the blizzard passed. However, things come to a horrifying point when their teacher mysteriously dies in the know one day and the psychologist, Yo Han, seemed to have something to do with it. Meanwhile, the students are still trying to find out who had sent them the letter and the purpose of it. Was it a harmless prank, or was the threat in it real? While on the outside, it looked like Yo Han was kindly counseling the students with their past troubles, in reality, he was manipulating them against each other subtly and gaining knowledge of their deepest fears. Fortunately, he was only aware of 7 of the students, and not Mi Reu, who was off doing crazy stunts. Deciding to perform an experiment, Yo Han engaged the students in a cat and mouse game with their actual lives at stake. Playing them against each other with the very real possibility that some of them may day because he had a real gun with them, he wanted to see if he could turn the top students in the country into monsters. The students either had to trust each other and work together, or slowly kill each other off to survive. Each of the games tested their strengths, exposed their weaknesses, and flipped their loyalties often. Luckily, with their dark horse, Mi Reu, they were able to oppose Yo Han and wait out for the authorities. Though, Yo Han’s last game set the students against their parents who came to save their children from being hostages of the Yo Han who was actually an escaped serial killer. Yo Han wanted to see if the parents were willing to give up their darkest secrets for their children, for the children to be disillusioned as well. Unfortunately, these deadly games ended in one of the core group’s death. This one death bonded the rest together to give one last “push” against Yo Han as payment for the atrocities he’s done. They told him that they had won, that they did not become monsters, but did they really win? Yo Han’s last words were “I was right”.
Comments: White Christmas is one of the best psychological thrillers that I have ever encountered. The drama explores a controversial topic, are monsters born or made? Yo Han, the serial killer has always wondered about this question, wanting to know if it was the circumstances he went through that made him into the murderer he was or that he was already a monster and that it was going to manifest no matter what he did. What better way to find out than to experiment a group of smart students who were stuck inside school during a blizzard? This drama was very character driven, focusing on how each person changed during the break. For me, the writer developed each character amazingly. Each character was integral to the story and played role in the life or death of another student. One can definitely see how each character developed and matured through the episodes. Yoo Mul was able to overcome of his deepest fears as well as his inferiority complex by leading the whole investigation. Young Jae was tested thoroughly and although his cowardice reared its ugly head at times, he was able to pull through at the important moments. Kang Mo, too, was able to get pass his complex about his hearing by playing an instrumental part in the killer’s capture, even though he had lost his hearing aid midway through the break. Yoon Su, perhaps the most tragic character, was very fragile. His mind was only half their and he was most susceptible to Yo Han’s mind tricks. Jae Kyu became more comfortable in his own skin, though at moments he wanted to play leader to the detriment of the group. Eung Sang worked through her own painful past and was able to rise above it. Chi Hoon and Mi Reu, were also able to form a closer bond with the rest of the students when they had been so apathetic about it before. However, what was so intense about the drama, was seeing how each character reacted to each cat and mouse game. All of their lives were at stake, so the most basic desires and fears rose to the top. It would be all of them against Yo Han, or all of them against each other. It was their choice, they had to cross their uncertainties and learn how to trust each other. While it was painful when there was misunderstandings and watching them pit themselves against each other, it was even more rewarding when they learned that only together can they beat this monster. However, its the ending of the drama that gave me the most though and made the greatest impression. Having one of their own die because Yo Han’s manipulations made them realize that the killer would just ease his way out of jail again. They wanted to take care of it once and for all. Setting up a trap for Yo Han, they lured him to a hospital roof. Together, the strongest boys rushed him and he flipped off the ledge. However, as he was hanging onto the edge, the students could choose to save him or let him drop. The wordless census was to let him drop. But during his moment, Yo Han thinks he proved himself right. Not wanting to think he was born a killer, he believed that monsters were made. While he was dropping, he says ‘he was right’. Had he made the students into monsters when they let him go over the edge? The students were later taken to the police station for a statement. This time, they had each others back and said Yo Han had fallen over. They were seen walking down the hall into darkness. Does this mean they had fallen into the darkness, made into monsters that they had resisted so long from becoming? Its a thought provoking scene. The drama itself is full of beautiful imagery and symbolism. Had the students woken up form this nightmare, or entered an even more darker place? The drama makes one question morality and how fear can make a human expose or overcome their darkest pains. But is the drama telling us their is hope? Hope in humanity that can be gained in solidarity? Winter Christmas leaves me with more questions than answers.
Actor Review: White Christmas had a powerhouse cast. The drama was definitely a springboard for many of the younger generation actors that we see in the dramas today. Kim Sang Kyung gave a chilling performance as Yo Han, the serial killer, a person who seemed so rational on the outside but so twisted on the inside. Baek Sung Hyun was brilliant as Moo Yul and I would love to see what he would do in other roles. Kim Young Kwang as Young Jae surprised me with his dexterity of acting. In White Christmas, he acted convincingly as an immature cowardly bully looking for the easy way out while flipping this person in Good Doctor which he played a reliable doctor sunbae. Lee Soo Hyuk was perfect as the tragic Yoon Su who couldn’t often separate reality from fiction. His detachedness also lead him to play in Shark as the dark horse friend of the main lead. Kwak Jung Wook, who appeared in School 2013 as a bully, plays the bullied this time around and a realistic hearing impaired individual. Hong Jong Hyun and Esom as Jae Kyu and Eun Sung were also good fits for those isolated personas. Sung Joon as Choi Chi Hoon was perfect because he pulled off the apathetic robotic genius type very well. Ah and Kim Woo Bin as Mi Reu, his first badass type. Although his looks and charisma makes these character types sizzling, I do hope one day he can shed the school uniform and play another type. However, this is not to say I would want anybody else to play Mi Reu. Woo Bin is incredibly skilled in playing the tough as nails but with a good hear types.
“Your faces when alone and the faces you show to others are different.” – Kim YoHan White Christmas
“Shouldn’t the people listening to the joke be more entertained than the joke teller?”