Thursday, January 2, 2014

Drama Review: White Christmas (2011)

Grade: A

High school thriller

What it’s about
Prompted by a mysterious letter, seven students spend winter break at their posh boarding school instead of returning home. As a huge snowstorm cuts the school off from the rest of the world, they attempt to decode the letter and uncover its sender. But a series of terrifying events makes them afraid they may not live long enough to do either.

First impression
Creepy and compelling.

Final verdict
This is a tricky drama to write about without totally spoiling your reader. In the course of its eight-episode running time, it morphs from a story about a schoolyard secret to an adult mystery, and then to a fight for the survival of body and soul. So here’s the key piece of information you need to know: You should watch it.

Most everything about White Christmas is beautifully, thoughtfully done. From its twisty, turny script and gorgeous cinematography to its surprisingly capable acting, this show is a striking break from the workaday norm. It uses its tiny cast and remote setting to grapple with serious issues we all confront every day, touching on isolation versus community, fear versus trust, nature versus nurture, and crime versus punishment.

The Breakfast Club with bullets, White Christmas takes as its starting point the typical high school stereotypes: there’s the brain, the freak, the bully, and the rebel. But instead of stopping with these skin-deep categories, it turns its characters into flesh and blood beings with their own idiosyncrasies and motivations. (Standouts include the drug-addled “Angel,” the dispassionate genius, and the rule-breaking bad boy.) The show then proceeds to push each of its creations to their spectacular breaking points, using their terrible circumstances to both draw them together and tear them apart.

White Christmas is not without some logic fails and loose ends, but most of them are fairly easily overlooked. As far as I’m concerned, it does have an Achilles’ heel: Its stakes. All these strapping young men would have been a real force to reckon with if they ever got their act together and used physical aggression against someone other than themselves. But that never happened, a fact that was made extra frustrating by the show’s relatively toothless big bad. This character felt sanitized for television, and he never seemed to deserve the panicked reactions he received. In spite of what happened off screen, he didn’t presented the visceral, mortal peril that would have ratcheted his scenes from unsettling to terrifying. This quibble receded as the show progressed, though, and it became clear that the big bad was just the beginning of the evils White Christmas had set out to explore.

By its shocking finale, some of the show’s questions may be answered, but you’ll still be thinking about them for a long time to come.

A note on sources
Although I swear it would be a boon to Korea as a nation for this show to be available on every streaming site out there, it’s actually incredibly hard to find. The illegal sites carry it, but you will loose out enormously if you watch it at anything less than HD quality. It’s theoretically carried by the pay website Mvibo, which has a ten-day free preview option. (Good luck with it, though—on the rare occasion I can get their website to work, I find their service lacking in pretty much every way.) The only other (scarily illegal) option for watching is downloading a torrent, either from or Asia Torrents.

Random thoughts
Because this was a nontraditional watch, none. Check out my detailed thoughts on the first four episodes here and one tiny Tumblr post about the rest of the show.
You might also like
Cruel City, for its gritty, shadowed take on gangster life


  1. White Christmas was an amazing drama! I really loved how different it was from the usual Kdramas.
    This was a great review! I tried to write a review without spoilers but failed. :/

  2. Seriously, it's a travesty that this show isn't available anywhere legitimate. It's the kind of drama that could reach a lot of non-kdrama viewers really easily.

    As for the villain, I had the same concerns. I finally figured that if they overcame him, the show would be over, and then I would be sad, so I let it go.

  3. For those who are interested: a kind soul on the dramabeans open thread this week has posted dl links for 450p eps of White Christmas. The wonderful Headsno2 has also recapped all 8 eps on dramabeans.

    Someone on tumblr also did a genderbent fancast: as well as tons of fic:

    Also, this may be my favorite description/pimp post of the drama ever:

  4. I love movies/dramas that can make me keep thinking about it (the story, the characters, the end) long after I finish watching it --not with grudge because it's so bad of course. And this drama is one of them.

  5. I really love this drama. The plot is so amazing. Do you know any dramas/movies that are as well as this one? Thank you ^^

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